Name: Ameer William Elias Hazboun
Date of Birth: 14 February 1998
Age: 22 years
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Fourth-Year Mechanical Engineering Student at Birzeit University
Date of Arrest: 10 September 2019
Prison: Ofer Prison
Legal Status: Under-Trial Detainee
On 10 September 2020 around 1:00 am midnight, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), accompanied by military dogs, broke into Ameer Hazboun’s dorm in Birzeit and arrested him After the IOF broke down Hazboun’s dorm, the Israeli soldiers used dogs to attack Hazboun and beat him on his chest before handcuffing and blindfolding him. Afterwards, he was steered towards a special force vehicle and pushed roughly to the floor.
Hazboun was continuously kicked and beaten as he was transferred to a nearby military checkpoint. After noticing that his forehead was bleeding from a hit he received on the way to the military checkpoint, the IOF sent him to a medical centre at an Israeli settlement where his wound was checked and cleaned. He was blindfolded once again and transferred to another military camp before he finally reached Ofer Prison. During his transportation, Israeli soldiers relentlessly beat Hazboun on the chest, face, and hands using their rifles to punch all parts of his body. At Ofer Prison, he was put in a room with another detainee and was kicked on the back while lying on the ground. Hazboun was transferred again to Al-Moskobiyeh Detention and Interrogation Centre in Jerusalem where he was physically and mentally tortured for almost 50 days.
Torture During Interrogation
In the beginning, Hazboun was interrogated for long hours without reprieve and was deprived of sleep and rest. For the first seven days of interrogation, Hazboun was questioned for 22 hours a day. Whenever he dozed off, the interrogators would sit on his knees and shake his body violently while hurling obscenities at him. After the first week, the interrogators showed Hazboun his father from behind a glass window sitting in one of the interrogation rooms at Al-Moskobiyeh Detention and Interrogation Centre in a ploy to pressure Ameer into thinking that his father had been detained because of him. After two weeks of interrogation, Hazboun was threatened with military interrogation. One of the interrogators warned him that “his guts will be ripped out of his body and his jaw will be broken”. Later, Hazboun was moved to a larger chamber where he was brutally tortured for two days using military interrogation tactics.
During the military interrogation, Hazboun was slapped harshly on the face and beaten heavily on his outer thighs. He was also forced into various stress positions including the banana torture position where the interrogators shackled his legs to a chair, tied his hands behind his back, and then pushed his chest backwards, so his body forms an arch. With only a blanket behind to catch his fall, Hazboun had to hold this position for a long time causing severe pain in the muscles of his back and abdomen.
Hazboun was forced into another stress position where he had to stand on his tiptoes while his arms were pulled backwards and upwards and shackled to a high point on the wall. This position puts immense pressure on the muscles of the shoulders and arms, forcing the detainee to keep standing on his tiptoes or risk excruciating pain in the shoulders and arms.
Before his arrest, Hazboun had a broken arm and underwent surgery to insert a platinum-plate in his arm. The interrogators used Hazboun’s injury against him by putting pressure on his injured arm to exacerbate the suffering.
After the military interrogation, he was interrogated for five more consecutive days during which he was forced to eat his meals inside the interrogation chamber. Hazboun was then transferred to the collaborators’ cells(‘asafir) for four days before going back to al-Moskobiyeh Detention and Interrogation Centre for further interrogation. During his last week of questioning, Hazboun was placed in solitary confinement before being transferred to the prisoner cells at Ofer Prison.
Immediately after his arrest, a ban order was issued preventing Hazboun from meeting with his lawyer for five days. The ban order was renewed six times, for a total of 22 days. Hazboun was not allowed to consult with his lawyer nor talk to him during court hearings where his detention was extended. His lawyer was also not able to document the brutal torture Hazbon endured during his interrogation.
Despite the fact that Hazboun informed the military judge that he was tortured and interrogated ceaselessly, the military judge continued to extend his detention. Addameer’s lawyer representing Hazboun lodged multiple appeals against the extension of his detention, however they were all dismissed under the pretext of further interrogation as the interrogation results were still inconclusive and that the alleged charges against Hazboun were of extreme gravity.
On 3 November 2019, the Israeli occupation authorities brought charges against Hazboun related to his student activism at Birzeit University. They claimed that Hazboun is a member of the Progressive Student Front— an unlawful association according to Israeli military orders— and that he attended meetings and participated in student activities organised by the association.
Hazboun is still detained and awaits his trial which was postponed to 6 May 2020.
Student Activism: A Ticking Bomb?
When looking into the case of Hazboun, from the first moments of arrest up until the interrogation process, it is obvious that the excessive use of torture was disproportional and do not align with the charges listed against him. How can the use of physical and mental torture be allowed for the sole act of participating in student activities on campus?
Hazboun’s case illustrates the Israeli occupation’s flagrant violation of not only international conventions and covenants but also its own national laws and practices.
The torture Israeli interrogators inflicted on Hazboun is prohibited under many international conventions and covenants, particularly, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). These conventions state the absolute prohibition of torture, meaning the use of torture cannot be justified in any way, be it militant or student activism.
However, Israel, as an Occupying Power, in a series of consecutive court orders issued by the Israeli High Court, has not adopted the absolute prohibition of torture. In 1999, the Court recognised that Israeli interrogators could claim they were forced to use "special tactics" in the case of a "ticking bomb", shielding Israeli interrogators from legal prosecution under the guise of “necessity”. In the case of Tbeish (9018/17) in 2018, the Israeli High Court provided an even looser definition of “necessity” citing that the posed risk does not necessarily have to be imminent.
The “ticking bomb” scenario is based on several assumptions, some of which may be hidden or only implied. For instance, the “ticking bomb” cases typically suppose that a specific planned attack is known to exist and that the attack is imminent and would kill many people. The scenario also assumes that the detained person is a perpetrator who has information that will prevent the attack and that torturing the person will extract the information in time to avoid the attack. No other means exist that might obtain the information in time, and no further action could be taken to prevent the harm. The implication is that the motive of the torturer is to extract information, with the genuine intention of saving lives.[]
Despite the absolute prohibition of torture, if we take a look at Hazboun’s case who was brutally tortured using what the Israeli occupation authorities call “special interrogation tactics”, we can clearly see that none of the assumptions implied in a ticking bomb scenario apply in his case. Hazboun was not convicted of any militant activity, and his charges were limited to student activism which is protected under all international conventions. Not only did the Israeli interrogators violate CAT, which the Occupying Power signed more than twenty years ago, but they also violated the rulings of the Israeli High Court which allowed “special interrogation tactics” in the scenario of “ticking bombs”. The question now is, will the Shabak interrogators enjoy immunity from prosecution despite the torture they inflicted on the detainee Ameer Hazboun?
Since the Israeli occupying state signed CAT, which absolutely prohibits torture, the state must ban all forms of torture whether the charges are related to militant or student activism. The continuous state-authorized torture of Palestinian detainees under the pretext of a “ticking bomb” situation means that the Israeli occupation authorities continue to commit grave violations without any accountability and responsibility. Torture is considered a war crime and a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and its perpetrators shall not be left unaccountable.
[]The Association for the Prevention of Torture, Defusing the Ticking Bomb Scenario, 2007, 4.