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ICHR: Palestinian interrogators using torture for forced confession

Dec. 16, 2015 1:02 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 16, 2015 5:52 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian security forces are using methods of torture on detainees held in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in order to obtain confessions under force, the Independent Commission for Human Rights said.

ICHR Director, Ammar Dwaik, told Ma’an Tuesday that the organization received 1220 complaints of torture from detainees of Palestinian detention centers this year.

According to the complaints filed, Palestinian interrogators used physical and psychological forms of torture, Dwaik said, including lashing, cursing, blasphemy, sleep deprivation, foot whipping, and tying detainees in one position for several hours.

ICHR received 292 complaints of ill-treatment in detention centers in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and 928 similar complaints from Palestinians who were detained in the Hamas-led Gaza Strip.

This year matched levels of torture in 2014, which saw 289 complaints from West Bank detainees and 989 from the Gaza Strip, Dwaik added.

Dwaik told Ma’an that Palestinian law and the Jordanian penal code applicable in Palestine consider torture during interrogation a punishable crime, adding that actions of torture and coercion are also prohibited by Article 13 in Palestinian Basic Law.

Any confessions obtained through torture, the ICHR director said, violate this article should thus be considered null and void.

The director did not specify what percentage of complaints filed were the result of forced confession under torture.

Some branches of Palestinian security apparatuses -- including police -- utilize their own legal bodies for investigating complaints of torture, Dwaik said. Such bodies have confirmed complaints of torture, Dwaik added, while some complaints received by ICHR have been unverifiable.

Torture ‘commonplace’

The ICHR report comes as Palestinian security forces have in the past come under fire from rights groups and Palestinian detainees.

In 2014, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights issued a report heavily criticizing conditions inside Palestinian detention centers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, saying that the use of torture has been commonplace for many years.

An ICHR delegation recently visited the Gaza Strip in order to notify authorities of the large number of complaints filed against the Hamas security apparatus in the coastal enclave, Dwaik said.

Officials told the rights group they would review the complaints and respond to ICHR.

Commenting on the ICHR remarks in the West Bank, spokesman of the Palestinian Authority’s security services Adnan Dmeiri told Ma’an that torture during interrogation is “prohibited under Palestinian law and those who practice it must be tried in court.”

Dmeiri referred to any cases of torture in PA detention centers as “extrajudicial individual practices” that violate the instructions given by leaders of security services.

Dmeiri added that there have been cases of punishment against PA security officers in the past, including termination of service.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2014 signed the letter of accession to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Dwaik told Ma’an that since Palestine became a signatory to the convention, the Palestinian political echelon started to pay more attention to human rights issues.

Despite a perceived change in attitude towards torture in Palestinian detention centers, the ICHR director told Ma’an: “There is still a long way to go until torture is completely stopped.”

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