- On July 6, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
(PACTI) and Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
released a report titled, "Exposed: The Treatment of Palestinian Detainees
During Operation Cast Lead," detailing their horrific treatment.
- Transferred to Israel for interrogation, detainees related
grim details of their ordeal - grave human rights violations, showing Israel's
"contempt for the rule of law."
- Their "fundamental due process rights were trampled
on and the rule of law brutally disregarded during and after the fighting,"
providing compelling evidence of collective punishment since Israel's 2005
"disengagement," followed by an embargo, a medieval siege, regular
incursions, Cast Lead, and continued oppression of 1.5 million people -
isolated, surrounded, attacked, brutalized, and slowly suffocated into
submission, what hasn't happened and won't, but it doesn't deter Israel
from trying, or America from providing weapons and funding its lawlessness.
- Seizure and Detention in Gaza
- Under Article 92 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for
the Treatment of Prisoners relating to family notification about an individual's
seizure, the ICRC says it must be "as soon as (someone is) interned,
or at the latest not more than one week after....arriv(ing) in a place
of internment" or a temporary camp.
- Israeli law also obligates authorities to comply with
international law, its High Court recognizing notification as a basic detainee
right, ruling that relatives must be informed within 24 hours:
- "of his arrest and his place of detention so that
they will be apprised of what befell their detained relative, and how they
are able to offer him the assistance he requires to safeguard his liberty.
This is a natural right derived from human dignity and general principles
of justice, and accrues both to the detainee himself and to his relatives."
- Israeli human rights organizations tried to locate detainees,
several complaining to Israel's Chief Military Advocate General (CMAG)
demanding full information.
- CMAG stonewalled, saying only that the ICRC was informed
of detentions, including required information of their names, where held
- The IDF's Supervision and Control Center (SCC), responsible
for collecting and maintaining detainee information, declined to provide
HaMoked, the Center for the Defense of the Individual, with the information
- In response to its habeas petition for 15 detainees,
SCC said that "As long as the fighting continues.....the IDF may detain
more Palestinian residents," their names given to the SCC within 48
hours of their transfer to Israel - an interpretation violating international
law requiring prompt notification. Failure to do so may subject detainees
to human rights abuses, including torture, use as human shields and other
forms of abuse and humiliation, precisely what the evidence below shows.
- Using Protected Persons as "Human Shields"
- Under detention in Gaza, they were exploited for military
purposes, including as human shields, for 10 days or longer - a grave violation
of international and Israeli law.
- Fourth Geneva explicitly prohibits using protected persons
for any military purpose, including as human shields or hostages. It also
bans threats to harm family members to extract information about their
- The Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
is also explicit, its Article 8 defining war crimes as grave Fourth Geneva
breaches, including taking protected persons hostage and/or compelling
they help their captor militarily.
- In addition, Israel's High Court banned using protected
persons as hostages or human shields, ruling unequivocally that it's forbidden
to exploit civilians for any military purpose, citing international humanitarian
law. The Court emphasized that noncombatants mustn't be taken to military
conflict areas, even if willing, understanding that "consent"
would be forced and untrue.
- Yet detainee testimonies confirmed the opposite - that
they were compelled to serve militarily as the example below shows:
- On January 4, 2009, Jabalia resident Abed Elkarim Mustafa
Abu Salah said 20 soldiers burst into his home, damaged contents searching
it, handcuffed him and his son, arrested them, then used them as human
shields for 10 days in a combat area.
- "During this whole period, my son and I were transported
with the soldiers and in the night they would take us back to sleep in
the house of Ismail Nabhan. Over this period, (we were) sent....into countless
homes" to search and open doors and windows.
- Declared an "unlawful combatant," Abu Salah
was detained in Israel for four months, then released. Adalah complained
to the CMAG on his behalf, demanding a investigation. On August 27, 2009,
Israel's Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (CID) began one,
Abu Salah and his son testifying on November 24. No decision was announced.
If one comes, it will whitewash IDF responsibility.
- Numerous other accounts reported similar mistreatment,
one saying "IDF soldiers cuffed me and three of my brothers, and for
three days had us walk ahead of them, and made sure we did so at gunpoint.
