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Justifying torture in the name of security

January 23, 2014 at 4:45 am

“We are building our state and to me that matters more than causing harm to some group or individual.” This statement uttered by a former Palestinian Authority official to journalist David Rose reveals succinctly the official justification for torturing fellow Palestinians – fellow human beings   and passing off irreparable physical and psychological abuse as nothing more than necessary, collateral damage.

The PA official interviewed in Rose’s article, speaking under condition of anonymity to avoid possible torture repercussions, highlighted Britain’s role in facilitating the use of torture in PA detention centres. The Authority’s “security” agents have been funded and trained by the UK, with Britain’s MI6 providing specialists in detention and torture.

Testimony from officials and former detainees offers a profound insight into the ramifications of torture. The tangible reality of prisoners experiencing the “shabeh” method of torture is reinforced by a framework of illegalities which remain unchallenged despite Palestinian Basic Law’s prohibition of all such practices.

It is, perhaps, more feasible to separate the divestment of detainees from their humanity through torture practice and conveniently ignore the political agenda sanctioning such horrific crimes. However, to avoid a discussion regarding the dynamics of political power and negotiation creates a barrier which holds torture and financial humanitarian aid as distinct agendas, when the correlation between both issues has been illustrated explicitly on other occasions by renowned commentators such as Noam Chomsky.

Within each narrative of a tortured detainee looms the pretext of “security”. For the Palestinian Authority, security is a contentious issue owing to its dependence on Israel and the international community to provide financial aid in return for its persecution of Palestinians affiliated with Hamas. The international community, with Britain providing a considerable percentage of the financial aid, has succeeded in creating a repressive agency which has ensured its survival through contempt for human rights and related legislation. Judges have spoken about their inability to insist upon the implementation of Palestinian law, enhancing the absolute power of security agencies and rendering them immune from prosecution.

While the anonymous PA official insists upon torture as an isolated, yet necessary intervention if Palestinians are to retain any semblance of a state, the international community’s gestures have resulted in isolating the PA from the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Their definition of security and state does not include acquiescence to Israeli and other imperialist motives in the region. Furthermore, the strategy of extricating torture from the perpetrators’ accountability is another strategy to ensure and safeguard ongoing violations.

Another threat to consider is the possible fragmentation of the Palestinians’ collective memory. Defending torture with the “we might be violating his human rights but if we don’t, he will take away your right to live” argument divests memory from resistance by promoting torture as an acceptable defence strategy. Nothing is uttered about the power struggle and the significance of a considerably weakened authority aligning itself with major powers while wallowing in decadence. It is difficult to imagine the creation of a state founded upon its inability to protect its own citizens from an extension of Israeli and international conjectures on security which disfigures the essence of Palestinian resistance.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.