Omar Alaaeddin, 25, a Palestinian from the village of al-Maasara, a day after his release by Israeli forces on 23 March 2010. He has been arrested and beaten for several hours. (Anne Paq ActiveStills)
Sleep-deprived and suffering from a broken leg, 16-year-old Muhammad Halabiyeh endured days of torture at the hands of Israeli soldiers and police officers, who punched him repeatedly in the face and abdomen, shoved needles into his hand and leg and threatened the Palestinian teenager with sexual abuse.
Arrested near his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis in February 2010, Halabiyeh confessed after days of abuse and torture to the charge that he threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli army base. More than one year after his arrest, which was spent in Israeli custody, Halabiyeh was found guilty in an Israeli military court.
His conviction came despite the fact that the Israeli military judge in his case stated that she believed the teenager was tortured. However, the judge argued that there was no evidence that his confession was the direct result of the torture he endured. Halabiyeh’s sentencing hearing has now been postponed until 19 July.
“[The judge] said there’s no direct connection that he confessed later on in the police station because of this torture,” Sahar Francis, the director of Addameer, the Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, told The Electronic Intifada. Addameer represented Halabiyeh in his trial at the Ofer military court.
“She didn’t believe that he was threatened the whole way [to the police station]. He said in the court that he was [afraid of more torture], but she decided not to give much weight [to this],” Francis added.
Since Israel began occupying the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem in 1967, it is estimated that approximately 700,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This amounts to approximately 20 percent of the total Palestinian population, and 40 percent of the male Palestinian population, in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to Addameer.
Today, more than 5,600 Palestinian prisoners remain in Israeli jails, and more than 1,500 Israeli military orders continue to govern all aspects of life in the West Bank. In fact, the Israeli military courts system controls the trial, sentencing and imprisonment of Palestinian detainees. Notably, the principal court officials including the prosecutor and the judge are Israeli army officers — which means that the Israeli occupation army is both accuser and judge of Palestinians living under its control. Moreover, this system is reserved only for Palestinians; Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to Israeli civil law and civil courts.
According to a 2007 report issued by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, “of 9,123 cases concluded in the [Israeli] military courts in the year 2006, only in 23 cases - which constitute 0.29 percent of the rulings - was the defendant found to be entirely not guilty.”
While no specific figures are available, Francis explained that the use of torture against Palestinian detainees and prisoners is widespread and that often, Israeli soldiers use torture during an arrest - before the detainees are brought into the interrogation center - as a way to intimidate the detainees and coerce confessions from them later on.
“Especially in the case of juveniles, it’s threatening them before even coming to the interrogation so it will make it easier to collect their confessions. They will be really terrified. They humiliate them. They start to beat them and kick them and abuse them all the way to the detention center. It affects [the detainees’] confidence and the way they will treat the whole process of the interrogation later on,” Francis said.
Sleep deprivation, threats of sexual abuse and physical violence, prolonged periods spent in complete isolation, and the arrests of family members are some of the methods used to coerce confessions from Palestinian detainees, Francis explained. While most of the torture the Israeli authorities use is psychological in nature, she added that physical torture does take place as well.
“In some cases, they use electric shock. In some other cases, they close [their] eyes and tie [them] to the chair. They push back [their] head and then they bring a cup of water and they start to drop water on [their] face, giving a feeling like [they] can’t breathe,” she said. ”[Torture is] very common. It’s very common.”
Source and full piece: Electronic Intifada, 6 July 2011