They used us as human shields by ordering us to go into houses ahead of
- At the time, an IDF spokesman denied it, saying:
- "Regrettably, PACTI keeps rehashing allegations
which have been heard - and dismissed by the High Court," even though
true. Breaking the Silence Israeli soldiers confirmed it, one saying:
- "The method used has a new name now - no longer
'neighbor procedure.' Now people are called 'Johnnie.' They're Palestinian
civilians, and they're called Johnnies....To every house we close in on,
we send the neighbor in, 'the Johnnie,' and if there are armed men inside,
we start, like working the 'pressure cooker' in the West Bank."
- He explained that "pressure cooker" meant using
civilians to check if armed men were inside houses, "Johnnies"
to smash walls for Israeli troops to storm through.
- Amnesty International, other human rights groups, and
the Goldstone Commission also found evidence of human shield use, confirming
PACTI and Adalah, discrediting Israel's denial, its inexcusable cover-up.
- Detention Conditions
- One account, similar to others, was as follows:
- "I was held inside the crater together with some
70 other civilians, most of whom I know from the neighborhood. During this
period, I was not interrogated and to the best of my knowledge no one else
was....either. On Wednesday (January 7, 2009), they put everyone on a truck,
covered our eyes and we drove, with a tank in front of us, to an army post
near the sea which was built after the Disengagement. The post was five
kilometers from the place in which I was held. My son Hussein was left
in the crater and I do not know what happened to him."
- As protected persons, international and Israeli law demand
humane treatment at all times. Fourth Geneva's Article 27 says: "They
shall at all times be humanely treated."
- Article 10(1) of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR) states: "All persons deprived of their
liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent
dignity of the human person."
- Israel's High Court ruled that the nation's Basic Law:
Human Dignity and Liberty obligates authorities to abide by ICCPR's Article
10. It's principles are also affirmed in Article 16(1) of the UN's Convention
Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
(CAT), and in Article 1 of the General Assembly's Principles for the Protection
of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment."
- Fourth Geneva requires that detention conditions must
ensure detainee hygiene and health, including protection from weather conditions;
that detention space must be adequately heated and lit; that sleeping quarters
be spacious and well-ventilated, with suitable bedding and blankets; and
that sufficient food and water be provided. These are universally accepted
standards, ones Israeli systematically spurns, despite its own law stipulating
- "Detainee(s) must be held under appropriate conditions
that do not harm his Health and dignity." Article 9 of the Detentions
Law and related regulations guarantees their bodily integrity, spirit and
dignity, affording them sanitary conditions, a mattress, bed, food, light,
ventilation, a daily walk, the right to communicate with visitors, to send
letters, and other basic considerations."
- Detention Regulation 22 differentiates between "regular"
and "security" prisoners, latter ones denied or only partially
afforded the above rights, in violation of international law making no
distinction, without exception, obliging Israel to comply. Even detainees
suspected of serious crimes are entitled to the same treatment as others
with regard to their basic needs - an inviolable minimum threshold.
- Prisoner accounts, however, related otherwise - that
"from the moment of their arrest and detention, the detainees were
held in disgraceful and inhuman conditions - from their detention in (Gaza)
to their time in temporary military facilities for the purpose of absorption,
and continuing in their cells in IPS detention centers in Israel."
- Gaza Detention
- Detainees, including children, were taken from their
homes, held in large pits (two - three meters deep), unsheltered from the
bitter cold for days, each pit holding 60 - 70 prisoners, their hands shackled
and eyes covered. They couldn't even leave their pits to relieve themselves.
The sanitary conditions were appalling, the amount of food, water, and
- Detainees complained of hunger, thirst and cold, adjacent
to combat areas, endangering their lives. A PACTI/Adalah complaint to CMAG
- Sameer Ali Muhammad Attar described his experience after
being arrested on January 5, 2009 with his young son, saying:
- "We arrived at the place where the tanks were posted,
and at that moment (they) were firing shells on Beit Lahiya. (Israelis)
dug out a crater with a dirt wall of some two meters. (We were) ordered
to climb down the dirt walls and into the crater while shackled, and we
were held there under the bare sky for two days (exposed) to the bitter
cold, and only (on the second day given one blanket for two people). During
the whole period we were shackled and we slept on the dirt."
- Once or twice a day, they got food...."as for water,
we would ask for it and sometimes they would bring us some, in delay. There
were no toilets and they did not provide us with hygienic products like
toilet paper. I was (with) 70 other civilians, most of whom I know from
- Other testimonies provided similar accounts, detailing
horrific, abusive treatment.
