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NGO: Israel practices 'systematic torture' on Palestinian detainees

June 26, 2017 8:51 P.M. (Updated: June 27, 2017 3:01 P.M.)
Palestinian prisoners walk at the yard of Megiddo prison, 2005 (AFP/Menahem Kahana/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer released a statement on Monday, International Day to Support Victims of Torture, highlighting Israel’s use of “torture and ill-treatment” on Palestinian detainees, which has led to the death of 73 Palestinians since 1967.

According to Addameer, Israeli authorities' practice of torture, which it said has been carried out in a “systematic manner,” contravenes numerous international laws and conventions prohibiting the use of torture, and that Israeli prison officials are rarely held accountable for the abuse of Palestinian prisoners.

Since 1967, when Israel occupied the Palestinian territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, 73 Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli custody as a result of torture during interrogations, the group reported, the latest of whom was 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat who is believed to have been tortured to death in Israel’s Megiddo prison in 2013.

The Israeli Ministry of Health had concluded in its autopsy that no contusions were found on Jaradat’s body except for a fractured rib that occurred close to his death, owing to resuscitation attempts performed by the Israel Prison Service (IPS).

However, Addameer pointed out that a commissioned forensic pathology expert had found that Arafat was “severely beaten” while in custody, and that he had developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which had caused his death.

“Despite this, up to date, no Israeli official has been charged for Jaradat’s death,” Addameer stated.

Like Jaradat, many other Palestinians have been subjected to “psychological and physical torture” during Israeli interrogations, the group noted, as interrogations can last up to 75 days and lawyers can be denied access to the detainees for the first 60 days of the interrogation.

The group highlighted certain torture techniques used by Israeli authorities on Palestinians during interrogations, including “prolonged isolation from the outside world; inhuman detention conditions; excessive use of blindfolds and handcuffs; slapping and kicking; sleep deprivation; denial of food and water for extended periods of time; denial of access to toilets; denial of access to showers or change of clothes for days or weeks; exposure to extreme cold or heat; position abuse; yelling and exposure to loud noises; insults and cursing; arresting family members or alleging that family members have been arrested; sexual abuse; slaps, kicks and blows; and violent shaking.”

Any confessions collected during these episodes of torture are then admissible in Israeli courts, according to Addameer.

The group went on to underscore the routine practice of physical violence practiced by Israeli forces on Palestinians during detentions, including during nightly predawn raids carried out by Israeli forces where soldiers often forcibly enter Palestinian homes during the dead of night to detain them, while Palestinians often face violence at military checkpoints and streets.

“While times and places may differ with regards to the arrest of the Palestinian detainees, the policy of physical assaults against the detainees is systematic and practiced in a widespread manner, regardless of age, gender, or health conditions,” the group said.

Addameer called on Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to take action in order to ensure Israel abides by international law and to permit UN officials to visit Israel’s prisons in order to “monitor and investigate the conditions and allegations of torture.”

Addameer also urged the UN and other parties to call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel’s use of torture on Palestinians.

Palestinian detainees, many of whom are minors, have often accused Israel of practicing torture. Earlier this year, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs detailed the torture of two Palestinian teenagers during their interrogations with Israeli authorities.

Musab Muhammad Ghneimat, 17, explained how he was shot with live ammunition while running away from soldiers who accused him of carrying out a stabbing attack. Once he was immobilized, an Israeli soldier fired two rounds on the ground near him and a third at his wounded foot from point-blank range.

Similarly, 16-year-old Ayad Amr said he was detained after Israeli soldiers broke into and ransacked his house during a predawn raid.

He said he was handcuffed and blindfolded before Israeli forces “dragged” him into a military truck, with soldiers cursing him using "immoral phrases" before being interrogated for hours, as an Israeli officer shouted and cursed at him.

According to Addameer, 6,200 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of May, most of whom “continue to suffer from systematic intentional torture and ill-treatment.”
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