[Pnews] Severe torture in Israeli prisons targets Palestinian steadfastness

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 20 11:38:49 EST 2020


  Severe torture in Israeli prisons targets Palestinian steadfastness:
  Walid Hanatsheh, Samer Arbeed, Mays Abu Ghosh and more

January 19, 2020

In the last months of 2019 and early 2020, a growing number of cases of 
severe physical torture against Palestinian detainees carried out by 
Israeli Shin Bet interrogators have been documented. While torture and 
abuse of various kinds have been a mainstay of the Israeli interrogation 
process, after a 1999 Israeli Supreme Court ruling and amid widespread 
international attention, torture under interrogation for some years 
focused on physical and psychological techniques that were less likely 
to leave physical scars. However, these tactics, including sleep 
deprivation, extreme heat and cold, solitary confinement and the use of 
prolonged shackling in painful positions, are often effective in 
extracting coerced confessions.

      Torture: A mainstay of Israeli apartheid and colonialism

Indeed, many of the same techniques were documented as being used by 
U.S. interrogators holding detainees in Guantanamo, and U.S. and Israeli 
security agencies have shared information about interrogation and 
torture techniques. It must be noted that the Israeli Supreme Court 
never criminalized torture; it continually allowed “exceptions” through 
the designation of a detainee as a “ticking time bomb.” In practice, 
Palestinian victims of torture have repeatedly pursued legal 
accountability for the crimes committed against them, only to find that 
the Israeli Supreme Court considered their torture 
to be a permitted form of “extreme interrogation,” justified for the 
“security of the state” of occupation, colonialism, apartheid and racism.

Torture is unquestionably illegal under international law 
<https://www.cjpme.org/fs_038>. The UN Convention Against Torture 
defines torture as any practice intentionally inflicting severe physical 
or mental pain on a victim in order to obtain information or a 
confession, or in order to punish the victim for their conduct or 
suspected conduct. Torture is also prohibited under the laws of war and 
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

      The torture of Samer Arbeed

The case of Samer Arbeed 
helped to highlight the escalating return of severe physical torture as 
an official policy of the Israeli Shin Bet. Only days after his arrest, 
Arbeed was taken to Hadassah hospital unconscious with eleven broken 
ribs, lung injuries and kidney failure. While in the hospital, an 
Israeli guard released tear gas into his room, after which Arbeed 
developed pneumonia. Despite the clear evidence of severe torture and 
the medical records of his abuse, the Israeli Supreme Court denied 
Arbeed access 
to his lawyer for an extended period, while the Palestinian lawyers in 
the case were repeatedly subjected to gag orders.

Samer Arbeed is not alone. While Israeli Shin Bet spokespeople were 
smearing Palestinian prisoners in media attacks, these same prisoners 
have been subjected to severe physical and psychological torture under 
interrogation. In a December press conference, Addameer Prisoner Support 
and Human Rights Association highlighted some of the torture techniques 
used by Israeli interrogators, including harsh beatings, stress 
positions like the “frog” or “banana,” sleep deprivation and ongoing 
threats against family members.

      Palestinian lawyers highlight torture and abuse

As Addameer noted 
“On 10 September 2019, a gag order was issued on a number of cases under 
interrogation at al-Mascobiyya interrogation center. Hence, preventing 
the public, including Addameer the legal representative, from publishing 
any information regarding these cases. The gag order was issued based on 
a request from the Israeli intelligence agency and Israeli police and 
was renewed multiple times. Despite the gag order, Israeli media outlets 
and the Israeli intelligence agency published information to the public 
about some of those cases. This inconsistent enforcement of the gag 
order, where the Israeli sources exercised the freedom to publish, can 
only be understood as a means to influence public opinion. Most 
importantly, the issuance of this gag order is an attempt to hide crimes 
committed against the detainees and prevent the public and the legal 
representatives from exposing the details of the crimes of torture and 
ill-treatment that were committed against the detainees in question 
throughout the past months.”

