Israelis’ lawsuit says UN agency helps Hamas by paying Gaza staff in dollars

What about Gaza’s “other hostages”—Palestinians held without charge in Israel?

LONDON: A disturbing video surfaced on social media last week of a Palestinian man identified as 29-year-old Badr Dahlan.

Dahlan, wide-eyed and swaying as he spoke, was in a state of shock as he answered questions at Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Bala, Gaza, shortly after his release from Israeli custody.

Dahlan, known to them as a “socially active and well-liked young man”, seemed completely transformed in the month he had spent in Israeli custody since his seizure in Khan Younis.

He described a pattern of beatings, torture and abuse that has become familiar to non-governmental organizations monitoring a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial since the Gaza conflict began last October.

Badr Dahlan (L) and other detainees were emaciated and scarred after their release on June 20. (Getty Images)

As the world’s attention remains focused on the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7, the plight of the “other hostages”—thousands of innocent Palestinian adults and children captured and held without charge by Israel—is largely ignored.

“There are currently about 9,200 prisoners in total from the West Bank and the occupied territories,” said Jenna Abu Hsana, an international rights official at the Ramallah-based Palestinian NGO Addameer, the Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association.

“We believe about 3,200 of those are administrative detainees.”

Administrative detention is “basically a tool used by the occupation to detain Palestinians indefinitely” in prisons run by the Israeli Prison Service, he said.

Military courts prosecute detainees, circumventing all norms of internationally accepted judicial procedure.

“There is no real ‘charge’ because no evidence is presented against the detainee,” Abu Hsana said. “All so-called evidence is stored in a secret file that is not accessible to the inmate and his attorney.”

Israeli soldiers stand next to a truck full of bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners in Gaza, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 (AP)

Imprisonment can last for six months at a time, and can be extended by another six months at the discretion of the military.

Originally, proceedings against persons detained under this law had to be subject to judicial review within 14 days, but in December this was extended to 75 days. At the same time, the period during which a detainee can be denied access to a lawyer was increased from 10 days to 75 days, or with the court’s approval, to 180 days.

It’s a despicable situation, says B’Tselem of the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which “renders detainees powerless – facing unknown charges, unable to refute them, not knowing when they will be released and charged, brought to trial alleged or convicted.”

Israel “routinely uses administrative detention and over the years has put thousands of Palestinians behind bars for periods ranging from months to years without being charged, told what they are accused of, or told the alleged evidence. or to their lawyers.”

The situation in Gaza is somewhat different, as those detained there since October have been arrested under Israel’s 2002 Law on the Imprisonment of Unlawful Combatants and are being held in military camps.

But the effect is the same as those in administrative detention. “Detainees can be held in these military camps for long periods without charge or evidence,” Abu Hsana said.

Before October 7, Israel held approximately 5,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and the Occupied Territories in its prisons, approximately 1,000 of whom were in administrative detention.

But since Oct. 7, “the numbers have escalated,” Abu Hsana said. “Currently, there are more than 9,200 inmates in prisons, of which 3,200 are in administrative detention.

However, NGOs are struggling to establish exactly how many people have been captured in Gaza.

“We don’t have exact numbers because the occupation refuses to release any information, but they say there are currently around 3,000 to 5,000 detainees.”

Most are held at one of two military sites – Camp Anatot near Jerusalem and Sde Teman near Beersheba in the northern Negev.

Prisoners in the Sde Teiman prison camp. NGOs are struggling to determine exactly how many people have been captured in Gaza since October 7. (x)

In these camps, detainees are denied access to families and even lawyers. But as some were released in recent months, shocking details began to emerge.

“It is particularly difficult for the detainees in Gaza because they have been handcuffed and blindfolded throughout their detention, from the time of their arrest until their release, and the plastic zips used are very tight and have caused many serious injuries. said Abu Hasana.

In April, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz obtained a copy of a letter sent by a troubled Israeli doctor in Sde Teman to Israel’s attorney general and the defense and health ministers.

“Just this week,” the doctor wrote, “two inmates’ legs were amputated due to handcuff injuries, which unfortunately is a routine occurrence.”

He added: “I faced serious ethical dilemmas. In addition, I am writing to warn you that the operation of the facilities does not comply with any health section of the Unlawful Combatant Imprisonment Act.

