Tortured in West Bank Prisons

By Ola Attallah – Ramallah

Hamza Al-Qaraawi, a nursing student at An-Najah University, was sitting with his family when he heard knocks at their door.

When he opened the door, a dozen of plain-clothed, grimed-faced people stormed their way into the house.

"They beat me before taking me to an unknown destination," Qaraawi told IslamOnline.net.

Qaraawi was taken to a Palestinian Authority-run prison, as he later discovered, where he reportedly suffered a new episode of assaults.

"My body was bleeding from everywhere," he said, recalling his nightmarish experience.

"They brought me a doctor, who asked them to stop hurting me but in vain," added Qaraawi, who was released nine days later.

"They are using the same torture techniques used by Israeli occupation forces, such as Shabh and sleep deprivation."

Shabh (Arabic for ghost) is a torture technique in which the prisoner is tied up for long periods so as to cause severe pain, especially in the hands and back.

Hamas has accused security forces loyal to rival Fatah of carrying our a series of "political" arrests against its supporters in the West Bank since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip last year.

"My husband was badly tortured at Al-Janeed prison in Nablus," said the wife of Ismail Abdul-Kareem who was taken from his house by Palestinian security forces.

"We kept asking about his whereabouts for weeks before we found out that he was held at Al-Janeed prison."

Abdul-Kareem was released 40 days later.

"He has since been admitted to hospital in a critical condition," said his bewildered wife.

Maltreatment of Hamas supporters has reportedly become a common practice in the West Bank.

"Torture drives us crazy," a recently-released detainee told IOL, wishing not to be named.

"They kept punching and kicking me. They never stopped though I was bleeding from my nose, mouth and head."

Last February, Hamas supporter Sheikh Magd Al-Barghuthi died after being tortured at the Palestinian intelligence headquarters.

Human rights campaigners say that there are nearly 270 "political detainees" in the West Bank prisons.

"The arrests are being made on a daily basis," said Shawan Gabbarin, the head of Al-Haqq (Right) human rights group.

Palestinian security officials deny having any "political" detainees in their jails, saying the issue was being "exaggerated".

Last month, Palestinian human rights groups and MPs established a committee to monitor political detentions, but its work never got off the ground.

Although the committee had the blessing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the security services which he controls refused to cooperate.

"The committee held meetings with President Abbas, prime minister (Salam Fayyad) in Ramallah as well as Gaza-based interior minister Said Seyam and his security chiefs," said Khalil Abu-Shemalah, the head of Al-Dhamir (Conscience) human rights group.

"While the Gaza government released a number of detainees, the West Bank-based government has been dragging its feet."

(Originally published in IslamOnline.net)

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