NGO: Army still allowing abuse of handcuffed Palestinians

Report also accuses the army of failing to punish abusers.

PalestinianPrisoners 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
PalestinianPrisoners 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
IDF soldiers continue to abuse Palestinian detainees who have been handcuffed and pose no threat, from the time of their arrest until they are delivered to the interrogation facility, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel charged in a report to be released Sunday morning. The report, titled "Manifestly Illegal," was based on 90 testimonies from detainees and soldiers who witnessed abuse from June 2006 to October 2007. "The arrests go on all year and are carried out by many IDF combat units," read the report, which was compiled by Noam Hofstater. "Thus, it is clear that the cases referred to here are just the tip of the iceberg. The phenomenon is much wider, common and ongoing. [However,] it has become especially severe over the past eight years." The report also accuses the army of failing to punish the abusers, even though their conduct violates Article 65 of the Military Justice Law. According to the law, "A soldier who strikes a lower-ranked soldier, or strikes a person who has been placed under his guard, or abuses him, will be sentenced to up to three years in jail." If the crime is committed in aggravated circumstances, the sentence will be up to seven years in prison. According to the report, the most common times when soldiers abuse detainees are at the moment of detention, while the detainees are being transported to the interrogation facility, or when they are held temporarily in army bases before being transferred to the interrogation facility. The 48-page document is packed with testimony from detainees and, in some cases, from soldiers who witnessed abuse. Abdel Amariya told the committee, "When I got to the Etzion army base, my hands were cuffed behind my back and my eyes were covered with a white tape. They dragged me so that I would get off the truck when I couldn't see anything and they didn't warn me that the truck was high off the ground and that I was approaching the edge. I fell to the ground on my face and knees and they started kicking me in my back, stomach and legs and punched me in the face until I reached the interrogators' room." According to the report, soldiers sometimes use attack dogs to frighten the detainees. They also abuse minors even though there are special protections in Israeli and international law for those under 18 or, in some cases, 16. According to the report, this type of abuse has been going on for many years and the army has done little to stop it. The B'Tselem NGO conducted a similar study for 2005-2008 and said that 49 percent of detainees had been abused at least once between their arrest and transfer to the interrogation facility. Quoting statistics from the IDF Spokesman's Office, the report stated that between 2000 and 2008, the army conducted 427 investigations of soldier violence and filed indictments in 35 cases, including 15 on charges of abuse. According to the army, from January 1, 2005, to July 1, 2007, 138 complaints were lodged against soldiers for allegedly attacking Palestinians. Of these, 77 files were opened and the army recommended charges in 52 of them. The IDF Spokesman's Office said Saturday evening that the army conformed with international and Israeli law, and with its own code of ethics.