15 May 07
The eleven thousand and the one
This poster is on a wall in
Students who had been imprisoned told me
about their treatment. One does not have to look far for ex-prisoners
because between 500,000 and 600,000 Palestinians, out of the population of
3.5 million in the occupied territories, have been imprisoned.
Consequently nearly every Palestinian family has one or more members who
are or have been prisoners. Arrest and imprisonment are one of the many
ways in which
In particular, young men and boys are
taken from their homes, violently, by a number of heavily armed soldiers,
in the middle of the night. They also risk arrest in the street or when
passing through one of the many checkpoints which impede and prevent
Palestinians from travelling in their own country or abroad. Arrest is
followed by interrogation, ostensibly to obtain a confession of some
action that can be construed as being against the occupation or against
Jewish Israelis or
Interrogation is carried out in detention
centres or military camps, can last days or weeks, and usually involves
physical and mental abuse and torture. The use of torture by the Israeli
forces is widespread although it is illegal according to international
conventions signed by
Threats to arrest, beat up or even kill relatives, particularly
Alternating two-hour periods of very high and very low temperature.
Nine hours tied to a chair, feet underneath the chair, hands cuffed
Standing hooded against the wall for eight hours.
Standing against a wall on tiptoe, hit each time heels were
lowered, continuing until the victim fell down unconscious.
* The ‘banana chair.’ This has a seat about nine inches from the floor. The prisoner’s feet and calves are forced under the seat, and his hands are secured behind the back of the device. The back is forced towards the horizontal, hyperextending the spine. A student who was tortured in this way said that a number of victims suffer permanent back damage as a result.
After interrogation, Palestinian prisoners are ‘tried’ by a military court. The proceedings are a charade of justice. It is difficult or impossible for the accused to obtain legal representation. Palestinian prisoners are assumed to be guilty rather than innocent. They are often convicted as the result of confessions extracted under torture, or of uncorroborated ‘evidence’ from other Palestinians, sometimes also obtained under torture, or provided by the Israeli security services. The undisclosed opinion of the latter is crucial in the case of the ‘administrative detainees’ who account for 1000 to 1500 of the current 11,000 prisoners. These accused have no idea what they are charged with, and are therefore helpless in court. Although not convicted of any offence, detainees can be held for repeated periods. Students told me of someone they knew who was kept in administrative detention for seven years.
In contravention of the Fourth Geneva
Convention, nearly all convicted prisoners and detainees are transferred
to prisons in
I was asked to help prepare a statement
about the treatment of a 16-year-old boy who lived near where I was
staying. He was arrested just after
on 8th May. Ten soldiers entered the family home. Blindfolded and with
hands tied together, he was taken away in a jeep. Local boys threw stones
at the vehicle and for each stone that hit it, Mohammed Mohsen was kicked
or stamped on or beaten. He was taken to a police station where soldiers
taunted him with remarks about his mother and himself, before he was
pushed roughly into an office. Here he was told by an intelligence officer
that if he did not own up to what he had done he would be punished. When
he refused to talk, the officer knelt painfully on one of his thighs.
The officer then called in a masked a
masked man. In poor Arabic, the man said that he had witnessed Mohammed
throwing stones and attending an anti-occupation demonstration at school.
The officer typed these details as a confession in Hebrew which Mohammed
was asked to sign. Though he could not understand it and knew the evidence
to be false, he signed because the officer told him that if he did so he
would be allowed to go home. Once he had signed, the officer said: “Now
we can send you to jail.” Although he had been beaten in the jeep, he
was also coerced to sign a document in Hebrew which, he was told, stated
that he had not been beaten.
Then the officer told two soldiers to take
Mohammed away. The soldiers taunted him again, insulting his mother, at
which Mohammed pushed them with his cuffed hands. They then beat him hard
in the stomach and between his legs. After five minutes or so of this
second beating, they put him in the jeep. They tied his hands to the back
door which was open. He was extremely frightened because he believed that
if he fell out he would be killed.
They drove to a military camp where Mohammed asked to go
to the toilet. When taken there, he found he could not urinate. His
abdomen was swollen and very tense. A soldier guarding him saw this. He
took him to an army doctor who sent him to a hospital in
Every week many Palestinian children are
subjected to physical and psychological trauma. Whereas Israeli children
are tried in courts for children, Palestinian children are tried in the
military courts set up to deal with Palestinian adults. In accordance with
the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by
Three people working for the Palestinian section of
Defence for Children International have written a carefully researched
book about the human rights abuses of Palestinian children perpetrated by
Israel.* How can Israel can get away with the detention and torture of
large numbers of Palestinian children? Not only do the majority of Jewish
Israelis acquiesce in these crimes, but so do many people in the countries
* “Stolen Youth” by
Catherine Cook, Adam Hanieh and Adah Kay. Pluto Press, 2004