Israeli prison guards use violence against Palestinian female prisoners

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) today, July 13, called on Minister of Internal Security, Tzahi Hanegbi, and Prison Service Commissioner, Yakov Granot, to immediately investigate the violent behavior of the wardens during last week’s events at the Neve Tirza prison, to allow independent doctors to visit the prisoners who had been injured during these events and to absolutely prohibit the spraying of tear gas in prison cells.

In a letter sent to Minister Hanegbi, PCATI Attorney Gaby Lasky, states that during the events which took place at the prison on July 6-8, the wardens used severe violence against the female prisoners, sprayed tear gas into small and crowded cells and injured many of the inmates. PCATI enclosed in its letter an affidavit collected from Arij Ataf Sbahi Shahabri, leader of one of the prisoners’ groups. In it, Ms. Shahabri states when she and her fellow prisoners refused to stand up for roll call, a force of 70 wardens entered their chamber . “The wardens sprayed the room with tear gas and beat the prisoners”. Ms. Shaharbi adds that “I was thrown on the floor and beaten on the back and until today I feel severe pain and cannot walk normally”. According to her statement, she was manacled by the hands and legs and thrown into a filthy room unfit for human beings.

Another testimony, collected by Attorney Faten Elasibi, which reached PCATI states that the prisoner Kahara Elsa’adi ”could barely walk, her arm was broken and hung limp and her neck was swollen”.

PCATI, in addition, called on Minister Hanegbi to improve the conditions of detention under which the female security prisoners are held. PCATI presented before the minister the findings of the visits made by attorneys Tahrir Atamaleh on behalf of PCATI and Targid Jahasan on behalf of Women for Female Political Prisoners who had visited the prison in the past month and interviewed security prisoners.

These findings reveal that the rights of the inmates are being violated and that they are being held in appalling conditions. Among other matters, PCATI details the following violations: sleeping on the floor, unjustified isolation in harsh conditions as a result of the extreme crowding, lack of changes of clothing which forces the inmates to wear the same clothing for a long period of time, violations of the rights of minor prisoners to study and take matriculation examinations and the lack of an organized studies framework, denial of family visits because most of the security prisoners are residents of the Occupied Territories and the prohibition on regular telephone contact between the prisoners, their families and their children, improper medical care (PCATI describes the case of a prisoner, Asamaa Abu Elhaj, who had undergone surgery to remove a cancerous growth from her head before she was arrested and is not receiving proper medical care or supervision. The only treatment she received in the prison’s clinic is Paracetamol tablets), strip searches violating the dignity of the prisoners, food of poor quality and little variety, lack of toilets in the prison yard and more.

According to PCATI Executive Director, Hannah Friedman, the findings bring to light the harsh violence used by wardens against the security prisoners and the appalling conditions of their detention. “I call on the Minister of Internal Security to immediately intervene in order to improve the harsh conditions of detention and to set standards for the wardens’ behavior which meet acceptable standards in the democratic world and to cease solving disciplinary issues using unjustified, severe violence”.