The Jerusalem Post has defined it as one of the most singular cases in years, 51 citizens of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) appealed to the Court of Justice of the Jerusalem District asking for justice for the mistreatment that they have suffered by the hand of the Palestinian Authority’s police force.
Between 1990 and 2003, the PA arbitrarily arrested, imprisoned and tortured dozens of Palestinian citizens accused of cooperating with Israel.
The plaintiffs reported that they were taken from their houses or place of work, even in the middle of the day.
As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports, some of them were abducted in the C Area of the West Bank, which is under the civil and security control of Israel, and also in Jerusalem, where Palestinian forces are not allowed to operate.
Abductions, detentions and brutal tortures, which in some cases persisted for years and years, had the purpose to extort information and confessions. The detainees were suspected of collaborating with Israel or being Shin Bet informers (the intelligence agency for internal affairs of the State of Israel).
As reported in some testimonies, the kidnapped were blindfolded using a urine-soaked bags; the conditions of detention were extremely bad, they were frequently deprived of food, water and sleep. Detainees were tied up to the ceiling or kept in extremely painful position for long periods of time, the so-called “Shabah” method, in some cases the prisoners were locked in over-heated metal containers during the warmer days, or exposed to extremely cold temperatures until they passed out. Some of them told that they were forced to drink water from the toilet or to sit on broken glass bottles. Interrogations were undoubtedly the most difficult time to deal with, they were beaten, cigarettes were put on their bodies, teeth and nails were pulled off, many of them have been abused and beaten on the genitals, leaving them sterile and impotent.
The purpose of these interrogations was to extort a confession, in fact the accused were never presented with evidence of their guilt, but were only pressed to confess. The detention left many of the prisoners, some of whom were only 18-19 years old at the time of the abduction, with injuries deeper that the physical ones, depression, suicide attempts and post- traumatic stress, that still affect them in their daily life.
The 1800-page ruling of the Israeli Court by Judge Moshe Drori came on 19 July 2017, after 14 years of deliberations and 90 court sessions. The riling was in favour of the plaintiffs, represented initially by the Israeli lawyer, resident in the West Bank Menachem Kornvich and later by Barak Kedem and Aryeh Arbus, attorneys of the Rom-Arbus-Kedem-Tzurche studio, who can now sue the Palestinian Authority for illegal detention and mistreatment.
Judge Moshe Drori also stated that when the PA arrests a suspect accused of cooperating with Israel, it does so for security reasons, however it does not fall under its authority, but the Israeli one, therefore this arrests and detentions are to be considered illegal. Moreover, if the Palestinians suspect had been arrested for collaborationism, which in some cases has been proven to be true, if it was to thwart terrorist attacks on Israelis, the court said that the PA is obligated to assist in such efforts under the Oslo Accords. Consequently, the Court ruled that the PA was is no way legitimate to treat these subjects as criminals, let alone subject them to torture. The claim for damages of the plaintiffs amounts to 120 and 170 millions of euros, as the different amounts demanded reflect the severity and length of the torture.
Representing the PA is a team of Israeli lawyers, including Yosef and Yehonantan Arnon, who have tried different types of defence, initially even denying that any kind of torture had been perpetrated and then asserting that the PA had the right to arrest and pressure the suspects that could potentially compromise Palestinian security; another argument was the Israeli non jurisdiction over PA citizens. The Court rejected all of arguments of the defence, they will now try to minimize claims for damages
Unfortunately, these victims haven’t found any support and sympathy in their local community and between the organizations that deals with Human rights violations in the West Bank area, in fact the NGR website reports that, as a result of the sentence, the victim’s lawyer failed to find a single Human rights organization to assist them in finding specialists to determine the physical and psychological harm “Every NGO we turned to refused to help us. They said that they only assist people who sue Israel”, Barak Kedem, one of the attorneys involved in the case, said.
The PA is not new to the use of violence and torture, in fact in 2015 an Arab resident of Samaria, the 22-years-old Ahamas al-Deek, told BuzzFeed the brutality he was subjected during the 5 days of his detention under the PA’s security forces, witch he sued for 1 million dollars.
There have been a considerable number of similar cases, pointing out a pattern of behaviour that the PA has perused undisturbed for decades, violating the human rights of many Palestinians, which has received very little attention by the media.
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in January 2016 revealed that the PA and Hamas detention centres in Judea, Samaria and Gaza regularly use torture to extort confessions, often false, systematically violating their rights. The Commission’s report has revealed that only in 2015 “The Independent Commission for Human rights received 292 complaints from citizens regarding torture, maltreatment, and physical assault in the West Bank, and 928 in the Gaza Strip”.
The severity of the situation is further confirmed by the 2016/2017 Annual Report by Amnesty International on the State of Palestine:
“The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip both continued to restrict freedom of expression, including by arresting and detaining critics and political opponents. They also restricted the right to peaceful assembly and used excessive force to disperse some protests. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife in both Gaza and the West Bank. Unfair trials of civilians before military courts continued in Gaza; detainees were held without charge or trial in the West Bank […] Security authorities in the West Bank, including Preventative Security and General Intelligence, and those in Gaza, particularly the Internal Security Service, arbitrarily arrested and detained critics and supporters of rival political organizations.”
And more: “Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common and was committed with impunity by Palestinian police and other security forces in the West Bank, and Hamas police and other security forces in Gaza. In both areas, the victims included children. […] Neither the Palestine national consensus government nor the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza independently investigated torture allegations or held perpetrators to account”.