Amid the laughter of Israeli soldiers mocking all norms and values, the officer calls out: “Number Three: step forward.” With weak and hesitant steps, one of the six Palestinian children steps forward to receive several blows on his skinny body and then return to his comrades. Then another child is called forth to undergo the same treatment while the soldiers laugh.
For 14 hours six children from Ramallah were continuously subjected to brutal torture, beatings, sitting in awkward positions, and a stream of insults and threats, after being abducted from the street on their way home from school.
One of the children who reported the incident, 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Akroob, said: “They prevented us from drinking water, eating any food or going to the bathroom throughout the period of the interrogation and torture. They would call each of us by a number from one to six; if anyone delayed a few seconds after hearing the number, he was subjected to a double dose of torture and beatings; as a result, all of us were covered with bruises, cuts and welts, some of which are still on our bodies two weeks after the incident.”
As usual, the Israeli police opened an investigation into the incident, as they do for the hundreds, nay thousands, of attacks on Palestinians and the use of prohibited methods of torture against them; such investigations result in nothing more than the opening of files that are then promptly forgotten.
This occurrence is one of the many incidents of torture against Palestinian prisoners under the Zionist occupation, a policy that violates all international norms. Torture is routinely practiced in all its forms, and even legitimized by the courts and through the enactment of laws that encourage it.
The Ministry of Prisoners in a report issued on Friday, June 26th (coinciding with World Anti-Torture Day) stated: “The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) has no compunctions about using torture against Palestinian prisoners in its prisons. The torture starts from the moment of the kidnapping, which is carried out in an atmosphere of terrorism and gunfire, then the binding and blindfolding of the prisoner, after which he is thrown into a military jeep, where he is beaten, threatened and insulted. Once he arrives at an interrogation and detention center, he will be subjected to the harshest forms of humiliation and torture to extract a confession from him by force.”
The Ministry pointed out that the Israelis use more than 100 methods for interrogation and torture and that these methods have led to the death of 70 prisoners in the occupation’s jails, out of a total of 196 martyrs of the prisoner’s movement.
The Public Committee against Torture, an Israeli organization, stressed that torture may be used against Palestinian prisoners right from the time of their arrest, or when they are transferred to detention centers, or after being sentenced to prison. Prisoners are routinely shackled in a violent and painful manner, even when they pose no danger, including minors who are supposed to be protected by international law, and even by Israeli law. All this occurs with the knowledge of Israeli judicial and legislative authorities, who take no punitive action against the perpetrators. The Committee has cited more than 600 cases of prisoners who have been subjected to torture.
The two human rights organizations, B’tselem and Hamoked, have stated in previous reports that interrogators from the Israeli security services routinely mistreat Palestinian prisoners physically and psychologically, and sometimes use methods that are classified as torture and, hence, prohibited by international conventions.
Doctors Involved in the Torture!
Riyad al-Ashqar, Director of the Information Department in the Ministry, indicated that the practice of torture in the prisons of the occupation is not confined to guards or interrogators, but rather includes those who call themselves “doctors” and “nurses”, professions that are supposed to be purely humanitarian.
The Israeli organization, Physicians for Human Rights, revealed that prison doctors participate in the torture of prisoners by denying them treatment in order to force them to confess.
They also deliberately ignore diseases prisoners suffer, discovered during the routine exam conducted when a prisoner first arrives at the prison, and write false reports that the prisoners are in good health and not suffering from any disease.
This constitutes a medical license for interrogators to continue torturing them by clearing the way for the use of greater physical and psychological pressure on the prisoner. That makes these doctors complicit in the torture of prisoners.
Al-Ashqar expressed astonishment at the world’s unconscionable silence over the open practice of torture, despite dozens of relevant reports which confirm that the international community and the organizations of the United Nations have not lifted a finger to condemn the occupation for committing war crimes against Palestinian prisoners.
Even more serious, the Zionist judicial system provides legal legitimacy for torture, allowing its perpetrators to carry on without accountability or punishment.
It is evidence of the official state terrorism conducted by the occupying power, which does not abide by any convention or international law, but at the same time calls for its application in the case of the captive soldier, Gilad Shalit, being held by Palestinian factions in Gaza.
Breaking the Law
Al-Ashqar revealed that the Israeli government gives a green light to interrogation teams to exercise torture against Palestinian prisoners. The Israeli courts sanction the use of violence against prisoners of war without respect for the dignity of the human person, in violation of all international conventions and treaties that prohibit the use of torture against prisoners. They pay no mind to such conventions, for they consider them nothing more than ink on paper.
He said that the guidelines issued by Israeli courts are quite contrary to the principles of human rights and to the Fourth Geneva Convention and its appendices; for international law has categorically prohibited torture and has not allowed any justification for its use.
In fact, it has devoted a special convention specifically against torture, in addition to the many articles and principles contained in treaties and other international conventions; for example, Article VII of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel treatment or punishment or inhuman or degrading treatment.”