He added that none of the detainees received adequate medical care.

In conclusion, all of this makes all of us – the medical groups and you in charge in the Ministry of Health and Defense – complicit in breaking Israeli law, and worse for me as a doctor, in breaking the law. of my fundamental commitment to patients, wherever they may be, as I swore 20 years ago when I graduated.”

A member of the Israeli security forces stands next to a blindfolded Palestinian prisoner on the Gaza border near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on October 8, 2023. (AFP)

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East, recently released a scathing report condemning the treatment of Palestinians who have been detained and released without charge or trial.

The report was based on information obtained through UNRWA’s role in coordinating humanitarian assistance at the Karem Abu Salem crossing between Gaza and Israel, where Israeli security forces have been regularly releasing prisoners since early November 2023.

As of 4 April, UNRWA has documented the release of 1,506 detainees, including 43 children and 84 women. Detainees reported being repeatedly sent for interrogation and suffering severe abuse.

This included being “subjected to beatings while lying on a thin mattress on top of the rubble for hours without food, water or access to a toilet, with their feet and hands tied with plastic bundles.”

According to UNRWA, several detainees “reported being forced into cages and attacked by dogs. Some of the released prisoners, including a child, had dog bite wounds on their bodies.”

Israeli soldiers detain blindfolded Palestinian men in a military truck on November 19, 2023. (AFP)

Other forms of ill-treatment included: “physical beatings, threats of bodily harm, insults and humiliations such as animal behavior or urinating, use of loud music and noise, deprivation of water, food, sleep and toilet, the denial of the right to pray and the prolonged use of tightly closed handcuffs, causing open wounds and abrasions.”

In a statement to the BBC in response to UNRWA’s findings, the Israel Defense Forces said: “Mistreatment of detainees during their detention or interrogation violates IDF values ​​and is contrary to the IDF and is therefore strictly prohibited.”

He denied certain charges, including denial of access to water, medical care and bedding. The IDF also said the allegations of sexual abuse were “another cynical attempt to create a false equivalence with Hamas’ systematic use of rape as a weapon of war.”

Israeli peace activists protested in front of the camp with banners reading “Sde Teman concentration camp” and “Israel exterminates people”. In an apparent attempt to quell growing unease over the treatment of detainees, earlier this month (June) Israel invited The New York Times for a “brief tour” of part of the facility.

If the authorities were hoping for a stamp of approval, they were to be disappointed.

Israelis protest at the Sde Teman “torture camp” where Palestinians are held. (x)

On June 6, the paper described “the scene on a late May afternoon in a military hangar in Sde Teman.” The newspaper reported that in barbed-wire cages, “the men sat in rows, handcuffed and blindfolded … not allowed to speak louder than a grunt, and not allowed to stand or sleep unless given permission.”

All of them were “shut off from the outside world, unable to contact lawyers or their relatives for weeks.”

By the end of May, the NYT learned that approximately 4,000 Gazan detainees had spent three months in limbo in Sde Teman, including “dozens” of people captured in the October 7 Hamas attack.

After interrogation, “about 70 percent of the detainees were sent to the so-called target prisons for further investigation and prosecution.

“The rest, at least 1,200 people, were found to be civilians and returned to Gaza without charge, apology or compensation.”

On May 23, a group of Israeli human rights organizations petitioned the Supreme Court to close the camp. The government agreed to curtail activities there, and the court ordered the state to report on the condition of the facility by June 30.

But protesters and NGOs say the Sde Teman scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.

Israeli security forces have detained a Palestinian man as he tries to attend the first Friday noon prayer of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on March 15, 2024. (AFP)

“There are numerous testimonies of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, and numerous reports of deaths in Israeli prisons and military camps in apparent violation of the absolute prohibition of torture under international law,” said Miriam Azem, Adalah’s International Advocate and Communications Officer. – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

“Based on secret evidence, thousands of Palestinians are being held in administrative detention without charge or trial, in deplorable and life-threatening conditions.

“Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza are being held incommunicado, without access to lawyers or their families, their whereabouts unknown, under a legal framework that allows for enforced disappearances in serious violation of international law.

“The urgency of the present moment demands immediate and decisive intervention from the international community. Failure to act is a threat to Palestinian lives.”

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