      Walid Hanatsheh: Torture under interrogation

On 17 January 2020, photos of Walid Hanatsheh, one of the Palestinians 
detained, were released to the media, with his body showing clear signs 
of torture under interrogation. Bayan Hanatsheh, Walid’s wife, said in 
an interview published at Hadf News <http://hadfnews.ps/post/64035/> 
that the family obtained photos that displayed the bruises on his hands, 
neck, feet and throughout his body. She noted that he was brought to the 
military court in a wheelchair after his interrogation and that Walid 
said in court that he was unable to walk due to severe torture. His 
lawyer from Addameer demanded that the judge reveal the circumstances in 
which Hanatsheh was interrogated.

“After the occupation court lifted the ban on our attendance at the 
trial, we entered the courtroom for two minutes and saw a man who seemed 
old and we did not recognize him at first, but he called me by my name,” 
Bayan said. “I was horrified to see him, his eyes were watering, his 
beard was patchy and plucked…his only concern was to reassure us because 
he had been forbidden to communicate with us throughout his interrogation.”

Bayan also noted that their daughter, Mays, 21, was detained by Israeli 
occupation forces for three days as a means of extracting a coerced 
confession from her husband. They told him that his daughter was 
imprisoned and under threat and also showed him a live feed of Israeli 
occupation forces storming their family home in Ramallah and taking 
measurements for its demolition.

In Hanatsheh’s case, he was interrogated continuously for 23 hours at a 
time, with the replacement of interrogators approximately every eight 
hours. He was shackled in various stress positions and beaten while held 
there until he fell to the ground. Individual hairs were plucked from 
his beard and he was hit in the face by multiple interrogators, his 
lawyers said <http://hadfnews.ps/post/64001/>.

      “Earth-shattering” crimes demand action

Sahar Francis, the executive director of Addameer, noted of the photos 
<http://hadfnews.ps/post/64035/> in Hanatsheh’s case that “These 
pictures are important in proving and documenting torture. 
Unfortunately, we do not succeed in receiving photos for all of the 
cases. In other cases, we have medical reports without pictures but a 
description of the prisoner’s situation, as in the case of Samer Arbeed.”

Former prisoner and long-term hunger striker Khader Adnan 
spoke out in response <http://hadfnews.ps/post/64037/> to the photos, 
calling them “earth-shattering.” He urged immediate Palestinian national 
attention to respond to the escalating crimes of torture, likening the 
experience of Palestinian prisoners to the infamous images of Abu Ghraib 
prison under U.S. occupation in Iraq.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine issued a statement 
in response to the repeated cases of severe torture, noting that “The 
Front has experienced and confronted the policy of torture for over 50 
years and developed a revolutionary school that graduated generations of 
revolutionaries, who carried and still carry forward the banner in the 
dungeons and interrogation cells, who cannot be shaken by crimes or 
policies of torture.

The Front emphasized that the international community and concerned 
institutions have neglected the crimes taking place in the dungeons of 
the prisons of the Zionist occupier against the prisoners, indicating 
once again the complicity of imperialism in these crimes.”

The exposure of the use of torture is not limited to Hanatsheh and 
Arbeed; severe physical torture was also reportedly used in the cases of 
Qassam Barghouthi and Karmel Barghouthi, whose mother Widad 
was also detained as a method of pressure on her sons, and in the cases 
of Yazan Maghamis and Nizam Mohammed.

    Palestinian youth activists face torture

Several other prisoners also experienced extensive physical torture, 
including beatings and the use of stress positions, including 
Palestinian youth activist and new graduate Mays Abu Ghosh 
whose parents spoke about seeing her after the effects of her torture 
and interrogation. Rather than being brought for a family visit, Abu 
Ghosh’s parents were actually brought in a further attempt to extract a 
false, coerced confession from her.

Palestinian youth activist Tareq Matar 
has been repeatedly jailed without charge or trial under administrative 
detention; after his most recent arrest and interrogation in November 
2019, Matar is now being brought into court in a wheelchair, despite his 
previous status of physical health and athleticism after being beaten in 
stress positions under interrogation.

