Ramallah\ ICHR “Ombudsman” has recently issued a special report titled (Citizens’ Complaints and Oversight of Detention Centers during 2009). The report addresses the situation of the Palestinian citizens’ human rights based on the context of complaints and the visits made to the detention centers during 2009. It contains two chapters where the first addresses the conditions of human rights in the West Bank based on complaints and visits made to the detention centers and the second addresses the same issues in the Gaza Strip.
ICHR as an “Ombudsman” continued to receive citizens’ complaints and follow them up with the security and civil institutions of PNA. These complaints hinge on violations of human rights in contravention of the national and international human rights conventions.
It also continued to enhance protection of human rights through monitoring reform and rehabilitation centers and detention centers of the security agencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and security and care homes of the marginalized categories including women and juveniles.
The report written by both lawyers, Sami Jabarin and Subhia Jumeh, shows that ICHR received during 2009 (3442) complaints pertaining to human right violations and encroachment on public freedoms by the security agencies of PNA in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (2449) complaints were received in the West Bank compared to (993) in the Gaza Strip.
It is noticed that the security agencies committed during the period covered by this report the same patterns of violations monitored by ICHR during the previous years. These patterns respectively include: politically-driven detention, violation of public servants’ rights and violation of physical safety of the citizens detained. Other patterns of violation will be addressed later in this report. Death cases occurred during the period covered by this report, in the prisons and detention centers of PNA in the West Bank.
The report categorized the complaints according to the departments these complaints addressed against including the civil ones such as: President’s office; council of ministers and other ministries and public institutions including the governmental departments that are not subject to ministries’ oversight and accountability; judicial departments (Supreme Judicial Council and Public Prosecution); local government authorities which occupied (40%) of the total number of the complaints in the West Bank.
The security departments complained against in the PCT include: civil police (general investigation unit, criminal investigation unit, public administration of reform and rehabilitation centers); general intelligence agency; preventive security agency; military intelligence agency; medical military services, national security force, joint security force, president’s guard force, force 17, organization and management commission and military prosecution. (60%) of the total number of the complaints in the West Bank were against these departments.
The first chapter of the report which highlights human rights situation in the West Bank shows the ongoing violation of citizens’ right to personal freedom in the West Bank due to politically-driven arrests and arbitrary detention. It also highlights ill-treatment, torture and infringement of the right to assume a job in the public sector. ICHR has received a number of complaints against firing public servants for political reasons, freeze of salaries or deprivation of other job-related rights. It also received during the period, this report covers, a number of complaints objecting the structures of some ministries. The number of complaints relating to the right to access to public services, right to freedom of thought and education and environment-related rights went down.
Death cases in detention centers in the West Bank:
Muhammad Gamil Alhaj, 30, from the village of Galkamous in the vicinity of Jenin died in the detention center of the preventive security agency in Jenin.
Haytham Abed-Allah Aubied Amer, 34, from the village of Bet Rush Alfoka died in the detention center of the general intelligence in Hebron.
Fadi Husni Abed-Rahman Hamadneh, 27, from the village of Assera Ashamalia died in the prison of Junied in Nablus while held by the general intelligence agency.
Concerning ill-treatment, ICHR received (164) complaints including (38) relating to ill-treatment and (48) complaints relating to spiritual and physical violence. These violations were received and documented by ICHR while the real number could be more.
The different security agencies in the West Bank maltreated and tortured detainees for their political affiliation, and the patterns of ill-treatment they were exposed to varied. According to the complaints, received by ICHR, these patterns include: beating, psychological pressure, swearing, standing for a long time in difficult position (Shabh), flogging, suspending in the ceiling, blindfolding, solitary confinement, threat, head covering and extinguishing cigarettes on different parts of the body. ICHR also received, during the regular visits its staff made for the detention centers complaints in which complainants claim that they were subject to torture and ill-treatment in the police detention centers.
Concerning the right to fair legal proceedings (politically-driven arbitrary detention), the number of citizens detained for their political affiliation reached during the year of 2009 (523) detainees. The second chapter of the report discusses the violation of human rights in the Gaza Strip. ICHR received (993) complaints including (712) security related complaints and (281) civil complaints. It is worth mentioning that each complaint could include a violation or more of the rights and freedoms stated in the Palestinian law.
