To mark Palestinian Prisoners' Day, 17 April 2016, three human rights organizations – Adalah, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel – are highlighting the stories of three Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) who were subjected to forms of torture and ill-treatment by Israeli authorities during arrest, detention and imprisonment.
Since its occupation began in 1967, Israel has used imprisonment as a political tool to repress and maintain control over Palestinian society. It is intended to obstruct the daily lives and social fabric of Palestinians, undermine their ability to oppose the Israeli occupation by criminalizing political affiliation and activities, and facilitate the use of different methods of torture and ill-treatment to target and intimidate individuals and communities, including children. As of March 2016, there were 7,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli custody, including 438 minors, 68 women, and 6 members of the Palestinian parliament – a large increase from the previous years.
Adalah, Al Mezan and PHR-I last month submitted a detailed joint report to the UN Committee Against Torture in advance of its review of Israel’s compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), which will take place on 3-4 May 2016. The three cases below illustrate examples of the types of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment highlighted in the partners’ report.
Yousef: Attacked by army dog during arrest
In September 2015, Yousef Al Tarabin (16 years old) was arrested by Israeli security forces while trying to cross the Gaza-Israel border with his friend Hani (17 years old) to find work in Israel. After being told to remove all their clothes, a soldier approached the two boys with a muzzled dog. The soldier then removed the muzzle and set the dog on Yousef, which bit him in his right arm and his left hand. Yousef screamed for help and tried to release himself, but the soldiers only laughed as Yousef wrestled with the dog for several minutes.
Yousef and Hani were then blindfolded with a green cloth and driven to a military installation. There Yousef was examined by an Israeli doctor and received first aid and an injection in his hand. Yousef was made to sign a document in Hebrew, which he cannot read, and was held in a room for about four hours without being offered food or water. Yousef was then blindfolded again and driven in a vehicle for about two hours. When he was released back to Gaza later that evening, doctors informed him that he had inflammation as a result of the dog bites. His friend Hani was still detained.
Nimer: Arbitrarily punished with solitary confinement
Nimer has been imprisoned in an Israeli jail since 2003. In March 2013, Nimer was interrogated by the General Security Service (GSS) in Kishon prison, who threatened that if Nimer did not confess to an alleged crime, he would spend his life in solitary confinement. Two months later, Nimer was placed in an isolated cell. He said that the severe conditions “are hard and are not meant for humans … There is no reason to put me in solitary confinement, except to be used by the interrogators as a threat.” Solitary confinement is often applied for 23-24 hours a day for a period ranging from a single day to an indefinite stretch of time, which can have damaging mental and physical health effects.
In November 2014, nineteen months into his solitary confinement, Nimer began a hunger strike in protest of his isolation and the denial of visits from his family. Nimer ended his strike the next month after reaching an agreement allowing him to talk to his mother over the phone and for her to visit him. The fact that the authorities removed Nimer from his isolated cell following his hunger strike indicates, as in the case of many other prisoners, that the use of solitary confinement is not based on security reasons as the authorities claim, but as an arbitrary tool of punishment and repression.
Abdel-Razeq: Shackled to hospital bed while on hunger strike
Abdel-Razeq was placed under successive administrative detentions since 1994, ranging from 8 to 52 months at a time, and totaling seven and a half years of detention without trial or charges. During a hunger strike in April 2014 in protest of his detention, Abdel-Razeq’s health deteriorated and was moved to a hospital. There the prison authorities shackled him to his bed with metal chained cuffs, making the conditions of his stay in the hospital extremely unbearable as he could not do simple tasks such as going to the bathroom. He was instead forced to wait until one of the prison guards arrived to unshackle and accompany him.
When Abdel-Razeq did go to the bathroom, his hands and feet remained chained. When he was allowed to relieve himself in the toilet or use the shower, the bathroom door remained open and under the surveillance of the wardens. During the late hours of the night, Abdel-Razeq was not allowed to access the toilet at all because the prison claimed that there were no guards to accompany him – a problem made worse given that Abdel-Razeq was only drinking water during his strike, making the bathroom a more frequent and vital need. Because of the conditions, Abdel-Razeq said that he and other prisoners preferred to stay in jail rather than in the hospital.
The severe human rights violations described above, among many others perpetrated against thousands of Palestinians, run contrary to international laws that forbid the practices of torture and ill-treatment in all its forms, include the UN CAT. The three organizations call upon the international community to demand that Israel incorporate the repeated recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture to cease its violations of international law, and to end its practices of torture and ill-treatment against Palestinians like those committed against Yousef, Nimer and Abdel-Razeq. The organizations further call on the international community to demand transparency and accountability of Israel security and prison authorities, to ensure that perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment are brought to justice and that future violations are prevented.
PROJECT FUNDED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION – JOINT PROJECT OF ADALAH, AL MEZAN AND PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS-ISRAEL
The contents of this joint statement are the sole responsibility of Adalah, Al Mezan and PHR-I, and under no circumstances should be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.