Jamil Darawi 
37, previously spent 14 years in Israeli prison. He was once again 
detained in November 2019 when Israeli soldiers stormed their family 
home near Bethlehem, breaking down the door and confining his wife, 
Rawan, to a room with their three daughters. Like his fellow Palestinian 
prisoners, Darawi was severely beaten and tortured under interrogation. 
Rawan said that when she saw him in court, she thought that he was not 
present until he called out to her: “I am here, Rawan, I am Jamil!” His 
jaw had been broken after an Israeli interrogator punched him and 
stamped on his face after he fell to the ground. He was returned to 
interrogation after being given painkillers and his face was still 
disfigured when he was finally brought before the military courts.

      Demanding justice

Addameer has announced its intention to raise these cases before 
international bodies to call for justice for Palestinian torture victims 
and accountability for the Israeli state, the perpetrator of these 
crimes. In Gaza, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine 
called for a protest on Monday 
outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office to 
demand international action on institutionalized Israeli torture.

The systematic use of torture in Israeli interrogation not only intends 
to extract false and coerced confessions from Palestinians under 
interrogation; it also aims to undermine and prevent their 
steadfastness, the unwillingness to confess. Palestinian sumoud 
(steadfastness) under interrogation and the refusal to provide 
information has been the subject of numerous studies and tributes. The 
book, “Philosophy of Confrontation Behind Bars 
detailed how prisoners strengthen themselves in order to resist all 
forms of torture. During over 70 years of Israeli occupation, over 70 
Palestinian prisoners have been killed under torture.

In recent decades, however, a vast majority of Palestinian prisoners’ 
cases have involved plea bargains; Israeli occupation forces will drag 
out military court sessions, interrogations and denied family visits in 
order to extract some form of limited confession for a plea agreement. 
Prisoners who refuse to provide the demanded confession are often 
transferred to administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or 
trial that is indefinitely renewable. Palestinians have spent years at a 
time jailed under administrative detention.

      Attacks on Palestinian prisoners tied to attacks on global movement

The so-called “Erdan Commission 
named for Israeli Minister of Public Security (over the Israel Prison 
Service) Gilad Erdan 
– who also serves as the Minister of Strategic Affairs, responsible for 
attacking Palestine solidarity and boycott, divestment and sanctions 
(BDS) campaigns around the world – has announced an effort to roll back 
the gains won by Palestinian prisoners through years of struggle. Thus, 
women prisoners are denied access to a library or to goods for 
embroidery and crafts; child prisoners are transferred without their 
representatives; access to food and water is being cut; conditions of 
living are barely tolerable.

The reassertion of overt reliance on severe physical torture comes hand 
in hand with this overall policy of outright Israeli war against 
Palestinian prisoners. It also comes hand in hand with the escalating 
attacks internationally against Palestinian human rights organizations 
and global campaigners for Palestinian rights, smeared by Erdan’s 
ministry with allegations based on tortured, coerced confessions or 
direct Israeli military propaganda.

Erdan has attempted to get Palestinian human rights organizations that 
focus on Palestinian prisoners defunded. His ministry has also attempted 
– and failed – to have Samidoun activists and Palestinian leftists like 
Khaled Barakat blocked from speaking in the European Parliament about 
Israeli repression.

      Need for action

*Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network recognizes the urgent 
need to build the strongest possible front to confront Israeli torture 
internationally through popular struggle, including escalating the 
boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. We must not allow the 
Israeli occupation to isolate Palestinian prisoners in solitary 
confinement or through our silence. Torture has been part and parcel of 
the Israeli colonial weapons of control for over 70 years, and the 
impunity of the Israeli state – backed up by U.S., European, Canadian 
and other imperialist powers’ support – may not be allowed to continue. 
We urge all to take action. *

*If you or your organization would like to join the growing campaign 
against torture, please contact us at samidoun at samidoun.net 
<mailto:samidoun at samidoun.net>.*

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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