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22/11/2013--BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian prisoner recently released by Israel told of extensive beatings, strip searches, and other forms of humiliation during her time in Israeli prisons, Ahrar Center for Prisoners Studies said Thursday.
Palestinian prisoner Muntaha al-Heeh, 21, detailed the forms of beatings she was subjected to by Israeli prison guards during her three weeks in Israeli prisons, in a report released by Ahrar.
Al-Heeh also spoke extensively about the violence suffered by Rana Abu Kweek, another Palestinian female prisoner who she came into contact while in Israeli prison.
Muntaha al-Heeh, from Hebron, said she was tortured, beaten, and once was beaten so badly that she had bleeding in her kidney, according to a doctor.
Al-Heeh, who was detained from Oct. 22 until Tuesday, told Ahrar, "I was severely beaten. I was not allowed to sleep and I was kept tied up for long hours. I was beaten so violently and severely that I fainted, and I still have pain from the beatings."
Al-Heeh said that following her arrest, she was brutally beaten, put in solitary confinement, verbally abused, and threatened to be held in handcuffs for days.
A picture of Muntaha el-Heeh released by Ahrar center.
'The most difficult times of my life'
She recollected a time when she was beaten by an officer and was told by the prison doctor that she had bleeding in her kidney. The doctor only gave her painkillers and told her to drink water.
Another incident was when she was hit so hard on the head by an officer that she lost consciousness. She later woke up to find herself lying in a prison hallway with soldiers and officers surrounding her holding batons. She started crying and screaming until an officer tied her and put her in the solitary confinement unit, she added.
Al-Heeh said that she was isolated from other Palestinian prisoners, and wasn't put in HaSharon prison with them. She was detained with criminal prisoners, and for that she refused food for days.
"I was held alone in a room at al-Muscoviyah for most of the time," she continued.
"The soldiers treated me extremely harshly. And not being able to see my family who were denied from visitation caused me to suffer psychologically, especially with the ongoing interrogation in horrible ways."
Al-Heeh added that she was not allowed to leave for the prison yard, and she was held alone in a room until she was released on a bail of 5000 shekels on Tuesday.
She added that these were the most difficult times in her life.
Al-Heeh expressed her hope that her voice, and her suffering reach all international human rights organizations to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against prisoners.
The Torture of Rana Abu Kweek
Al-Heeh also spoke about the beatings fellow Palestinian prisoner Rana Abu Kweek was subjected to. Abu Kweek is originally from Ramallah and she was detained by Israeli forces on Oct. 27. She is currently being held at Ashkelon detention center.
Al-Heeh saw Abu Kweek as she was being brought for a court hearing, which coincided with al-Heeh's release from prison.
Rana Abu Kweek was subject to extensive beatings and strip searches, which she recounted to al-Heeh in detail.
A source in the Prisoners' Movement in Occupation Prisons previously told Ahrar that one of their members had come in contact with Rana after he heard her sobbing in an adjacent cell. According to the source, Rana told the member that she had been subject to severe beatings that left her in great pain.
Montaha al-Heeh explained that when they met, Abu Kweek recounted to her how she was beaten by Israeli prison guards and hit in the stomach with the metal detectors they used to search her.
"When Rana entered the room, the soldiers forced all other prisoners to exit. Four female soldiers entered the room and they began stripping her underneath the shower and searching her," al-Heeh explained.
"When they finished the strip search, they took her clothes and threw them in the corner of the room, forcing her to leave the cell naked. The door of the cell was open and a number of soldiers stood at the door's entrance."
"Rana, however, refused to leave the cell naked and instead began to scream in protest," al-Heeh continued.
"Rana told me that they began to beat her in the stomach with the metal detector. She was then subject to another strip search, during which yet again she was tied against a post while dogs were brought close to her."
Al-Heeh also explained how the prison guards acquired false confessions from Abu Kweek through a spy who was sent to speak to her in her cell," lying to her and telling her that he knew her and knew all of the people that she knew."
"He would literally tell her that a certain somebody she know sends their regards, and that she can write whatever she wants to them on paper (that he would take to them)."
