ISRAEL/OCCUPIED TERRITORIES: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS FOR INQUIRY INTO DETENTION OF PALESTINIANS

The report 'Mass detention in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions', documents how detainees were humiliated and detained for days without charge, access to a court, their lawyer or families.

'We call on the Israeli authorities to set up a commission of inquiry and to bring those responsible for ill-treatment of detainees to justice,' Amnesty International said.

A number of Palestinians rounded up during 'Operation Defensive Shield' reported that they had been ordered to strip to their underclothes on arrest. Most detainees were blindfolded and handcuffed with tight plastic handcuffs, often held squatting, sitting or kneeling, not allowed to go to the toilet, and deprived of food or blankets during at least the first 24 hours.

'The indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests caused anguish to families who remained under curfew after their relatives were led off and had no means of knowing whether they were alive or dead,' Amnesty International emphasised.

Most of the 2,500 detainees arrested during February and March were released within a week, whereas many of the more than 6,000 detainees arrested during Operation Defensive Shield after 29 March 2002 were held in prolonged incommunicado detention. A new military order issued on 5 April 2002 (Military Order 1500) allows for an initial period of 18 days' detention without access to a lawyer, a judge or relatives. After the initial period of incommunicado detention, the prohibition of access to the outside world can be extended further by a military judge for up to 90 days.

'This Military Order violates international standards and must be immediately repealed,' the organisation added.

Amnesty International calls for an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the arbitrary arrests and the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment immediately after the detention of Palestinians arrested following 27 February 2002. Such a Commission of Inquiry should adhere to international standards for thorough, effective and independent investigations.

- Majdi Shehadeh was one of more than 600 Palestinians arrested in Tulkarem refugee camp by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on 8 March 2002. He was told to take off his clothes from the waist up, left for an hour and then transferred to Israel, before being released the following day without charge. Amnesty International interviewed him on 20 March 2002. The account he gave of his ill-treatment was similar to many others heard by the organisation.

- Jamal Issa, who was arrested on 8 March 2002 and released six days later without charge or even interrogation, described the first 24 hours of his detention: 'We stayed the night at the District Coordination Office, about 60 of us, handcuffed and blindfolded, treated as terrorists and humiliated. We asked to go to the toilet and they refused it.'

- 'Abd al-Salam 'Adwan, 39, a nurse and father of five Children's rights was arrested on 7 March 2002 at his workplace in Maqassed Hospital in Jerusalem and eventually transferred to Shikma Prison in Ashkelon. His lawyer was promised access, but he was subsequently told on 26 March 2002 that there was an order prohibiting 'Abd al-Salam 'Adwan from seeing him for a further 10 days. After the order expired another order was imposed prohibiting access to a lawyer for a further five days. Only after intervention by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations was he allowed to see his lawyer for the first time after 34 days of incommunicado detention. On 13 May he was served with a six-month administrative detention order.

Background

During Operation Defensive Shield in 29 March 2002 more than 6,000 Palestinians were arrested. Released detainees from Jenin interviewed by Amnesty International delegates in Rumaneh village gave a consistent account of their treatment at the hands of IDF soldiers. They reported having been ordered to strip to their underwear, their hands were clasped behind their backs with plastic handcuffs, and they were blindfolded. They were kept like this for up to 10 hours.

The use of administrative detention has also greatly increased. In May 2002 the IDF and the State Attorney gave figures ranging from 450 to 990 people in administrative detention compared with the November 2001 figure of 32. Most of those detained since the beginning of April have received administrative detention orders of up to six months. Administrative detention is a procedure under which detainees can be held without charge or trial. The order of detention can be renewed indefinitely.

Read the report: Mass detention in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions

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