Open letter concerning the use of ill-treatment and torture on Palestinian detainees

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the world’s largest network of NGO’s fighting against torture, has written an open letter to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon regarding its concerns about the use of ill-treatment and torture - including the use of various forms of torture that were outlawed by a 1999 Israeli High Court of Justice ruling - in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Open Letter to Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
Office of the Prime Minister,
3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187,
Kiryat Ben-Gurion,
Jerusalem 91919,
Israel.

Geneva, June 25th, 2003

Concerning: the use of ill-treatment and torture on Palestinian detainees

Your Excellency,

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the world’s largest network of NGO’s fighting against torture, has been informed by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), a member of the SOS-Torture network of a gravely troubling situation in the Israel and the Occupied Territories. PCATI has reported the use of ill-treatment and torture - including the use of various forms of torture that were outlawed by a 1999 Israeli High Court of Justice ruling - in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

According to the information received, Hassan Twefik Ruagba, a 34-year-old resident of Rujabi Village near Nablus, was arrested by IDF soldiers in his home on December 5th, 2002. The soldiers surrounded his home, calling Mr. Ruagba to come out, and even pointed a gun at Mr. Ruagba’s seven-year-old son, threatening to shoot the child if Mr. Ruagba did not surrender himself. After coming out of the house Mr. Ruagba was blindfolded, handcuffed, and beaten. He was brought to the military camp at Hawara where he was held in detention cell for four days without being interrogated. Mr. Ruagba was then brought to the General Security Services interrogation unit at the Petah Tikva Detention Center. He remained there for two hours before being brought to a “secret” prison. He was detained in the unknown prison for 90 days.

For the first 16 days of his stay, Mr. Ruagba was kept in a 2.5 x 1 meter cell, without being interrogated. After the first 16 days Mr. Ruagba’s interrogation began. He was interrogated for 20 hours each day. At one point Mr. Ruagba was questioned for five consecutive days, without being allowed to sleep, while seated on a diagonal chair, with his hands and feet tightly bound. During his interrogation, Mr. Ruagba was beaten and verbally abused. He was not allowed to meet with a lawyer during the entire period of his detention. Mr. Ruagba developed scabies, a skin infection, due to the unsanitary conditions he was forced to endure. On March 5th, 2003, Mr. Ruaggba was brought to the GSS interrogation unit at the Kishon Detention Center, where he is still being detained in solitary confinement.

Separately, on September 12th, 2002, Hussein Alsuaid, a 50-year-old resident of Ramallah, was arrested at approximately 2:00 am at his home by IDF soldiers. Mr. Alsuaid was handcuffed and blindfolded and brought to the military camp at Bitunia, where he was thrown into the camp yard and left until 6:00 am. Mr. Alsuaid reports that he was then brought to the Ofer Detention Camp, where he was interrogated for two days by General Security Service interrogators. He was then brought to the Russian Compound Detention Center in Jerusalem where he was interrogated from morning to evening each day, for eleven days. During his interrogation, Mr. Alsuaid was forced to sit on a small chair, his hands and feet tightly handcuffed. Mr. Alsuaid, who has a heart condition, and has had a heart attack and a catheterisation, felt that he was suffocating during his interrogation. He was brought to Hadassah Hospital, where he remained for 10 hours. He was then returned to the Russian Compound and his interrogation began again.

OMCT recalls that in 1999 the Israeli High Court of Justice outlawed, one by one, the most frequently used methods of torture, beginning with violent shaking, continuing with squatting and the “shabeh” methods (covering the head with a sack, playing loud music and tying to a small, tilted chair), and ending up with sleep deprivation (as a means of applying pressure) and painful shackling. The Court ruled that these methods cause suffering (and when applied cumulatively - as in the “shabeh” method - particular suffering and pain) to those being interrogated and degrade their dignity, and are therefore illegal. In addition, OMCT would like to highlight the fact that the United Nations Committee Against Torture concluded in 1997 that these methods constitute torture, in particular when used in combination. PCATI has further stated that “it is impossible to prevent torture through a Court ruling. Only the absolute prohibition of torture by law can prevent its use in the future.”

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned by the current use of torture and ill-treatment in Israeli detention centres. OMCT recalls that the behaviour of the interrogators described above is in flagrant breach of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It also violates Israeli law, notably clauses 277 (1), 277 (2), and 427 (A) of the Criminal Law, 1977. OMCT is also gravely concerned by the afore-mentioned threats proffered against a seven-year-old child by Israeli soldiers.

OMCT calls on your Excellency to order the immediate release of all detainees being held in the absence of valid legal charges that are in line with international law, or if such charges exist, to ensure that the detainees receive a prompt and fair trial. Additionally, OMCT calls on the Israeli government to ensure that prisoners are detained in conditions that meet internationally recognised standards - in particular the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment - as well as the conditions provided for in Israeli law. Finally, OMCT calls upon the Israeli authorities to immediately halt the use of ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian detainees, in accordance with international law - notably the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - and with the 1999 Israeli High Court of Justice ruling that outlawed such practices, and to investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of these grave human rights violations.

Thank you for the careful consideration that you will give these matters.

Yours sincerely,

Eric Sottas
Director

Related Links:

  • World Organization Against Torture