Monday, December 18, 2017

Prisoners routinely abused as Israel continues to operate above international law


By Hannah B. - March 17, 2014
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [prisoners] [Israeli Prison Service]

Since the start of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been detained. This figure equates to about 40% of the total male populations living in the West Bank. 
 
“This is the idea, basically to destroy Palestinian society. They use different tactics and mass detention is one of them,” according to Gavan Kelly, coordinator of the advocacy unit at Addameer, a Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. Since the beginning of 2014, 175 Palestinians have been arrested by the Israeli military, including 24 children.  
 
Amjad Al-Khateeb, a 24 year old businessman was arrested 4 weeks ago, and charged for throwing Molotov cocktails, though the military has no evidence. He was detained for three days and suffered extensive abuse and torture, injuries which now require a medical operation. As a result of his arrest, his father’s permit to enter Jerusalem was revoked and the family now struggles to support itself. 
 
He was arrested on Monday the 27th of January at 2.30 am when approximately thirty soldiers entered his home. At first Amjad thought they were looking for his younger brother, Ahmad, who was arrested last year, at age 15. The soldiers claimed they had received reports of weapons being kept in the house, and subsequently searched each room meticulously; upon finding no weapons they switched the charges to throwing Molotov cocktails. 
 
Al-Khateeb tried to get comfortable on his couch as he began talking to Palestine Monitor. He was unable to sit up straight because of the pain the soldiers has inflicted upon him. 

“I can’t describe the pain using words”
 
Amjad was put in handcuffs and taken to the police station at Ma’ale Adumim, an illegal settlement close to Jerusalem. On the ride to the police station he was beaten by the soldiers with their guns and kicked in the legs. 
 
“I can’t describe the pain using words,” said Amjad, indicating that once they arrived to the police station, soldiers continued to kick his legs and his back. It was at this point he felt blood coming out of his anus along with a severe pain.
 
That night, Amjad and several other Palestinian prisoners were placed in a concrete room with the door open to the outside winter air. He stayed in the police station for nine hours, constantly being moved from room to room, sometimes forced to sit on the wet, garbage-covered floors.
 
Amjad was brought before an investigator twice, and both times they asked him about his involvement in protests, throwing stones and throwing Molotov cocktails near the wall. Both times he insisted that he was not involved, and the military was unable to provide evidence. When he faced the an investigator the first time, he complained about the abuse he suffered from the soldiers as well as the pain coming from his anus, yet the investigator did nothing. When the soldiers heard that he had complained about their behaviour, they intimidated him, whispering. “we will kill you.” 
 
“You were lucky, you got some food”
 
Amjad was detained for three days but was transported from the police station to Israel’s Ofer prison near Ramallah, then to another Israeli prison near Hebron and then back to Ofer prison. In Hebron, they were forced to stand with their hands above their heads and their faces pushed against the wall for three hours. Amjad said that the prison guards abused him repeatedly, gave him limited water and hardly any food. 
 
When he returned to Ofer prison, he again felt blood coming out of his anus. He pleaded with the guard to be allowed a doctor’s visit, but the guard refused, reportedly mumbling, “there’s nothing I can do.”
 
The next morning Amjad was told that he would be brought to court. They took him to an empty concrete room, where he waited nine hours for his name to be called. It was too painful for him to sit down so he held his legs up, but when the soldiers saw this they cuffed his legs, forcing him to sit on his bleeding anus. He was released the next morning, after a lawyer was provided for him via a local NGO.
 
“I want it to stop happening to other people”
 
Amjad feels strongly about reporting the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Israeli military. “It’s not for me, it already happened to me, but I want to stop it happening to other people. In the end we need to show them that we are doing something, we are not just letting them hit us and then we don’t do anything.” 
 
When Amjad was 14, he was arrested for throwing stones. “I spent a year and 4 months in prison during the Second Intifada, and treatment in the prison was better then than during these three days.” 
 
Speaking about the reasons for his arrest, Amjad commented, “they arrest us just to frighten us and the community.” 
 
While the Israeli military has a right to arrest Palestinians who constitute a clear and present security threat, Israel often, as in the case of Amjad, arrests Palestinians with no concrete evidence. As of January 2014, there were 155 administrative detainees, including 10 Palestinian Legislative Council Members, according to Addameer
 
In September 1999, the Israeli High Court of Justice “ruled to ban the use of torture during interrogation.” However, there is an exemption for 'ticking bomb’ cases and unsurprisingly all Palestinian prisoners are considered 'ticking bomb’ cases, according to a report by Addameer. 
 
“Where does arrest and detention fit into the occupation connotation, what is the idea? Basically it has a dual purpose; to suppress any resistance to Israeli’s occupation and colonization and to prevent normal Palestinian society from emerging,” said Gavan Kelley of Addameer. 
 
“Israel continues to operate above international law”
 
All Palestinians arrested by Israeli forces are tried in Israeli military courts. According to Addameer, these courts often fail to include a number of fundamental international standards, such as the right to prepare an effective defence, the right to interpretation and translation, and the right to presumption of innocence. 
 
Over 1,500 military regulations govern Palestinian daily life in Areas B and C, approximately 85% of the West Bank, making many ordinary activities illegal. Gavan Kelly explains “military law covers every aspect of Palestinian civilian life, from what vegetables you can grow, to the political party you cannot belong to.” Under military law, all Palestinian political parties are illegal, including the PLO. 
 
Israeli military courts are still obliged to adhere to international law, yet Palestinian detainees are rarely given fair trial rights, a guarantee of international law. All but one of the prisons in which Palestinian prisoners are kept are located within Israel, in direct violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states the “occupying power must detain residents in prison inside the occupied territories.” 
 
The use of torture is widespread during Israel’s detention of Palestinian prisoners. In 2012, Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoner affairs released a statement revealing that 85% of detainees suffer from some form of physical or psychological abuse. Examples of torture methods used in Israeli prisons include beatings, denial of the use of the toilet, threats of or actual sexual abuse, and the denial of medical treatment among many other methods, as reported by Miftah, an anti-corruption commission based in the West Bank. 

“From the moment of arrest the process of humiliation and abuse of the prisoners starts,” explained Gavan Kelly. Action needs to be taken to ensure that, even under military rule, Palestinians are protected from abuse and torture 

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