Torture in the Middle East

M returns to the prison where he was held, as a political prisoner periodically from the age of 13 until 25.

The picture below shows the Palestinian residential youth activities centre at Al Farah village in the north of the West Bank. During the 1980s the centre was operated by Israeli forces as a prison for juvenile political prisoners.

It was originally built by the British during the mandate between 1923 and 1947.

It remained in this capacity under the Jordanian mandate from 1948. After the state of Israel invaded the West Bank in 1967, it used the site to imprison boys involved in student protests against the Israeli occupation.

Soon there were so many prisoners that tents were erected entirely filling the grounds.

Situated in the heart of Al Farah village, the prison became the centre of many clashes with Israeli forces.

The Israelis abandoned the prison following the 1993 Oslo agreements. The village re-occupied it and used it for youth activities – to prevent any other authority using it as a prison. The village had suffered many losses due to its close proximity.

This is M a friend of mine from Nablus. He is standing in the doorway of what was the interrogation block of the Israeli operated juvenile prison in Al Farah village in the northern West bank.

M was imprisoned by the Israeli authority for various periods from the age of 13 until 25 for taking part in student demonstrations against the Israeli occupation in the West bank during the 80s and 90s.

He was tortured here during his many long interrogations.

“Originally this prison was just for youth but then the Israeli army arrested all the Palestinian school teachers and imprisoned them with us in the cells. We had lessons crammed in all together,” he said, laughing bitterly: “the teachers made us sing all day.”

We walked down a white washed corridor of the interrogation block, looking into narrow cells just 1 metre deep and scarcely wide enough for one person to stand with their arms stretched out to the sides. These cells had one window high up in the back wall.

“We could be in here for days and days,” M recalled. “If we were lucky, we were allowed to use the toilet for two minutes a day. Otherwise, we were forced to go in the cells.”

There were 3 squat toilets at the end of the corridor,
they had no running water.

“I used my two minutes as an opportunity to have a quick wash down with a bottle of water. This place stank, when the Israelis left they had to burn it to clean it.
It is good that it has been preserved to show what happened here”

On one of the walls a prisoner had scratched a calendar.

“Many bad things were done to us here and we have preserved it so we will never forget”, said one of the youth centre workers who was also imprisoned and tortured at Al Farah.

“This is the interrogation room,” said M pointing to a slightly larger room opposite the tiny cells.

“They would put us in the cells opposite so we could hear the others being tortured, sometimes they would just pretend to torture somebody so that we would be terrified when it came to our turn. We would never know if the screams were for real or not”

The isolation room outside was even smaller then the punishment cells. It has no window.

It is just a cupboard 50 cm deep that faces out into the yard. When the door is shut the inmate is enclosed in a dark space exposed to the extremities of temperature.

“If they put us in here, sometimes they would just forget about us, leaving us without food or water for days at a time.”

In the yard was a type of backless concrete chair.

“ They used to put us here for hours, days sometimes, rain or shine and tie our hands like this.”

M demonstrates how he was tied.


The youth worker accompanying us, showed us the wall hooks opposite the concrete back-less chairs where boys would be tied in a crouching position for long periods of time.

 

Convention against Torture.

This convention bans torture under all circumstances and establishes the UN Committee against Torture.

In particular, it defines torture, requires states to take effective legal and other measures to prevent torture, declares that no state of emergency, other external threats, nor orders from a superior officer or authority may be invoked to justify torture.

It forbids countries to return a refugee to his country if there is reason to believe he/she will be tortured, and requires host countries to consider the human rights record of the person’s native country in making this decision.

The CAT requires states to make torture illegal and provide appropriate punishment for those who commit torture.

It requires states to assert jurisdiction when torture is committed within their jurisdiction, either investigate and prosecute themselves, or upon proper request extradite suspects to face trial before another competent court.

It also requires states to cooperate with any civil proceedings against accused torturers.

Each state is obliged to provide training to law enforcement and military on torture prevention, keep its interrogation methods under review, and promptly investigate any allegations that its officials have committed torture in the course of their official duties.

It must ensure that individuals who allege that someone has committed torture against them are permitted to make and official complaint and have it investigated, and, if the complaint is proven, receive compensation, including full medical treatment and payments to survivors if the victim dies as a result of torture.

It forbids states to admit into evidence during a trial any confession or statement made during or as a result of torture.

It also forbids activities which do not rise to the level of torture, but which constitute cruel or degrading treatment.

 

 

 

Penny Constantinople

 

 


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