Question of Palestine home
Economic and Social Council
12 January 1995
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Item 10 (a) of the provisional agenda
QUESTION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS SUBJECTED TO ANY FORM
OF DETENTION OR IMPRISONMENT, IN PARTICULAR: TORTURE AND OTHER
CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT
Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Nigel S. Rodley, submitted
pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1992/32
II. INFORMATION REVIEWED BY THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR WITH RESPECT TO VARIOUS COUNTRIES
Information transmitted to the Government
413. By letter dated 29 June 1994 the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had continued to receive information indicating that persons detained for political reasons in the occupied territories were routinely subjected to various forms of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Such mistreatment was allegedly inflicted by officials in the Israeli Defence Force, the General Security Service (GSS or Shin Bet) or the police during the course of interrogation. It was reported that certain forms of mistreatment might be sanctioned by GSS interrogation guidelines. The methods of abuse were reported to include: hooding of the victim for prolonged periods with dirty and wet sacks, resulting in disorientation and impeded respiration; tying the victim's body into painful positions for prolonged periods, such as with hands bound to feet and the body bent backwards (the "banana"); forcing the victim to remain standing for prolonged periods; sleep deprivation; severe beatings, including blows to the head and smashing the head against a wall; withholding of necessary medical attention; and confinement in small cold cells.
414. Incommunicado detention was also reported to be routine for those arrested in the occupied territories. The military law applied to the West Bank was said to authorize the warrantless arrest and detention for four days of any person suspected of committing a security offence, after which two seven-day extensions could be granted by police officers before the detainees need be brought before a judge. A 1992 amendment to the law reportedly made eight days the maximum allowable period for detention without judicial review for detainees under 16 years and for all detainees who are suspected of "any but the most serious offences". Persons aged 16 and above who were detained for political reasons and accused of serious offences were said generally to be held for 18 days without access to a judge and for even longer periods without access to relatives. Detainees could be denied access to lawyers for up to 90 days on security grounds, 30 days of which could be ordered by interrogating officials and two additional 30-day periods by a military court judge.
415. Confessions and other information obtained from a detainee during prolonged incommunicado detention was said often to constitute the main evidence against him or her in the military courts. Under applicable law, detainees may retract such a confession in court and ask for an investigation into torture allegations, although in practice prosecutors and judges were said frequently to pressure defendants to accept a plea-bargain rather than to press for an investigation.
416. The individual cases described in the following paragraphs were transmitted to the Government.
417. Bassem Mohammed Abdul-Rahman Altamini, from Al Nabi, Ramallah district on the West Bank, was arrested on 9 November 1993 by a team of officials from the army, the Shabak (General Security Service - GSF) and an undercover unit. He was allegedly beaten, hooded, hit on the head with an object and his head was struck against a wall. On 18 November he was transferred from Hadassah Hospital to Ramallah prison hospital and a relative visiting him six days later observed that his head was swollen from injury and that he was having difficulty walking, sleeping and retaining food and water. He was allegedly denied medical treatment at Ramallah prison hospital so as to coerce him into making a confession.
418. Sami Ismail Issa Fawaghreh, from Al-Khader village near Bethlehem on the West Bank, sustained severe head injuries in an automobile accident and a metal plate was put in his skull. In December 1990, at the time he was due to undergo another operation, he was arrested and during interrogation was allegedly struck on the head with a metal bar, rupturing the plate and causing him to go into a coma for three days. He was said subsequently to suffer from recurrent epileptic seizures. His condition was said to be continually deteriorating and his life to be at great risk without surgery to remove the broken plate, which was allegedly being denied to him by prison authorities.
419. Makdam Makdad was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in 1987 and had been kept in solitary confinement, despite being diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Prison authorities were said to have justified the treatment on the grounds that he had refused hospitalization in a mental health centre. The Gaza prison was said to lack facilities for psychiatric hospitalization and prolonged detention in solitary confinement was said to be likely to lead to a further deterioration in his mental health.
420. The Special Rapporteur also transmitted information alleging that prior to the commencement of interrogation of a detainee by the secret service or military, a physician might be called upon to examine the detainee in order to determine whether he or she was physically fit to undergo such interrogation procedures as blindfolding and prolonged standing. It was alleged that the assessment of the physician was made in the form of responses to a questionnaire which the physician was requested to complete after examining the detainee. The Israeli Medical Association, responsible for regulating Israeli medical practices, has reportedly forbidden physicians to answer the questionnaires on the grounds that they contravened international norms and rules of medical ethics.
Urgent appeals and replies received
421. The Special Rapporteur transmitted an urgent appeal on 21 March 1994 concerning Sha'wan Rateb Jabarin, a member of the human rights organization Al-Haq, who was arrested on 10 March 1994 at his home in Sa'ir Hebron district. He had reportedly been arrested on previous occasions and had served a total of 19 months of administrative detention since 1987, when he had allegedly been subjected to serious ill-treatment. He was said to suffer from a heart condition which necessitated regular medication.
422. The Special Rapporteur transmitted another urgent appeal on 15 August 1994 concerning Hani Saleh 'Abdullah Muzher, who was arrested on 13 July 1994 and taken to Ramallah prison for interrogation. He was denied access to a lawyer until 11 August, when he told his lawyer that he had been kept shackled in a painful position for prolonged periods, deprived of sleep for at least a week, and had received threats against his life and well-being. He had also slit his wrist on 20 July so that he could be treated to get a break from interrogation. A doctor reportedly recommended that he should not be left alone in his cell and should be allowed to rest for one night. A statement from the State Attorney's Office was said to have indicated that Hani Muzher was sleeping like other detainees, but suggested that the situation might change depending on developments in the interrogation. In view of this statement and allegations of ill-treatment already undergone, fears were expressed that he might be subjected to further torture or ill-treatment.
423. On 18 October 1994 the Government replied that Hani Saleh Abdullah Muzher, who was in Ramallah prison for questioning, had been prevented from having an unsupervised meeting with his attorney during the preliminary stage of his interrogation for security reasons. By an agreement reached between his attorney and the security services, it was decided that he could meet his attorney freely and without restrictions from 11 August. He had tried both on 14 and 30 July to injure himself by cutting his left wrist. He had received appropriate medical care, was checked daily by an orderly and, if necessary, by a doctor. His interrogators were instructed to take appropriate measures to prevent a recurrence of the attempts at self-injury. It was also agreed between the security services and his attorney that he was not to be deprived of sleep.
424. On 17 November 1994 the Special Rapporteur transmitted an urgent appeal on behalf of Ahmad Ibrahim Sa'id, who was reportedly arrested on 29 June 1994 and subsequently charged with activities on behalf of Hamas. Some time after his arrest he was allegedly hooded, beaten, shackled in painful positions for prolonged periods, and deprived of sleep. His interrogation was said to have resumed in Ashkelon prison on 20 September 1994, during which he was allegedly hooded, forced to stand for 18 to 20 hours per day and forced to sit on a chair in an uncomfortable position with his hands tied while interrogators pushed him in an attempt to make him fall. He was also said to have been threatened that he would be paralysed and unable to have children following his interrogation.
425. The Special Rapporteur notes that, consistent with his observations of last year (E/CN.4/1995/31, para. 358), the Committee against Torture at its twelfth session, following its consideration of Israel's initial report, expressed great concern "at the large number of heavily documented cases of ill-treatment in custody". (A/49/44, para. 169)