- Military Detention in Israel
- Detainees were then taken to army facilities "Zikim"
and "Sde Teiman," the latter for "unlawful combatants."
In all cases, their human rights were denied. After being photographed
and medically checked, they were held in cramped quarters, given inadequate
food, thin mattresses and blankets, too little to protect against the bitter
cold. They were shackled when given access to toilets. Some were placed
in dark trailers with no showers, toilets, mattresses or blankets. Detainees
related stories of violence and illegal interrogations.
- Held as an "unlawful combatant," Muhammad Kisab
was taken to Sde Teiman, put on a gravel floor with his father and two
brothers, then moved to a trailer made of canvas with no mattresses or
blankets. "The room was closed. It had one ventilation hole on the
roof and it was completely dark. There was no toilet." Other detainees
related similar accounts.
- "The conditions (at) military facilities were far
from meeting the minimum standards for the protection of the health and
dignity of the detainees." Yet former High Court Chief Justice Aharon
Barak ruled that even in emergencies, detention facilities must meet minimum
international law criteria, Israeli authorities even defying their own
- Detainee Conditions in Interrogation and Detention Facilities
- Detainees also endured abusive and humiliating conditions
in Israel Prison Service (IPS) detention centers for interrogations. During
breaks and when concluded, they were transferred to narrow, dark, foul
smelling cells used for solitary confinement, given thin mattresses, little
hygiene, and kept under 24-hour lighting that interrupted or prevented
- Wa'el Atamneh had only a metal bed with no mattress or
blanket for protection, nor a toilet, a privilege given once a day, and
a shower after 10 days.
- Imad Hamad said he was held in solitary confinement,
interrogated 18 hours a day during his first three days, then transferred
to Ketziot Prison under better conditions.
- All detainees complained of abusive treatment in solitary
confinement, cut off from attorneys and families, in cold, small, smelly
cells, thin mattresses or none, deprived of sleep, showers and washing,
and subjected to 24-hour lighting and grueling interrogations, at times
- The psychological pressure was intense. Their bodies
became weak. Sensory deprivation took its toll, caused by the inability
to keep track of time and disconnect from normal human contact and social
- Torture and Ill-Treatment
- Under customary humanitarian law, torture is prohibited
at all times under all circumstances with no allowed exceptions. In all
its forms, it's a war crime, according to the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court (ICC).
- Israel's High Court banned it in its HCJ 5100/94 Public
Committee against Torture in Israel v. Government of Israel, leaving a
giant loophole in "ticking bombs" situations, giving authorities
wide latitude to use it, PACTI and Adalah confirming various detainees
- "PACTI's experience over the years shows that from
the moment detainees are deprived of their liberty until the end of their
interrogation, they are exposed to acts which constitute torture and ill-treatment,"
including "punches, blows, kicks and slaps; shackling in painful positions....;
verbal ill-treatment which includes threats to life, health and welfare
of the interrogee and threats of injuring his or her family members; and
curses and swearing towards the detainee, his family and his religion,"
- Other abuses include physical and psychological torment,
sleep deprivation for long periods, loud yelling in the ear, spitting in
the face, withholding enough food and water, preventing access to toilets,
and various other cruel and inhuman treatments.
- IDF Violence against Detainees in Gaza
- One detainee (anonymous for his safety) explains what
happened after Israeli forces stormed his house, destroying everything
- "The next day, after having slept shackled on the
second floor of our home, I heard the voices of my father and brothers....screaming
from the blows they were taking from the soldiers. I started to yell that
I want to (see) my mother. Then one of the soldiers took off his helmet
and hit me on the head with it. I lost consciousness. I woke up later in
the bathroom with three soldiers. One....took out his sexual organ and
began to urinate on me while I was lying on the floor; meanwhile the two
(others) laughed. I was completely soaked and there was a repulsive smell
of urine. When the soldier who had urinated on me realized that I had woken
up, he began to kick my upper body on the left side."
- Other detainees described similar experiences, including
some taken to border areas and "harshly physically assaulted,"
one saying "I prayed to god to arrive anywhere, even to die....just
to stop this terrible suffering."
