My son was taken from my lap in order to be executed

Today’s Guardian reports on what appears to have been the appalling death of a man who was allegedly tortured to death in detention by members of the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah-led intelligence services.

According to the report, Haitham Amr, a 33-year-old nurse, was arrested near his home in the West Bank in June and four days later was dead, his body heavily bruised and disfigured.

“He jumped from a second-floor window” was the original official explanation, but that’s being put to the test now with a (pretty secretive-sounding) military trial of those who detained him and may have killed him. There’s a YouTube video on Palestinian Pundit which, though not at all clear or definitive, seems to show some of Haitham’s injuries (warning: the images are quite shocking).

It seems Haitham was detained because of his support – actual or suspected – of Hamas, and we’re likely looking at yet another victim of the vicious and now long-lived feud between Fatah and Hamas (click here and here for examples from Amnesty). 

The fact that a trial of Haitham’s alleged killers is underway does, at least, seem to offer – some – hope that impunity for human rights violators who’ve committed “patriotic” abuses in the West Bank might be ending. Or is that too optimistic?

Maybe so. It’s not tremendously encouraging, for example, that even when referring to Haitham’s death the PA Interior Minister Said Abu Ali has said: You can't isolate these incidents from the environment and atmosphere of our country". Meaning, it seems, something akin to: “there’s a war/feud on and we must expect these excesses”.

Indeed, in an eerie use of Cheney-esque language, Said Abu Ali has also said that there was "an excessive amount of force" in the interrogation. What, one wonders, is the right amount of force in these cases?

Haitham’s father, Abdullah, a life-long Fatah supporter as it happens, puts this horrible case in stark and altogether much more human terms: “My son was taken from my lap in order to be executed …”

 

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