'IDF mistreated prisoners in Gaza'

Israeli rights groups say soldiers carried out 'serious, degrading violence.'

IDf arrest Hamas Gaza 248/88 ap (photo credit: )
IDf arrest Hamas Gaza 248/88 ap
(photo credit: )
Seven Israeli human rights groups submitted a letter on Wednesday to the IDF's judge advocate-general, Maj.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit, and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz in which they complained that during Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian prisoners were held in conditions so poor that their lives were endangered. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights, B'Tselem, Yesh Din, and Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual all signed the complaint, in which they protested what they described as "cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions" in which Gazan prisoners were held in the first few days of their detentions. The groups said they had testimony indicating that detainees - both minors and adults - were held in hastily-dug pits for hours and days "exposed to the extreme cold, handcuffed and blindfolded" and "without basic sanitary conditions." Detainees complained that they had suffered from hunger and that "some were held near tanks and in clear combat areas, constituting a clear violation of the international humanitarian laws against holding prisoners and detainees in areas exposed to danger." The letter also cited testimony of "serious and degrading violence" carried out against detainees by "soldiers and investigators" - adding that a separate complaint regarding allegations of physical violence will be submitted in the future. The seven organizations called on Mazuz and Mandelblit to establish an independent investigation of the detainees' treatment, to improve the conditions of prisoners both now and in the future. "Israel's disregard of ethical and legal obligations regarding detainees is especially severe in light of the fact that officials made statements that the IDF planned the operation in Gaza far in advance," said attorney Bana Shagri-Bedarna, the director of the Public Committee against Torture's legal division. "It seems that in the course of this long period of planning, the basic rights of detainees and captives were completely forgotten, the basic rights that must be assured regardless of the legal status or legal justification of the detentions." Also on Wednesday, Gisha-The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement blasted the government for its "policy of deliberate obstruction" in "preventing repair of the electrical, water and sewage systems in Gaza." "As a result of the restrictions on the supply of industrial diesel and the mass devastation caused by the military operation, a quarter of a million people have been entirely without electricity for more than a month, and more than 200,000 people are denied access to running water. Those who receive electricity suffer power outages of 16-18 hours per day, on average," Gisha said. "We don't buy any food that requires refrigeration; it's like living in the Middle Ages," Ihab Abu Zaiter, a 32-year-old father of three, told Gisha representatives. "We light a fire inside the house to keep the children warm. This is a very cold month, and we can't sleep without the fire, but I'm afraid that the rest of the house will catch fire or that the children will burn themselves."