- PACTI, Adalah, ACRI and HaMoked demanded these and other
incidents be investigated. "To date, more than one and a half years
(later), no answer has been received from the CMAG."
- During grueling interrogations, detainees said they were
shackled, blindfolded, humiliated, deprived of sleep, and beaten, some
threatened by dogs, with death, or harm to family, one interrogator saying
"we want your mother to suffer because of you."
- Testimonies provided clear evidence of torture, soldiers
and interrogators having immunity to commit it, PACTI saying:
- "Israel's indifference to its moral and legal obligations
to detainees is particularly objectionable in view of the fact (soldiers
and interrogators ignored) the basic rights of the detainees and captives"
under international law, violations committed against everyone seized.
- Unlawful Combatants under Israel's Incarceration of Unlawful
Combatants Law (UCL)
- Forty Cast Lead detainees were designated either "security"
ones or "unlawful combatants (UCs)" a bogus category under international
law. Yet all were indicted, 23 security prisoners sentenced to 12 - 84
months, the 17 UCs held as bargaining chips for future prisoner exchanges.
- Israel defines UCs as "person(s) who (have) participated
either directly or indirectly in hostilities against the State of Israel
or is a member of a force perpetrating hostilities against the State of
Israel, where the conditions prescribed in (Third Geneva's) Article 4 (regarding
POW status) do not apply to him."
- As a result, they're denied all rights, and "may
be attacked in time of war or military operation because of their being
'combatants,' but who if captured are not entitled to the rights and protections
to which combatants are entitled."
- Although Israel's High Court rejected UC designation,
it ruled imprisoning UCs constitutional, Israel's UCL permitting indefinite
detentions, designees denied all rights, including to a fair trial and
the presumption of innocence.
- At Ketziot Prison, they've been harshly treated in small
windowless cells with no toilet or electricity, spending most of the day
and night in total darkness.
- According to the UN Committee Against Torture:
- "All of the persons held were civilians and protected
under (Fourth Geneva's) Article 4....The Mission does not accept the proposition
that the (detained) men (are) unlawful combatants" to be denied international
law protections. Doing so constitutes a crime of war and against humanity,
- The Duty to Investigate Complaints
- Under international humanitarian and human rights laws,
Israel is required to conduct comprehensive, thorough, independent investigations,
and prosecute persons guilty of detainee mistreatment and other types of
abuse, including torture.
- This obligation is anchored in Common Article 3 of the
Geneva Conventions. Under Fourth Geneva's Article 46:
- "The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact
any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons
committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the
present Convention," including willful killing, torture or inhuman
treatment, inflicting suffering or injuries, denying the right to a fair
trial, unlawfully transferring a protected person to the occupier's territory,
or committing any act not justified by military necessity.
- The scale and severity of Cast Lead violations demand
a full investigation, including "a re-evaluation of the laws and rulings
which allow for and authorize (such extreme) violation(s) of human rights
and international humanitarian law." Yet Israel willfully and egregiously
"violated its duty," defying its sworn obligation, another Israeli
specialty along with obstruction, cover-up, and denial.
- Over many years, PACTI and other human rights organizations
have filed complaints of mistreatment and other forms of abuse, including
torture, mainly to Israel's Attorney General. Yet accusations against General
Security Service (GSS) employees "are systematically rejected,"
suggesting that "Israel's law enforcement system supports and permits....violent
interrogation methods," including torture.
- See this writer's August 2008 article, accessed through
the following link:
- A Final Comment
- Every violation above "is grave enough on its own,
(but combined) constitute a complete debasement of the detainees' rights
and of Israel's moral and legal obligations."
- No wonder an earlier European Commission poll designated
Israel the top threat to world peace, and an April 22, 2010 BBC one gave
it a 19% approval rating, only Pakistan, North Korea and Iran scoring lower.
- No wonder also that growing millions reject Israel's
lawlessness, demanding full accountability, boycotts, divestment, sanctions,
criminal prosecutions, and expulsion from the UN until it complies with
international law, recognizes Palestinian self-determination, ends its
illegal occupation, returns confiscated land, dismantles its Separation
Wall, grants Israeli Arabs the same rights as Jews, and lets Palestinian
refugees return home to their land or be paid just compensation if they
choose. Committed grassroots pressure is crucial to achieving these goals
- for justice, genuine peace, and an end to decades of Israeli hellishness.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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