"Her morale was very low during the first days of her arrest, and later an officer came to her telling her that they have a written confession from her."
5,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of Oct. 2013, according to the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs. Another 1,280 are in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.
Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, representing 20% of the total population and 40% of all males in the occupied territories.
Under international law, it is illegal to transfer prisoners outside of the occupied territory in which they are detained, and the families of Palestinian prisoners' face many obstacles in obtaining permits to see their imprisoned relatives.
Published Friday 22/11/2013 (updated) 23/11/2013 17:10
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A UNICEF report issued last March, “Children in Israeli Military Detention,” was sharply critical of Israel’s treatment of detained Palestinian children and youths. According to that report, 700 Palestinian children aged 12-17, most of them boys, are arrested and harshly interrogated by the Israeli military, police and security agents every year in the occupied West Bank.
Now, a new UNICEF progress report states that although some progress has been achieved “violations are ongoing” seven months after the original report was released. The progress report states that there were 19 sample cases of abuse of youths between 12 and 17 in the occupied West Bank in the second quarter of 2013.
The information on mistreatment of Palestinian children and youths is the result of several years of information gathering by UN agencies related to grave violations committed against Palestinian children in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. This information is regularly reported to the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
Last June, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child confirmed the abuses against Palestinian children, including torture, solitary confinement and threats of death and sexual assault in prisons. “These crimes are perpetrated from the time of arrest, during transfer and interrogation, to obtain a confession but also on an arbitrary basis as testified by several Israeli soldiers,” stated the committee.
The reported abuses of Palestinian children also confirm what the organization Breaking the Silence, constituted by Israeli soldiers who served in the IDF and work to expose human rights violations had stated in its report called “Children and Youth, Soldiers Testimonies 2005-2011.” In one of the testimonies, a soldier from the Nahal Brigade with rank of first sergeant, stated, “On your first arrest mission you’re sure it’s a big deal, and it is actually bullshit. You enter the Abu Sneina (Hebron) neighborhood and pick up three children. After that whole briefing, you’re there with your bulletproof vest and helmet and stuck with that ridiculous mission of separating women and children. It’s all taken so seriously and then what you end up is a bunch of kids, you blindfold and shackle them and drive them to the police station at Givat Ha’vot. That’s it, it goes on for months and you eventually stop thinking there are any terrorists out there, you stop believing there’s an enemy, it’s always some children and adolescents or some doctor we took out. You never know their names, you never talk with them, they always cry, shit in their pants.”
According to Article 37 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, State Parties shall ensure that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,”…and “Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.” These provisions have been repeatedly violated by the Israeli authorities.
As UNICEF states, “In addition to Israel’s obligations under international law, the guiding principles relating to the prohibition against torture in Israel are to be found in a 1999 decision of the Supreme Court, which is also legally binding on the Israeli military courts. The Court concluded that a reasonable interrogation is necessarily one free of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and that this prohibition is absolute.”
Ill-treatment of Palestinian minors begins with the arrest itself, which is carried out usually in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers, and continues through prosecution and sentencing. Most minors are arrested for throwing stones; however, they suffer physical violence and threats, many are coerced into confessing for acts they didn’t commit and, in addition, many times they don’t have access to a lawyer or family during questioning. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 7,000 kids aged from 12 to 17 years, but sometimes as young as nine, have been arrested, interrogated and detained since 2002.
Israeli government abuses against Palestinian children are not limited to the West Bank. In the past, UNICEF has also reported that one baby in three risks death because of medical shortages in Gaza. Israel’s government had also prohibited the distribution of special food to about 20,000 Gazan children under age five resulting in anemia, stunted growth and general weakness as a result of malnutrition.
Israel’s government has stated his intention to continue working with UNICEF to address the issue of mistreatment of Palestinian children. However, treatment of children and adolescents under detention as it is carried out even now contravenes Israel’s democratic principles and contributes to the perpetuation of the Middle East conflict and to the search for a just and lasting peace in the region.
Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.
Article can be viewed here: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/10/31/israels-mistreatment-of-palestinian-children/