Palestinian police using torture in Gaza Strip

A member of the Hamas Executive Force stands guard near a mural of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat during a rally for the Fatah movement in Gaza City marking the third anniversary of the death of the late Palestinian president, 12 November 2007. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has received more affidavits from Palestinians who were subjected to beating, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment while in detention by the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip. PCHR condemns such illegal practices and calls for prosecuting the perpetrators and ensuring that laws that regulate procedures of detention are applied.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, last week, the police of the dismissed Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip, accompanied by individuals wearing civilian clothes, waged a wide scale arrest campaign throughout the Gaza Strip targeting activists of the Fatah movement because they participated in a ceremony organized in Gaza City on 12 November 2007 on the third anniversary of the death of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. A number of these activists who have been released have told PCHR staff members that they were subjected to beating, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment during interrogation. They were also forced to sign documents pledging not to participate in any activities organized by the Fatah movement.

An activist of the Fatah movement, from Beit Hanoun, who was arrested on 13 November 2007 and was released on the following day, stated:

“At approximately 11:00 on Tuesday, 13 November 2007, the police came to my house and summoned me to the police station in Beit Hanoun. I went to the station. The guards at the entrance of the station took my identity card and held me in a room. Nearly half an hour later, a number of policemen entered the room. They handcuffed me and covered my head with a sac. They then took me to another room. There, they violently beat me using sticks, especially on my feet, for nearly half an hour, and they insulted me. They then took me back to the first room. I felt severe pains in my legs, so I asked them to take me to the hospital, but they refused. At approximately 02:00 on Wednesday, 14 November 2007, they transported me to Beit Hanoun Hospital, where doctors asserted that I had sustained fractures to the feet.”

Another activist, from Khan Yunis, who was arrested and released on 13 November 2007, stated:

“At approximately 16:00 on Tuesday, 13 November 2007, I went to the police station in Khan Yunis as I had been summoned by the police in the morning. Policemen took me to the interrogation center. They handcuffed and blindfolded me. They then violently beat me. I informed them that I have chronic pains in my back, but they did not pay attention and continued to beat me. They even put a piece of cloth in my mouth in order not hear my screams. When I was sitting with my hands tied behind my back and my back down, one of them treaded on my neck and pressed hard. I suffered from severe pains and my limbs were almost paralyzed. They called for an ambulance that transported me to Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis.”

A third activist, from Jabalya refugee camp, who was arrested and released on 15 November 2007, stated:

“At approximately 23:00 on Wednesday, 14 November 2007, a person wearing civilian clothes came to my house and handed to me a note summoning me to Jabalya police station at 15:00 on the following day. He also threatened me that I would be severely punished if I did not go. I went to the police station on time. Policemen took me to a room on the upper floor. A person then came and ordered me to stand with my face to the wall. He covered my face and tied my hands and legs. He tied my feet to a lever and pulled me up until my head was down and my legs were up. A number of other persons came and started to violently beat me using sticks and plastic hoses. I screamed and one of them covered my face with a blanket to suppress my screams. I told them that I was suffocating. They then took me down and sprinkled cold water on me. At approximately 18:00 on the same day, I was released when a number of leaders of Hamas intervened. Before my release, I was forced to sign a document pledging not to participate in any activities organized by Fatah movement.”

A fourth activist, from Gaza City, who was arrested and released on 15 November 2007, stated:

“At approximately 04:30 on Thursday, 15 November 2007, a number of militants, including masked ones, came to my house and asked me to accompany them quietly. They transported me in a police vehicle to the headquarters of the police (al-Jawazat) in Gaza City. Once we arrived there, they covered my head and started to violently beat me. They then put me in a room for 3 hours, during which time they beat and insulted me. At approximately 23:00, they shaved my hair and forced me to sign a document pledging not to participate in activities organized by Fatah movement.”

In light of the above:

1) PCHR reiterates its strong condemnation for torture and calls for investigating such practices and taking legal action against the perpetrators to ensure their non-recurrence.

2) PCHR reminds that torture is outlawed by Palestinian Law, and is a grave human rights violation under international human rights instruments, especially the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment (1984).

3) PCHR is concerned for prevailing inhuman and degrading treatment by security officials against detainees.

4) PCHR stresses that arrests under the Palestinian Law are the mandate of judicial warranty officials represented by the civilian police, working under the instruction and supervision of the Attorney-General.