26 June 2013, Occupied Ramallah – In light of the commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the case of the almost 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons is of particular importance and poignancy.
Since 1967, 73 Palestinian detainees have died from torture at the hands of their Israeli interrogators.
The most recent death was that of Arafat Jaradat (30) who died on 23 February 2013 while under Israeli interrogation. According to the Palestinian Authority’s chief medical examiner, Mr. Jaradat’s ‘death was caused by nervous shock resulting from severe pain, which was due to injuries inflicted though direct and extreme torture’. Mr. Jaradat, a father with two young children, was detained for 7 days before he died under interrogation in a special section of Megiddo Prison.
Under Israeli military law a Palestinian detainee can be interrogated for a total period of 90 days, during which he/she can also be denied lawyer visits for a period of 60 days. During the interrogation period, a detainee is often subjected to some form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, whether physical or psychological, and ranging in extremity.
The forms of torture and ill treatment employed against Palestinian prisoners include the following: beatings, tying prisoners in “stress positions”, interrogation sessions that last up to 12 consecutive hours, depriving prisoners of sleep and other sensory deprivation, isolation and solitary confinement, and threats against the lives of their relatives. Confessions extracted through such practices are admissible in court. These practices are in direct contravention of international law, including the United Nations Convention against Torture (CAT), ratified by Israel on 3 October 1991, which requires any State Party to prevent the use of torture and associated practices. The prohibition is absolute and non-derogable, and allows for “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever.”
According to research by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, all 700 complaints of torture made against Israeli interrogators in the past 10 years were closed without any criminal investigation. Additionally, many Palestinians who are tortured refuse to file complaints because of their lack of confidence in the system. The Israeli Prison Service displays not only apathy for the well-being of Palestinians, but acts with impunity in direct violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.
More recently, on 7 April 2013, administrative detainees Ahmad Zahran (36) and Mahmoud Zahran (36) detailed before Ofer Military Court their treatment at the hands of the Israeli Prison Service.
In his testimony before the military judge, detainee Ahmad Zahran explained that he suffered constantly from nausea and exhaustion as a result of sleep deprivation and the extreme length, duration, and harshness of his interrogation. Mahmoud Zahran explained to the judge that he had also been subject to extremely harsh interrogation techniques by several interrogation groups, and that he had been tied to a chair for hours throughout an interrogation, that endured non-stop day and night.
In the face of this overwhelming evidence, the military court extended the detentions of the aforementioned detainees, providing legal cover for the Israeli intelligence apparatus in clear contravention of the norms of international humanitarian law, which outlaw torture and cruel and inhuman treatment. Decisions such as this provide a veneer of legal and judicial legitimacy for the use of torture by the Israeli security services, in contravention of Article 71 of the IV Geneva Convention.
On this day commemorating victims of torture, it is imperative that attention is drawn to the plight of the almost 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, and the systematic torture which they are subjected to. Addameer again calls for on Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, to immediately form an investigation committee to investigate the situation of all Palestinian political prisoners, in particular the systematic use of torture they are subjected to by the Israeli security services and the Israeli prison service.