In a short video produced by the human rights organization Al-Haq, 28-year-old Osamah Nayef al-Shawamreh describes in harrowing detail the torture he endured for three days in a Palestinian Authority prison in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron earlier this year.
“I wish I could be as I was before, to walk on the street without fear,” a tearful al-Shawamreh states.
Al-Shawamreh says he has lost control of his body, including feeling in one of his hands, and describes what seem to be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the repeated beatings and other forms of physical torture.
Al-Shawamreh’s ordeal began with a phone call on 1 February from the Palestinian Investigations Unit in Hebron, summoning him for questioning regarding a hacked Facebook account. The beating began straight away, according to al-Shawamreh’s testimony. Shawamreh describes repeatedly losing consciousness during the physical abuse.
“You will die here”
“I felt I would die when he strangled me,” al-Shawamreh says of one of his torturers.
“You will die here,” al-Shawamreh recalls one of them saying as he begged for a sip of water.
After signing a statement under coercion, al-Shawamreh was taken to see a physician with the military services, a disturbing indication of medical professionals’ collusion in the practice of torture.
On the third day of his detention a public prosecutor ordered al-Shawamreh’s immediate release, but he was taken back to the Investigations Unit where he was subjected to more verbal and physical abuse before he was released on bail.
Al-Shawamreh was then taken to a medical center by a police officer who threatened him not to say anything to the doctor; al-Shawamreh told the doctor he didn’t suffer from anything and was asked to sign a paper presumably stating such.
Al-Shawamreh was later taken to a hospital in Ramallah where the Investigations Unit called to harass him, according to al-Shawamreh’s testimony.
A 7 February medical report obtained by Al-Haq states that al-Shawamreh was admitted to the emergency room and suffered from severe pain the neck and shoulder, abrasions, internal bleeding, burn scars and two fractured ribs, and adds that the patient was in need of psychiatric care.
The trembling and broken young man in the video was, before his arrest, an ambitious and hard worker at a solar power company, his coworkers told Al-Haq.
Al-Haq says it documented four cases of Palestinian prisoners “held under inhumane detention conditions and subjected to ill-treatment and torture” in the first few months of this year.
In 2008 the group published a study which found widespread politically-motivated torture by Palestinian government forces in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have for years been largely financed and trained under the auspices of the United States and the European Union.