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Right groups call for closure of Israel detention centre where 'Palestinians are tortured'

May 24, 2024 at 2:30 pm

Palestinian demonstrators hold banners and placards in front of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) building during a protest held to support the arrested Palestinians who are at the Israeli prisons, in Gaza City, Gaza on May 06, 2024. [Dawoud Abo Alkas – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli human rights organisations filed a petition with the High Court of Justice yesterday seeking the closure of the detention centre at the Sde Teiman military base in the Negev due to allegations of torture of Palestinian detainees from Gaza at the facility.

Submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights, HaMoked and the Public Committee Against Torture, among others, the petition stated: “Evidence has mounted on what is allegedly happening at the facility.”

It added, “It reveals an unimaginable reality of surgeries performed without anaesthesia, holding detainees in painful positions for days and handcuffing that leads to amputation, blindfolding for long periods, even when providing medical treatment and while [detainees were] defecating, holding detainees in diapers, beatings, and abuse.”

The petition comes after a CNN report exposed alleged widespread abuse of detainees at the Sde Teiman facility earlier this month, including excessive use of physical restraints, beatings, neglect of medical issues, arbitrary punishments and more. The report was based on accounts from two Israeli whistleblowers and a Palestinian doctor who was detained there.

The two Israeli sources described how prisoners were forced to sit upright for long hours, often blindfolded and were prohibited from speaking. A common punishment for speaking or other offences involved forcing detainees to hold their arms above their heads for an hour, with some having their arms zip-tied to a fence overhead.

According to the Times of Israel, the military denied widespread abuse, telling CNN: “The IDF ensures proper conduct towards the detainees in custody. Any allegation of misconduct by IDF soldiers is examined and dealt with accordingly. In appropriate cases, Military Police investigations are opened when there is suspicion of misconduct justifying such action.”

Read: Palestinian mothers fear giving birth in Israeli prisons

It added that “detainees are handcuffed based on their risk level and health status. Incidents of unlawful handcuffing are not known to the authorities.”

Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinians who had been freed by Israel in past months, including some UN staff have reported ill-treatment during detention, including torture and deprivation of food and sleep. Upon their release many have been found to be malnourished and bearing signs of torture.

Earlier this month, the Israeli authorities released 64 Palestinians they had detained during their military offensive in Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Karm Abu Salem Crossing, the Palestinian borders and crossings agency said.

One of them was the body of another man who had died in detention, the prisoners’ associations said. Another freed detainee arrived in critical condition and was moved to hospital upon arrival, the crossings agency added.

The two new deaths bring the toll of Gazans who died in Israeli custody to at least 18 since the start of the war, the prisoners associations said, urging Israeli authorities to disclose the number, location and fate of detainees from Gaza.

The UN Palestinian Refugee Agency has documented the release of 1,506 people detained by the Israeli authorities through the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing as of 4 April and said the transfer of detainees regularly holds up aid. The 1,506 included 43 children and 84 women, it said.

Israel has killed more than 35,700 Palestinians, according to Palestinian medics, and displaced the majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, since October 2023.