President Mahmoud Abbas must put an end to political detention and torture

A Palestinian brutally tortured by intelligence services in Tulkarm

Many had assumed that the 23rd of April 2014 marked a turning point in the history of the Palestinian cause when intra- Palestinian divisions were supposedly resolved signalling an end to political detention and suppression of freedoms.

That has clearly not been the case. Following several unsuccessful  attempts, the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah was finally signed but political detentions continued.  Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces have arrested and summoned scores of Palestinians and whenever these detainees or their families protested and reminded security forces of the reconciliation agreement, the latter would mock and pour scorn on the agreement and stress there would never be any reconciliation between the two sides.

Ordinary Palestinians and Arabs in general are not sure whom to believe anymore. Should they take the word of those who met at Al-Shati’ refugee camp, signed an reconciliation agreement and announced to all the Arabs and Palestinians that hostilities had ended and a roadmap for reconciliation had been drawn? Or should they believe six security forces members whose words and actions signal there would never be any reconciliation? Otherwise how is one to interpret the fresh wave of arrests, torture and ridicule of the agreement and those who signed it?

These violations by security forces in the West Bank can be attributed to the fact that the issue of security was absent from the talks. Both sides seem to have avoided any in-depth discussion of the issue and focused instead on social reconciliation which is not linked to the practices of security bodies in the West Bank. For years now, Palestinian Authority security forces have functioned according to one major principle; maintaining Israel’s security even at the expense of violating Palestinians most basic human rights.

Parities to the reconciliation agreement have turned their backs on one of the most important problems facing Palestinian society and that is the transgressive security forces which have seriously impacted Palestinian daily life and their ability to face up to Israeli occupation forces and settlers.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in UK (AOHR UK) received a number of complaints from the families of Palestinians who had been arrested, tortured and physically assaulted by Palestinian Authority security forces:

The first complaint was from the family of Mus’ab Adnan Al-Husari (a 24-year old  final year engineering student at Al-Najah University) from Tulkarm. Mus’ab was arrested on the 12th of May 2014 at a checkpoint on Nour Shams Road on his way back from Nablus after he attended an event in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. His father, Adnan, 51, is a political detainee in an Israeli prison and has been on a hunger strike for a while. PA security forces arrested  and handcuffed Mus’ab without giving him any reason for the arrest and took him straight to the Public Intelligence headquarters in Tulkarm.  Security forces then proceeded to torture him for six whole days during which he was physically assaulted, deprived of sleep, and verbally abused with curses and insults against him and his father. Mus’ab was only let go on Saturday evening the 17th of May 2014 after the governor of  Tulkarm intervened to secure his release but it was too late for him to attend his graduation project oral examination which was scheduled for Saturday morning.   Mus’ab felt weak and was in a lot of pain so he headed immediately to the hospital.  He was scheduled to return for an ‘interview’ with the security forces on the 19th of May but was in such terrible condition he was unable to attend. Security forces are now insisting he attend another interview on the 22nd of May, the day of his graduation project oral examination.
According to Mus’ab’s mother “this is not the first time he is arrested by PA security forces. He and his father were detained several times. They hate my son and my husband and want to ruin my son’s future by making sure he fails to show up for his graduation project oral examination. They threatened him they would do that. We have been seriously hurt by political detention where they treat young men with horrible brutality. Please stop arresting and summoning my son.”

The Second Complaint  was from the family of Bara’ Mohamoud Al-Qadi (a 22-year old fourth year journalism student from Al-Bireh)  who was almost arrested on the 17th of May 2014 by 30 members from the Preventive Security Forces after they surrounded Bara’s home at 11p.m. and tried to storm it through the back door. Bara’s mother resisted and a neighbour interfered to persuade her to let them in. Security forces handed her a warrant for Bara’s arrest.  In the meantime, Bara’s brother Mohammed, 18 years, got into an altercation with security forces who tried to arrest him so he fled the scene. On the 18th of May 2014, Bara’s father was summoned by the Preventive Security and he was detained upon his arrival at their headquarters. He remained there from 8a.m. till 9 p.m. on the hope Bara’  and Mohammed might give themselves up but they did not and the father was released. On the morning of 19th of May 2014, Mohammed returned to the house and within ten minutes security forces had raided the house and arrested him while physically assaulting him in front of his mother. He sustained serious injuries to the face. Mohammed still does not know why he has been placed under arrest nor does his family have any information about his fate or whereabouts. Bara’s family mentioned that an Israeli bullet had on a previous occasion hit one of his lungs leaving him with a very weak heart (only 40% functional). Preventive Security forces had attempted to arrest Bara’s cousin Noor Mohammed Al-Qadi on the 17th of May 2014 but he was not at home at the time so they left a summons with his family despite Noor being in a very critical health condition after having open heart surgery two weeks earlier. Bara and Noor have both refused to give themselves up due to their conviction they had not done anything wrong and they are afraid for their life and well-being especially in view of the fact Preventive Security forces are notorious for abuse of detainees.

The Third Complaint was from the family of Tariq Abdulkarim Irziqat, 25, from Tafoh, Hebron. Tariq was arrested on the 17th of May 2014 on his way back from Hebron where he had attended an event in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons who had gone on a hunger strike. Tariq and four of his friends were stopped by a car from the Public Intelligence Department on the Galaba-Tafoh road and they were immediately dragged out of the car and physically assaulted with batons and rifles before being handcuffed and taken to the Public Intelligence building. An intelligence officer told them he could not care less about the reconciliation agreement. When word of the arrest reached their families, an impromptu demonstration was organised in front of the Public Intelligence building prompting the security officers to treat the detainees more humanely. Tariq and Iyad Al-Torda were transferred to the hospital for treatment and released the following day (May 18) at 9a.m.

AOHR UK  asserts that torture and arbitrary arrests are very serious violations of the Geneva Conventions which the PA ratified and calls upon President Mahmoud Abbas to rein in the PA’s security forces, put an end to all forms of political detention and human rights violations during arrest, and release all political prisoners as a sign of goodwill especially in light of the recent steps taken towards reconciliation.

AOHR UK also urges President Abbas to form a fact-finding committee to investigate Mus’ab’s torture and bring to justice all those responsible in addition to investigating all the incidents detailed above.

AOHR UK holds those who signed the reconciliation agreement responsible for the continuation of arrests and torture in PA prisons and considers it irresponsible and unjustifiable to ignore these issues which have wreaked havoc with Palestinian society.

Arab Organisation for Human Rights in UK (AOHR UK)