Following the press conference of the meeting “The Urgency of Addressing the Plight of Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli Prisons and Detention Facilities” held at the UN Office in Vienna last March 7 2011 and the non-answers which I received from PNA Minister for Prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqe about the deteriorated human rights situation at the jails of the PA, and his “justification” for jailing and torturing the Palestinian prisoners after their release from Israeli jails, in which Minister Qeaqe denied my information and referred me to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) as a trusted source of reports on human rights in the PNA territory.
ICHR was established in 1993 upon a Presidential Decree issued by President Yasser Arafat, in his capacity as President of the State of Palestine and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Decree was subsequently published in the Official Gazette in 1995. In accordance with the Decree, the duties and responsibilities of ICHR were set out as follows: “to follow-up and ensure that different Palestinian laws, by-laws and regulations, and the work of various departments, agencies and institutions of the State of Palestine and the Palestine Liberation Organization meet the requirements for safeguarding human rights”. The Decree entrusted ICHR with the drafting of its statutes in a manner that would ensure its independence and effectiveness. Read more about ICHR.
I called Mr. Majeed Sawalha, director of public relations at ICHR in Ramallah and asked him for his comments on the information which I presented at the UN about torture and unjustified incarceration of Palestinian prisoners by the PNA.
Mr. Sawalha fully confirmed my information and referred me to the latest ICHR reports issued in January and February 2011, which expand them with detailed data.
Quotes from the ICHR report of Jan. 2011.
Based on ongoing monitoring and documentation of violations of human rights and public freedoms during the month of January 2011, The Independent Commission for Human Rights, ICHR concluded the following:
- 1. Several death cases occurred for different reasons including clan disputes and negligence of public safety measures. Some of these deaths happened under mysterious circumstances.
- 2. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees continue in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as indicated by detainees’ claims and complaints filed to ICHR.
- 3. Detention of persons without regard to due process and provisions of the Basic Law and the Criminal Procedural Code continues in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
- 4. Non-implementation or procrastination of court decisions continues where the cases that receive release decisions are referred to the Military Judiciary to be sentenced again.
- 5. The Ministry of Interior in Ramallah continues to deny issuance of passports to citizens living under the control of the Deposed Government in the Gaza Strip
Torture during Detention – Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
ICHR expresses its grave concern over the ongoing serious violations of detainees’ rights by the security agencies and considers all patterns of ill-treatment and torture practiced by these agencies in the Gaza Strip (Under control of Hamas) and the West Bank (Under the control of the Palestinian Authority) prohibited and punishable by law. ICHR continued over the month of January and the months before to receive complaints from persons claiming they were subjected to torture at the hands of members of the security agencies (Police, preventive security, operating in the West Bank and the security agencies adherent to the De facto Authority in the Gaza Strip.
ICHR received 289 complaints against the security agencies in the West Bank during January, of which 19 (7% of the total number) include claims of torture and ill-treatment.
These complaints were distributed as follows:
- (4) Complaints against the police agency
– (10) Complaints against the preventive security agency
– (5) Complaints against the General Intelligence Agency
ICHR also documented (12) torture cases of which (5) cases against the preventive security agency and (7) against the general intelligence agency. The complainants claimed that they were subject to severe torture, especially standing in a difficult position for a long time (Shabh) during detention. They requested from ICHR not to follow up on these cases, and so they were documented only.
The torture allegations concentrated on different patterns of torture including: standing in a difficult position for a long time “Shabah”; beating; punching; flogging; intimidation; psychological pressure and ill treatment.
II. Violation of the Right to Proper Legal procedures – Arbitrary Arrests Based on Political Affiliation
ICHR is gravely concerned over ongoing arbitrary detention and non-compliance with proper legal procedures during detention. Such measures constitute a stark violation of personal freedoms without any legal justification. Detainees are deprived of their major rights including access to the civil judiciary since bringing detainees before the military judiciary constitutes a clear breach of the Palestinian Basic Law and Criminal Procedures Law.
Arbitrary detention continued in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and ICHR received during January (358) complaints in the West Bank. (289) complaints were against the security agencies as (235) complaints focused on inappropriate procedures of detention. Most of the complainants claimed that they were arbitrarily detained or for political reasons.
In the Gaza Strip, ICHR received during the same month (62) complaints of which (36) against the security agencies which are adherent to the MoI of the Deposed Government. (24) complaints focused on inappropriate detention procedures and arrests based on political affiliation.
IV. Delays in Implementing Palestinian Court Decisions in the West Bank.
Non-implementation of court decisions and rulings continued in the West Bank during the month of January. Such conduct by the Palestinian courts, regardless of their degrees, is a blatant breach of the 5 Palestinian Basic Law, particularly, article 106, which stipulates that “Judicial decisions are enforceable and any form of refraining from that is a crime punishable by imprisonment and dismissal from office”.
As for the implementation of decisions of both the Palestinian High Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance, ICHR documented a number of complaints on their non-implementation. The High Court of Justice issued some decisions, but the executive authority, in both its civil and military wings, failed to implement those decisions up to the moment of this report. The following are among these cases:
First: In January, ICHR received a number of complaints relating to release decisions due to the illegality of the detention procedures, but these decisions went unimplemented
Second: Decisions of release issued during previous months due to the illegality of detention that went unimplemented
Besides these decisions, administrative decisions were issued during the past months, but the Executive Authority hasn’t implemented any of them. The following are some of these decisions:
1. On 24\6\2009, the Palestinian High Court of Justice issued a decision revoking the Ministry of Interior’s decision of appointing a provisional Preparatory committee for the management of Yatta’s Islamic Society for Orphans’ Care instead of the former elected administrative committee. The court ruled that the Ministry’s decision didn’t mention the reason of such a measure and the fact that it constitutes a breach of article (37) and the provisions of the Charitable Associations’ Law of 2001. Nonetheless, the decision of the court hasn’t been implemented yet.
2. On 22\4\2009, the Palestinian High Court of Justice issued a decision reinstating Nur al-Din Hamad who was fired from his work for the police agency on 1\11\2007. This decision wasn’t carried out up to the moment of writing this report.
3. On 8\7\2009, the Palestinian High Court of Justice issued a decision revoking the Ministry of the Interior decision of appointing a provisional preparatory committee for the management of Bet Umar Society of Orphans’ Care instead of the former elected administrative committee. The court ruled that the Ministry’s decision didn’t mention the reason of such a measure and the fact that it constitutes a breach of the provisions of the charitable associations’ law of 2001. The court’s decision hasn’t been implemented yet.
4. On 21\4\2010, the Palestinian High court of justice issued a decision reinstating Muwafak Saadat as a supervisor on physical education in the ministry of education and revoking the decision of demoting him to a teacher of physical education. It also revokes all the effects of the decision challenged because of its breach of the provisions of the Civil Service Law.