Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association issued the following statement on June 26, the International Day to Support Victims of Torture:
26 June 2014, occupied Ramallah – On the International Day to Support Victims of Torture, Addameer calls on the United Nations to assemble a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel’s gross violations of the Convention against Torture and to hold it accountable in the International Criminal Court.
The United Nations Convention against Torture (CAT) defines the term torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” Since Israel’s ratification of the CAT in 1991, 104 Palestinian political prisoners have died at the hands of the Israeli occupation.
The use of torture against Palestinian prisoners is systematic, widespread and varies extensively, including: shackling prisoners in stress positions, beating them, holding them in isolation or solitary confinement, and sleep and sensory deprivation. Children are not spared of the torture: in early 2014, 14-year old Rasheed Risheq was attacked by Israeli occupation soldiers and police in front of a supermarket in the Al-Wad neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem. About ten soldiers jumped on him, chocked him to shackle his hands and legs, and held him on the ground while they beat him on the head, punched him in the face and kicked him in the legs and stomach. He was then interrogated rigorously and at length, during which he was strip-searched, held naked in isolation, subjected to severe threats on his family, and denied food all in an attempt to force him to confess and sign an affidavit in Hebrew, a language he does not read or understand. Rishiq’s case is not unique: three-fourths of children are subjected to physical violence during their arrest. Israel’s practice of torture is unequivocally in gross violation of international law, but also a testament to the inhuman treatment and conditions that Palestinians, including children, face at the hands of Israeli authorities.
Despite Israel’s ratification of CAT, the state continues to debate legislation that sanctions the torture of Palestinian prisoners. Most recently, the Israeli Knesset is in the process of amending the Prisoners Act to allow for the force-feeding of hunger strikers. Force-feeding is deemed “never ethically acceptable” and considered as a form of torture by the World Medical Association. The blatant disregard for the basic humanity of Palestinian prisoners is best illustrated by the fact that this legislation was not only debated, but hastened to a vote, in the midst of the longest Palestinian mass hunger strike that reached 63 days, in protest of the policy of administrative detention.
The widespread use of administrative detention is a form of psychological torture. Administrative detention is an Israeli policy which allows for the indefinite detention of Palestinians without charge or the right to stand trial. They are held on secret information which neither they nor their lawyers have access to. Salem Badi, who has spent over 6,100 days under administrative detention, testified to the psychological pain caused by the policy: “Administrative detention is a nightmare that keeps detainees and their families waiting to be shocked by continuous renewals of the administrative detention orders.” Badi, who participated in the most recent hunger strike, also testified to the severe forms of the hunger strikers were subjected to, including brutal physical attacks, solitary confinement and threats of force-feeding. Hunger strikers have testified in the past that the doctors tending to them dangled feeding tubes in front of them to intimidate and coerce them to break their strike. The policy against hunger strikers, which includes both torture sanctioned by law and daily practice, is used to try to limit the political gains of the hunger strikers.
Israeli law outlaws the use of torture, but a loophole allows for the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) to consider an individual as a “ticking-bomb” case in “situations of necessity” so they can exert “moderate physical pressure” in order to obtain information from them. This policy, which is in direct violation of CAT is used extensively against Palestinian prisoners. Over 90% prisoners have stated that they were subjected to some form of physical or psychological torture during interrogation or detention. Arafat Jaradat, a young father of two was found dead in his prison cell just days after he was arrested from his home in Sa’eer, Hebron. He had several broken ribs, deep bruising on his body and other injuries that confirmed his torture.
Jaradat is one of 73 Palestinian prisoners who has died of direct torture in Israeli jails, and one of 23 who had died since Israel ratified CAT. At least 27 prisoners have died from medical negligence, including Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who was denied treatment in 2013. Fifty-four prisoners have been killed during their arrest raids or during raids in the prison, such as Ziad Joulani, 41 years and from occupied Jerusalem, who was killed point-blank during the arrest in 2010 and Mohammad Ashkar, who was killed by Israeli Special Forces, who shot at the prisoners indiscriminately during a raid in Ktziot prison in 2007.
Israel’s use of torture is widespread, systematic and legalized and the refusal to ratify the Rome Statue or join the ICC is further evidence of their impunity towards international human rights law and standards. The intent is clear: Palestinian prisoners are not afforded the right to life according to Israeli authorities. On International Day to Support Victims of Torture, two weeks into the largest Israeli military operation in the West Bank since the second intifada, the time is ripe to hold Israel accountable for its flagrant violations of international law and the dignity of the Palestinian prisoners.