by Khaled Abu Toameh
The Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have been using torture on a wide and systematic basis for several years, according to a report by the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain.
The report found that torture techniques in PA prisons included shabh [hanging] of all kinds, beatings with cables, pulling out nails, suspension from the ceiling, flogging, kicking, cursing, electric shocks, sexual harassment and the threat of rape.
A top PA official in Ramallah dismissed the report as “unreliable” and “full of lies.” The official claimed that the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain was affiliated with Hamas and other Islamic fundamentalist groups.
At least six Palestinians have died under torture in PA prisons and many former detainees have permanent physical disabilities, the report found.
The human rights organization said that it has documented such “crimes” for three years – from October 2007 to October 2010.
During that period – the report said – PA security forces in the West Bank detained almost 8,640 Palestinians at a rate of 8 arrests per-day.
“Every one of those detainees has been subject to humiliating and degrading treatment and stayed in cells for more than 10 days,” the report said. “The analysis shows that an astonishing 95% of the detainees were subjected to severe torture, others feeling the detrimental effects on their health for varying periods.”
The report also found that 77% of those who had been detained by the PA security forces had already been arrested in the past by Israel.
Representatives of the organization met with victims, or their relatives, and distributed a questionnaire, in secret, to detainees who were held in PA prisons.
“Men and women from all sectors of Palestinian society have been subject to arrest and torture,” the report noted. “These include students, workers, teachers, doctors, engineers, university professors and lawyers.”
The study quoted detainees as complaining that the torture most were exposed to was shabh [hanging] in its various forms (some reported that they were hung from the second floor, upside down, like a slaughtered animal). It said that many others also complained about severe beatings with sticks and hoses, threats of rape and sleep deprivation for lengthy periods.
“In order to put pressure on detainees, close relatives, even minors, are brought to the interrogation center, where they may be tortured in front of the detainee in order to try to force a confession of guilt,” the report said. “Charges laid against detainees by the PA are often the same as those used by the Israeli occupation forces, namely membership in a militia, terrorism, sedition and organizing against the PA.”
The report named the Preventative Security Service as the group responsible for most of the detentions and torture. This group has 17 detention centers.
It’s followed by General Intelligence Service, which also has 17 detention centers, and Military Intelligence Service, with only 11 detention centers.
“The detention centers of all security services have one thing in common – they all operate outside the law,” the human rights organization concluded. “Under the current laws in the PA areas, reform and rehabilitation centers are the only places where detention is permitted. Those run by the security services are not subject to any judicial control.”
The organization called for bringing to trail all those alleged to have committed acts of torture. It also urged the donor countries, particularly the EU, to act accordingly.
“However, political considerations and influence means that little is being done in this respect,” the group’s report charged. “The EU’s response is not consistent with the obligations of states on both the legal and moral levels, where its support for the PA, despite the prevalence of torture, is contrary to international law and the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Convention in Europe of 1950.”
The report pointed out that the PA had admitted practicing torture when, at the beginning of October 2009, it announced that it was stopping torture in its prisons. But, the report said, “it turns out that torture has not been stopped; rather, it has grown more frequent and intense. The PA’s announcement was window-dressing and deception.”
In 2008, two detainees died during torture in PA prisons. The following year another four died in PA prisons. In all cases, the PA denied responsibility, claiming that the cause of death was suicide or illness.
The six men were identified as Majd Barghouti, Shadi Shaheen, Mohammed al-Hajj, Haitham Amr, Kamal Abu Ta’eima and Fadi Hamadna.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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