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Chairman: Mr. DIRAR (Sudan)
AGENDA ITEM 107: TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, TNNUMAN OP DEGRADING TREATMENT OF PUNISHMENT: REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Mrs. BARGOUTI (Observer for the Palestine Liberation Organization), speaking on agenda item 107, said that the practice of torture, despite the condemnation of the international community, continued to spread in an alarming fashion. Everyone knew that repressive Governments and occupying Powers, such as South Africa and Israel, used torture not only to extract confessions from prisoners but also to break the will of anyone aspiring to freedom, dignity and peace. Palestinian political prisoners had been subjected by the Israeli secret service, the Shin Beit, to interrogations lasting up to 18 days. Detained in centres called "confession factories", they had no right to receive visits from Red Cross representatives, lawyers or family members. They were forced to sign confessions to acts which in many cases they had not committed. Palestinians were frequently arrested, interrogated and released without being charged with any offence.
The Israeli authorities were deliberately using interrogation methods that profoundly offended the traditions of Palestinian Arabs. For example, they raped, or threatened to rape, female prisoners in order to dissuade Palestinian women, by intimidating them, from participating in organized political activities and in order to exert pressure on the men in their families. Exposure of cases of rape and torture at the start of the occupation, after the six-day war and in the early 1970s, had led to a decrease in sexual violence during interrogation. Since then, threats of rape continued to take place, and if rarely carried out, none the less left deep scars on the minds of the female prisoners. Other forms of torture, however, were still being practised.
After interrogation, Palestinian prisoners were sent to Israeli prisons where their relations with Israeli common criminals were tense at best. Realizing that their enemy was the prison administration and not the Israeli prisoners, the Palestinian prisoners tried to keep their distance and not respond to the attacks of which they were frequently victims. At times Israeli prisoners had supported Palestinian prisoners in demanding better prison conditions. The humiliations inflicted on the Palestinian prisoners were contrary to international standards. The methods of punishment used had led the Palestinian political prisoners to call strikes, particularly hunger strikes. The most recent one was in March 1987.
As in South Africa, the situation of imprisoned Palestinian children was appalling, as evidenced to Amnesty international's 1986 report on the camp at Al-Fara'a and the studies made by independent investigators. Children were victims of arbitrary arrest and interrogated, humiliated, tortured and subjected to sexual assault, and at times wounded by bullets.
Despite those cruel Nazi practices, the Palestinian people were not abandoning the struggle. Prisoners who left prison without excessively serious physical or mental problems said that the experience had made them stronger. They had learned not to surrender their rights and to struggle as a group. They were more dedicated than ever to the cause of the national rights of the Palestinian people.