A Palestinian inspects the damage at An-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus, following fighting between Hamas and Fatah supporters at the university, July 2007. (Rami Swidan/MaanImages)
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is deeply concerned by the continuation of detentions by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank against Hamas activists and supporters, and interrogating them on their relationship with Hamas and the Interior Ministry Executive Force. In addition, they are coerced into signing commitments to cut off their ties with Hamas. The Centre is also concerned by the continuation of torture and abuse against the detainees and their families, as well as the physical and psychological pressure exerted on them to maintain silence. PCHR’s fieldworkers face difficulties in convincing victims to submit statements. In addition, the victims request that their names are not published. The Centre fears that these victims are threatened by security forces if these violations are reported to human rights organizations.
The Centre condemns these illegal actions, calls for stopping them, and calls for prosecuting the perpetrators. The Centre also calls for taking effective action to ensure that the law is respected in regards to arrest procedures. Fieldworkers are facing difficulties in obtaining statements from victims about the torture and maltreatment they were subjected to. The cases in this statement are examples and are not a complete listing of cases. In this regard, the Centre reminds that the silence of victims encourages the perpetrators of these actions to continue their systematic violations of the most basic human rights and the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners.
Some of the torture and abuse cases documented in the West Bank are:
- On Wednesday, 5 September 2007, the Palestinian General Intelligence summoned four school principals from Nablus. They were then taken to J’neid Prison after covering their heads with black sacks. The remained under detention till 13 September 2007, and were forced to sign commitments to resign their posts as principals. Three were released on 13 September and the fourth remains in prison.
- On Friday, 14 September 2007, the Palestinian General Intelligence detained three people from a village near Nablus. One of the detainees who was released stated that he was beaten during detention and threatened with being shot in the head. He stated that he saw others forced to stand in painful positions. Describing his arrest, he stated, “They asked me to come with them to the olive grove near the house. My hands were tied behind my back. One of them tripped me and I fell face-forward. One of them held my bound hands and raised me off the ground. The others were beating me with their hands, legs, and gun butts. About 15 people beat me for about 15 minutes. One of them fired a bullet to terrorize me, and said: In Gaza they shoot us in the legs and we will shoot you in the head.”
On Monday, 17 September 2007, Palestinian security forces detained five teachers heading to a school in Nablus. They were detained at a Palestinian checkpoint erected specifically for these teachers. They were forced out of their car and to sit on the ground. Then they were taken to the Military Intelligence Compound in Nablus, and from there to J’neid Prison. Three of the teachers were released in the evening, while two remain imprisoned.
In light of these developments, PCHR:
- Renews its strong condemnation of the use of torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment; and calls for investigating these crimes, prosecuting the perpetrators, and taking effective action to ensure they do not recur.
- Reminds that torture is outlawed by Palestinian Law, and does not fall by seniority; and that torture is a serious violation of human rights and international human rights standards, including the UN Convention against Torture.
- Affirms that arrests are regulated by Palestinian Law and are the authority of law-enforcement parties, represented by the civilian police under orders and supervision of the Attorney-General.