Also, the sixth principle of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states: “No person undergoing any form of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No circumstances can be invoked to justify torture.”
Where Are Human Rights?!
Al-Ashqar asked: “Where are the human rights conventions when it comes to the 65 female Palestinian prisoners subjected to every form of oppression and terror; who are deprived of their rights to visits and medical treatment; who continue to be subjected to strip searches, and whose rooms are burst into late at night for brutal and barbaric searches; who are imprisoned along with female common criminals who verbally abuse and humiliate them daily; who are detained in prisons that do not meet the minimum health requirements due to insufficient access to sunlight and fresh air?
“What is the crime of Yusuf, the infant son of the prisoner, Fatima al-Zak, that he is deprived of liberty and forced to live with his mother in such inhumane conditions, and is subjected to all the violations suffered by the rest of the prisoners? He must undergo the hardships of traveling for long hours without food or air in the event of a court hearing for his mother, during which he is held for hours in the prison vehicle and then in a cell of the court under harsh and unhealthy conditions for a child not more than 17 months of age!
“And where are the human rights conventions when it comes to the 1,600 sick prisoners suffering from chronic and other various diseases? A large number of them are in need of urgent surgical operations, yet the prison administration sits idly by, deliberately ignoring serious medical conditions that could lead to death in case of continued medical negligence. 49 prisoners have died as a result of medical negligence.”
100 Methods of Torture
The report pointed out that the occupation uses dozens of methods of prohibited physical and psychological torture. It is a rare Palestinian prisoner who is not subjected to some form of torture, and most prisoners are subjected to more than one of the more than 100 torture methods in the Zionist repertoire.
Statistics show that 98% of the prisoners abducted by Israeli authorities are tortured in the interrogation cellars and detention centers of the Zionist security forces.
One of the most famous torture methods is known as "Shabh" to which prisoners are subjected for long periods. “The Shabh” is a process in which the hands of the detainee are cuffed behind his back and a bag of filth is slipped over his head; he is then forced to sit on a chair sized for a small child for several days or weeks, causing him pain in his back and spine.
In another method, a prisoner is placed in a cramped refrigerator, a cube with interior dimensions of about two feet per edge (70 cm3). His hands are cuffed behind his back; cold air is then pumped in from an opening at the top of the cube until the temperature inside is zero degrees centigrade; this leads to the prisoner freezing inside the refrigerator till he is racked by violent tremors, which can lead to the breakage of ribs.
Another technique is shackling prisoners in painful positions, such as cuffing the calves and pulling them backwards underneath the chair; then pulling the upper body of the prisoner backward over the top of the chair. Loud music is also employed; as is covering the head and face with a dirty bag reeking of rotten flesh.
Another technique is to shine a powerful light directly into the prisoner’s eyes. Another is to lay the prisoner on his back with his hands cuffed beneath him in order to induce severe pain in the hands from his own body weight pressing down on them. The interrogator may also sit on his chest to further increase the pressure and pain so as to extract a confession.
Another technique is to force prisoners to stand for long periods. One of the most sinister methods employed is to put the detainee in a room with turncoat Palestinians working with the occupation authorities; they attempt to convince the prisoner that they are activists like him in an attempt to draw him out about his activities on the outside. If he refuses to talk, they will attack and beat him.
The effects of torture are not limited to the period of interrogation and detention. A number of prisoners become permanently physically disabled as a result of ongoing torture, not to mention the long-term psychological effects of imprisonment on the minds of prisoners, effects that remain with them long after their physical release from prison. Dozens of them have died as a result; among them: Hayel Abu Zaid from occupied Golan, who was martyred on July 7th, 2005, and Murad Abu Sakoot of Hebron, who died January 13th, 2007 in a hospital in Jordan.
The Most Severe Form of Torture
Torture is not limited to such means; rather, the occupation authorities have devised a form of torture more severe than physical abuse: psychological abuse through solitary confinement, which can make prisoners mentally ill for long periods. It may even drive some of them thoroughly insane or at least cause them to lose metal and legal competence, which is what happened to ‘Uwaidah Kallab of the Gaza Strip.
Isolation should be considered a form of slow and systematic murder of prisoners. A prisoner will be left alone for several months or years in a small cell, tightly sealed by a thick metal door, that sunlight never reaches.
He will not see anyone or talk with other prisoners, and he will be deprived of all means of communication with the outside world, even of visits. The guards will search his room daily in order to increase the psychological sense of violation and insecurity. If he gets sick, he will be deprived of medical treatment. The abuse is rounded out with beatings, humiliation, and placement of his cell in prison wings filled with common criminals.
The Ministry of Prisoners called on the American human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, which has called for Hamas to allow the Red Cross to visit Shalit, to join with the Red Cross in putting pressure on the occupation to allow the families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit them in order to detect the prohibited methods of torture used by the occupation against the prisoners.
These organizations should not marshal all their resources for the benefit of one Zionist prisoner while overlooking the suffering of eleven thousand Palestinian prisoners.