Citizens’ complaints about violation of the right to life increased. ICHR received about (32) complaints in this respect.
Concerning death cases in the detention centers in the Gaza Strip, ICHR received (4) complaints:
Zayed Ayesh Jarad, 40, from the governorate of Rafah died in the detention centers of the security agencies in the Gaza Strip.
Gamil Nasir Assaf, 19, from Gaza city, died in Al-shifa’ hospital after being held by the police agency.
Farid Ahmad AAbu Shahmeh, 32, from Khanyounis, died in the detention center of Khanyounis police. Nihad Sade Dabakeh, 47, from Mughazi city died in the detention center of the internal security.
Concerning citizens complaints about personal security (torture, degrading and ill-treatment and physical violence) during detention, ICHR received (160) complaints including (252) violations. The patterns of these violations according to the complaints received are distributed as follows: torture or threat (86) complaints; degrading and ill-treatment (21) and spiritual and physical violence (145) complaints.
Concerning fair legal proceedings- related complaints (arbitrary detention, politically-driven detention, other living conditions in prisons), ICHR received (953) complaints compared to (305) complaints in 2008.
Necessary legal proceedings were not taken into account during most of the arrests in contravention of relevant laws including the Palestinian basic law and criminal procedures law of 2001. Arrests were carried out without arrest warrant from competent departments or judicial police officers. It also shows that unauthorized elements or departments carry out detention and search operations despite the fact that they have no police or judicial jurisdiction.
It adds that they don’t commit themselves to the duration of detention defined by the law (24 hrs), and they don’t bring the detainees before the public prosecution to extend this duration for (48 hrs), either. They sometimes don’t even bring the detainees before the competent court to extend the duration of detention or transfer them to the central prison. They keep them held in the police cells for months without indictment. They sometimes keep them in these cells even after trial and sometimes until they serve their term in prison.
It shows that all search operations which were carried out during detainment were carried out without a search warrant and most of these acts were carried out at the middle of the night or at dawn. Concerning infringement on the right to fair legal proceedings such as detention for political reasons, ICHR received (238) complaints.
Random arrest campaigns were carried out in reaction to events in the West Bank such as what happened in the city of Qalkilia or in anticipation of organizations’ festivities and anniversaries. Detainees in such cases were forced by the authorities to sign documents in which they pledge not to take part in any political activities.
Civilians were held by the military prosecution according to the military procedures law issued by PLC in Gaza in 2008. This law is in force in the Gaza Strip only.
Dozens of the above referenced cases were held in unknown locations especially after Israel demolished all the prisons and detention centers during its major aggression on the Gaza Strip. These detention centers which are used as alternatives lack minimum living standards.
With regard to citizens’ complaints about infringement of their right to peaceful assemblies and associations establishment, ICHR received (25) complaints. These complaints hinged on the security agencies adherent to the Ministry of the Interior banning citizens of organizing peaceful rallies and festivals on different occasions. Some of the organizers of these events were summoned by the security agencies even prior to organizing any of these events.
Concerning infringement on the right to transportation, travel and residence, ICHR received (41) complaints about banning citizens travel and restricting their freedom of movement and residence without a judicial order. The security agencies of the Ministry of the Interior and internal security put such restriction in place barring citizens’ travel through Bet Hanun and Rafah crossings. These complaints show that such measures are taken by the security agencies due to political reasons and the political division which has started since June, 2007.
Concerning citizens complaints relating to infringement of the right to work in the public sector, ICHR received (218) complaints distributed as follows: (206) complaints concerned with public servants’ rights; (8) discrimination in recruitment; (3) arbitrary dismissal of public sector’s staff and one complaint about the right to strike.
Part of the report was allocated for the obstacles facing ICHR in following up these complaints and the deferral or pause ensued as a result of such obstacles. These obstacles include the political division and its consequences in terms of the presence of two governments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and also the inability of identifying the party responsible for the violations. The continuity of the typical response of the formal departments to the legal letters and correspondences addressed to the security agencies in the West Bank by the end of 2008, and the lack of awareness of these departments about the role of ICHR resulting in lack of cooperation and sometimes punishing whoever resorts to ICHR for complaining was part of these obstacles.