The International Forum for Democracy and Human Rights (IFDHR) has filed an Article 15 submission with the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the widespread and systematic torture of Palestinian detainees by the Palestinian security services in the occupied West Bank. The submission has been made in conjunction with the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHRUK).
Significant research and collation of evidence was carried out on the ground by the AOHRUK with regards to the plethora of individuals who have been detained by the Palestinian security services and subjected to prolonged instances of torture. The Palestinian Authority has an estimated 70,000 security personnel spread across six different agencies.
“Having assessed and analysed the evidence,” said the AOHRUK in a press release, “it has become clear that the use of torture is so widespread within detention facilities that it can only be part of a systematic and widespread attack upon the fundamental liberties of Palestinian citizens.” Given that this appears to be a specific “policy” of the PA, said the organisation, it thus constitutes a “crime against humanity”.
The Preventative Security Force headed by Major General Ziyad Hab Al-Rih operates under the direct authority of the Minister of the Interior. It alone is alleged to have been involved in the violation of detainee’s rights and the use of torture on 949 separate occasions. “It is apparent that all elements of the security services have engaged in the use of such methods,” explained the AOHRUK, “including the General Intelligence service headed by Major General Majid Faraj, under the authority of the PA President.” It is on this basis that an Article 15 submission has been drafted and filed at the ICC.
According to Toby Cadman, a barrister and founder of the IFDHR, “It is clear that torture has been used by security services under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority, as part of a systematic policy for a substantial period of time. It is essential that this practice is brought to an end along with the associated impunity for its protagonists.”
The evidence collated by the organisations includes witness testimony from numerous individuals who have since been released from custody. They have recalled the horrific treatment that they were forced to endure, including but not limited to daily beatings (many of which were carried out with the use of innumerable inanimate objects, such as rubber hoses), prolonged periods of time held in stress positions, electrocution and the threat of sexual assault.
“Such treatment cannot be classified as anything other than torture,” insisted the AOHRUK. “Furthermore, it is clear, given the inaction of the Palestinian Authority generally, and those in positions of authority and supervision within the relevant security services, that there is no appetite whatsoever to investigate and address the complaints of those who have been forced to endure such treatment.”
The AOHRUK pointed out that the only option left to address the impunity with which the Palestinian security services operate at present is to seek the assistance of officials at the ICC by way of an independent and impartial investigation into the complaints of the many victims as well as the behaviour of those responsible for detention and interrogation.
“The Palestinian Authority has shown itself to be either ignorant to the plight of those detained by its security forces or complicit in their torture,” alleged Mohamed Jamil, the Director of the AOHRUK. “The only option is for there to be a credible international investigation into the issue.”
The human rights body is adamant that acts of torture can never be justified and any instance must be addressed as a matter of priority. “It is therefore of the utmost concern that the Palestinian Authority has thus far shown itself to be either unwilling or incapable of protecting its citizens,” its statement concluded.