Monday, February 23, 2009

Palestinians taken from Gaza held in torturous conditions

Gaza / PNN – The fate of Palestinians arrested from the Gaza Strip during the recent major attacks is being slowly uncovered. Several were found after being taken out of Al Naqab Prison under false pretences.

The Palestinians were being held, according to the Israelis, as "illegal combatants" and therefore, they said, did not require the attention of the Red Cross or attorneys.

The Palestinian Prisoner Society has followed the case closely while issuing reports when new information becomes available.

Ghazi Sobhi Al Attar is among those taken from the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces kidnapped the young man, along with his father and 17 year old brother, from their home in the north's Beit Lahiya on the third of January this year. It was just days after the major attacks began on 28 December.

In an eventual meeting with PPS lawyers Al Attar was able to give some of the details of his family's arrest. They were taken to an outdoor holding center near the border of the Strip with other Palestinians where they remained for a day and a night. The weather was cold.

The next day all of the prisoners were handcuffed and blindfolded and taken to a detention facility in the Tel Aviv area where they were successively beaten and tortured.

It was at this point that Al Attar lost track of the others. He was assaulted with rifle butts and kicked all over his body. His hair was yanked and burned. Soldiers held him on the ground and held a weapon to his head several times making it appear that they would shoot the young man.

After Al Attar's release from the investigators he was tied up with several other prisoners and thrown on a stone ground where they were told to sleep until morning. It was pouring rain and cold.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society lawyer who routinely deals with political prisoners in Israeli jails and who conducted the interview with Al Attar said the effects of trauma were very noticeable.

The man was taken next to the Zukim military detention center where he was forced to undress and remain in the cold until the early morning hours. He was taken to another investigation where he was assaulted. Soldiers beat him severely with rifle butts and again pulled his hair. The interrogator asked him about photos of people allegedly involved in the Hamas party and its armed resistance wing Al Qassam Brigades. Al Attar pointed out that he has impaired vision in both the right and left eyes.

After several more rounds Al Attar said he was taken to a large area that he guessed was three dunams and divided into two sections. It was there that he saw his brother Arafat again and learned of the death of his brother Amjad.

He was taken again into investigation where he was beaten and strangled repeatedly. The interrogator threatened to kill Al Attar if he did not confess to allegations against him. For three days and nights and man was tied by his hands and feet, bent forward, on a small chair in an interrogation room. He was not allowed food or water.

On the third day of his investigation the interrogator beat him in the face so severely that he lost several teeth and also consciousness. After two days he was in a prison barracks again with others taken from Gaza where soldiers fired tear gas into the room. Some prisoners were taken out for medical attention.

Al Attar was taken to Askalan where he was put in investigation again. For 24 hours he was not allowed to sleep, eat or drink. It was here he was told that if he did not give information about the Hamas armed resistance wing Al Qassam Brigades, the Israelis would kill his father and brother in front of him. He told them repeatedly that his right eye does not work and his left eye has limited capability.

The investigator did not believe him and continued the beatings and insults. All parts of his body were hit.

President of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, Qaddura Fares, said that by holding the Gaza residents as "illegal combatants" under Israeli law the occupying authorities can hold them indefinitely without trial and without allowing a defense.

This is similar to Administrative Detention which the Israelis use to hold Palestinians for renewable sentences without charge or trial.

Fares added that according to US and Israeli leaders the enemy or illegal combatant label was formed to violate all human rights, to use any methods of torture and harassment, without the need to come up with evidence.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits internationally such treatment.