domingo, 20 de noviembre de 2011

Greatest war crime ever

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This forms approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). As the majority of those detained are male, the number of Palestinians detained forms approximately 40% of the total male Palestinian population in the OPT.

The location of prisons within Israel and the transfer of detainees to locations within the occupying power’s territory are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime. The Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly states that “Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein” (Article 47). There are only two military detention centers and one military detention camp located within the OPT.

Under Israeli military regulations, a Palestinian can be detained for up to 12 days without the Israeli military informing the detainee of the reason for his/her arrest and without being brought before a judge. Between April and June 2002, this period of time was increased to 18 days by Israeli Military Order 1500. Following or during the 12 days of detention, a detainee is sent to an interrogation center, charged with an offense, given an administrative detention order, or released.

A Palestinian detainee can be interrogated for a total period of 180 days, during which he/she can also be denied lawyer visits for a period of 90 days. During the interrogation period, a detainee is often subjected to some form of torture ranging in extremity, whether physical or psychological. The use of practices that constitute torture during interrogation has been legalized within the Israeli judicial system and permitted in individual cases in which the GSS deems a detainee a threat to state security or a ‘ticking bomb’. In some instances, detainees have died while in custody as a result of torture. Confessions extracted through torture are admissible in Israeli court.The ISA interrogation system includes seven key aspects which harm, to varying degrees, the dignity and bodily integrity of the detainees. This injury is intensified considering the combined exercise of these aspects during the interrogation period which, for the witnesses in the sample, lasted an average of 35 days:

  • Isolation from the outside world - prohibition on meetings between detainees and their attorneys; 
  • The use of the conditions of imprisonment as a means of psychological pressure - holding in solitary confinement and in putrid, stifling cells; 
  • The use of conditions of imprisonment as a means for weakening the body - preventing physical activity, sleep disturbance, inadequate food supply; 
  • Shackling in the ” shabah ” position - painful binding of the detainee’s hands and feet to a chair; 
  • Cursing and humiliation - cursing, strip searches, shouting, spitting etc.; 
  • Threats and intimidation - including the threat of physical torture, arrest of family members, etc.; 
  • The use of informants, ” ‘asafir ” to extract information - this method is not harmful, as such, but its efficacy largely depends on the ill-treatment of detainees immediately preceding its implementation.

Under military regulations in force in the OPT, a child over the age of 16 is considered an adult, contrary to the defined age of a child as under 18 in the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory. In practice, Palestinian children may be charged and sentenced in military courts beginning at the age of 12.

  • Between the ages of 12-14, children can be sentenced for offences for a period of up to six months – meaning that a child accused of throwing a stone can be sent to prison for six months; 
  • After the age of 14, Palestinian children are tried as adults, in violation of international law; 
  • There are no juvenile courts and children are often held and serve their sentences in cells with criminal prisoners and are often not separated from adults, also in violation of international law.

Administrative detention is indefinitely renewable under military regulations. A detainee may be given an administrative detention order for a period of between 1 – 6 months, after which the order may be renewed. Administrative detention is based on secret evidence brought forward during military tribunals, to which neither the detainee nor his/her lawyer have access to. One of the longest Palestinian administrative detainees remained in custody for over 8 years, without ever being charged.

Prison conditions in Israeli military detention camps are inhumane. Detainees are held in overcrowded prison tents that are often threadbare and do not provide for adequate shelter against extreme weather. Prisoners are not provided adequate food rations, neither in quantity nor quality, nor provided with clean clothes or adequate cleaning supplies. Many of the detainees currently being held in military detention camps were injured during their arrests and have not been provided the necessary medical attention, like those who suffer from chronic illnesses.

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