The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has submitted two group complaints to the Israeli authorities on behalf of nine Palestinian women detainees and former prisoners. The complaints address gender-specific types of ill treatment and torture. The evidence was collected last year by PCATI’s legal team in meetings with 29 women.
The first complaint exposes torture and ill-treatment during interrogations by the Israel Security Agency (also known as Shabak or Shin Bet). Most interrogations last several weeks. In its press release, PCATI writes that the women who filed the complaint:
testified that during interrogation they suffered inhuman detention conditions used as a method of interrogation; absence of basic hygienic conditions, including denial of sanitary pads to women who were menstruating during interrogation; prolonged interrogation sessions, lasting in some cases up to 20 hours; threats, including threats against family members; verbal abuse including of a sexual nature; sexual harassment, and other forms of humiliating and degrading treatment.
The second complaint concerns violence by soldiers at the time of arrest. The Palestinian women testify that they:
suffered painful shackling; physical violence during arrest; strip searches conducted under inappropriate (and immodest) conditions; threats and intimidation; verbal abuse, humiliating and degrading treatment, including denial of menstrual pads and disregard for or exploitation of cultural and religious sensitivities as a form of humiliation.
One month ago, I reported in my blog “Shabak tortures and ill-treats Palestinian detainees with impunity” about PCATI’s efforts to hold the Shabak to account for its practices of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees. All 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by Palestinian detainees between 2001 and 2010 were closed. There is no indication that the complaints by the Palestinian women will be treated differently.
Meanwhile, the ill-treatment of Palestinian women prisoners continues. Hana al-Shalabi - who is on hunger strike - described how during her arrest one of the soldiers grabbed her hand and pulled her. Addameer reported:
Hana objected and told him that if they needed to hold her, they should bring a female soldier to do it. He completely disregarded her and when she tried to remove his hand, he began to beat her upper body and slap her in the face. Hana’s brother, Omar, attempted to jump in front of her to protect her, but the soldiers attacked him and beat him with their guns. A female soldier was then brought to detain her. Hana was blindfolded and put in a military jeep, where she was made to sit on the ground on her knees. Each time she tried to move, the soldiers ordered her to stay still and shut up.
Hana was taken to Salem Detention Center and left blindfolded for two hours in a tiny room before being transferred to HaSharon Prison. While at Salem Detention Center she was further subjected to beatings and humiliating treatment. Hana began an open hunger strike on the first day of her arrest in protest of the ill-treatment she was subjected to during and following her arrest. She was kept in solitary confinement for the first three days of her detention, in a section of the prison far from where the other Palestinian women are held.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, PCATI has published the leaflet “Know Your Rights” to inform Palestinian women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory about their legal rights in the event of arrest or interrogation. The leaflet contains relevant information for detainees and prisoners held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, as well as for their family members. The leaflet is published in Arabic, Hebrew and English and will be distributed through the local media in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.