By Wafa Aludaini
Each year on 26 June the world marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, yet turns a blind eye to the ongoing systematic torture and mistreatment of Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Despite Israel’s accession to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, practices of torture and degrading treatment are regular features of the Israeli prison system. Inside Israeli jails, Palestinian prisoners, especially children, face egregious and inhumane conditions, are intentionally exposed to degrading treatment with the aim of suppressing and humiliating them.
In 2015, Israeli authorities arrested Ahmed Manasra, who was 13 years old at the time. He was harshly interrogated without his lawyer present and then threatened. He has been in prison since, and in solitary confinement since early November 2021. Ahmed was diagnosed with schizophrenia, suffers from psychotic fantasies and severe depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts. Recently, he was transferred to Ramle Prison Hospital in central Israel due to his deteriorating mental condition.
“Ahmad Manasra has been subjected to a catalogue of injustices by the Israeli authorities, including deleterious effects of incarceration on his development and prolonged solitary confinement,” Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said. “He endured ill-treatment during interrogations, which were conducted without his parents or lawyers’ presence, and was denied the right to a fair trial. He should have been released a long time ago, yet he remains in unnecessary suffering in Israeli prisons.”
Hoping for the day she can hug her son again, Ahmad’s mother said: “My son was severely beaten, including a fracture to his skull, which caused a hematoma inside. As a result of physical torture and psychological abuse, he suffered and continues to suffer from severe headaches and chronic and acute pains.”
On 7 November 2016, after more than a year in detention, the Israeli occupation court sentenced Ahmed to 12 years in prison and fined him $47,000.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz recently revealed some of the brutal torture methods employed by Israeli security forces to extract confessions from Palestinian prisoners during interrogation. According to testimonies of two Palestinian prisoners, interrogations are “taking place in the interrogation rooms of the Shin Bet intelligence agency, where the agency continues to use prohibited methods that may amount to torture.”
Ha’aretz reported that Yazan Rajabi, 21, and his cousin, Muhammad Rajabi, 19, both Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem, were arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at occupation forces. They were then forced to confess as a result of “a series of practices prohibited by law, which cannot be accepted.” Yazan described his “hellish” experience, including confirming that interrogators tied him to a chair where he was forced to stay for two days, without allowing him access to a toilet, drinking water or food.
The torture methods Israel uses against Palestinians, according to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, include but are not limited to harsh beatings, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, stress positions, the denial of hygiene needs, sexual harassment, threatening and intensive psychological torture including the use of family members and/or other detainees. The use of threats include threats of rape, torture and revocation of residency. Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, 73 Palestinian detainees have been killed during Israeli interrogations.
In an interview, newly released detainee Mu’awiyyah Alqam revealed the draconian conditions he experienced from the very beginning of his detention. Alqam was only 13 and half years old when he was first detained. “Since day one, they threatened to kill me if I didn’t tell them that I intended to stab the Israeli soldier,” he tells me. “They assaulted me and shouted dirty words in my face.” Even though he was only 13, Alqam was not sent to a young offenders’ detention center. “They didn’t differentiate between me and other adult detainees. I was subject to the same torture,” he added. “They beat me and prevented me from sleeping or resting for long hours.” He was deprived of all his basic rights as a child.
In a press release the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said: “Since 1967, the occupation has killed (73) prisoners after they were tortured. The prisoner Arafat Jaradat died in 2013 in the cells of the Megiddo prison five days after his arrest as a result of being tortured, and in 2014 the Nahshon Israeli forces killed the prisoner Raed Al-Jabari after torturing him physically, and in 2018, the occupation forces killed the detainee Yassin al-Sardeh after torturing him and shooting him. And in the same year, the Nahshon forces killed the prisoner Aziz Owaisat after they tortured him in the cells of the Eshel prison, after which he was transferred to a hospital….In September of the same year, the occupation forces killed the detainee Muhammad Al-Khatib (Al-Rimawi) after he was tortured. Owaisat and Nassar Taqatqa are among the martyred prisoners whose bodies are still being held.”
According to the Rome Statute, torture is a war crime and, if committed in a systematic and wide-scale approach, it amounts to a crime against humanity. Yet occupation authorities remain emboldened to continue their torment of Palestinian detainees while invoking claims of security as justification for their crimes. They act with full impunity, believing that neither the international community nor the complicit Israeli legal system will hold them to account.
– Wafa Aludaini is a Gaza based journalist. Her article appeared in MEMO