Palestinian Authority police officers stand guard in the West Bank [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Fifty-one Palestinians tortured by the Palestinian Authority for cooperating with Israel can sue the PA in Israeli courts for damages, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Wednesday.
The 1,860-page ruling is based on dozens of witness testimonies over several years.
It is one of the most bizarre in years, as it involves Palestinian Authority citizens coming before the courts of the Israeli “occupation” to get justice for their mistreatment by their own PA law enforcement.
Eight Palestinians were disqualified from receiving damages when the court ruled they had been involved in common crimes and their treatment was a local Palestinian issue.
But the majority of the group – represented by West Bank resident and Israeli lawyer Menachem Kornvich – will now take part in hearings before the court on the amount of damages they can expect to receive. A team of Israeli lawyers representing the PA, including Yosef and Yehonatan Arnon, will attempt to minimize those damage claims.
According to the court, PA officials tortured various plaintiffs by “beating them on all parts of the body, hitting them with lead pipes, extinguishing cigarettes on their bodies, hanging them in torture positions for hours and starving them.”
Some of the plaintiffs “were also exposed to extreme heat and cold, or extremely hot or cold water was dumped on them,” and authorities ordered doctors to pull out healthy teeth instead of attending to unhealthy ones, according to the court.
The PA’s lawyers attempted a range of defenses, at all stages denying that PA personnel carried out any torture. The defense alternately claimed that the PA had the right to arrest and pressure detainees who endanger PA security and vital interests by spying or cooperating with Israel. They also argued that Israel has no jurisdiction over Palestinians, claiming they are PA citizens. Moreover, the defense said international law, not local Israeli personal-injury law, should govern the handling of the cases.
The court rejected all the PA’s defenses, other than for the eight plaintiffs who were found to be common criminals.
Notably, the court said if Palestinians were cooperating with Israel to thwart terrorist attacks on Israelis, that the PA was also obligated to assist in such efforts under the Oslo Accords.
Accordingly, the court said the PA could not treat such Palestinians as criminals, much less torture them.
Furthermore, the court found that in some cases, the PA had arrested Palestinians while they were within the Green Line, or had arrested Arabs who have Israeli citizenship.
In both cases, the court said that the PA clearly had no authority under the Oslo Accords.
The case is likely to cause significant diplomatic and legal complications between Israel and the PA, especially about whether and how the authority would be paying damages.
A PA spokesman declined to comment and a PA security services spokesman did not respond by press time.
Kornvich also declined to comment, as did Joint List MK Osama Sa’adi, who was part of the PA’s defense team prior to his election to the Knesset. Neither the Israeli Foreign Ministry nor the Justice Ministry responded by press time.Adam Rasgon contributed to this story.
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