Jerusalem Court Rules: Palestinian Authority Forces Tortured Dozens Suspected of Cooperating With Israel

Ruling shows clear pattern of Palestinian forces' actions, which included abductions, severe beatings, abuse, sleep deprivation and constant threat of death

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Members of the Palestinian special police force show their skills during a training session in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 16, 2014.
Members of the Palestinian special police force show their skills during a training session in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 16, 2014.Credit: AP
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

The Palestinian Authority regularly tortured and abused both Israelis and Palestinians suspected of cooperating with Israel, states a precedent-setting Israeli ruling released on Wednesday. The ruling documented dozens of cases involving extreme measures used against those accused of collaborating with Israeli security forces.

The court ordered the Palestinian Authority to compensate the victims. The amount of compensation has not yet been set by the court, which only ruled that the PA has the obligation to compensate the plaintiffs who were illegally imprisoned, tortured and in some cases, kidnapped first.

The cases were filed by a number of Palestinians and Israeli citizens – mostly Arabs but at least one Jew – who were tortured by Palestinian security forces mainly in the 1990s and early 2000s. The ruling reveals the torture methods used by the security forces and how they kidnapped the victims. Some were abducted in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli civil and security control, and even in Jerusalem, where Palestinian forces are not allowed to operate.

A clear pattern of the PA security forces' actions over the years emerges from the ruling. In a few cases, the victims were summoned for a “five-minute” talk, arrested and held for months without a trial or access to legal representation. The torture methods they describe are usually similar, and include severe beatings, sleep deprivation, pulling and breaking the detainees' teeth, preventing them from bathing or using the bathroom and constant threats of death.

Sometimes victims were tortured to death, including one man who appears to have died in a Nablus prison in 2002. In that case, the court held the Palestinian Authority responsible for his death.

Judge Moshe Yair Drori of the Jerusalem District Court stated in his almost 2,000-page ruling that Israeli courts have the authority to rule in cases where the people who were tortured are Israeli citizens or who were kidnapped from areas where Palestinian Authority security forces are not allowed to operate – or those who were tortured because they cooperated with Israel. In some cases, the court did not award compensation to the victims because the torture they endured was not related to collaboration with Israel or because their arrests by the PA were conducted according to local law or in a manner that left the Israeli court no authority to intervene.

The judge provided a very long list of the harsh methods used in torturing the victims: The prisoners were often held in metal boxes in the blazing heat, had their sex organs bound and mutilated, were kept in sewage and excrement and were gagged with feces-covered rags; they had objects inserted into their anuses, suspended in various positions, exposed to the cold while they were naked, had their bones broken and had shoes placed into their mouths; security forces put cigarettes out on their skin, inserted sharp objects under their fingernails and also pulled them out with pliers, spat on them, poured boiling plastic on their skin and covered their bodies with a sweet substance that attracted insects, and more. Victims were also prevented from receiving medical treatment.

The victims who suffered these abuses, both Palestinians and Israeli citizens, were held without trial or access to legal representation solely because they were suspected of cooperating with Israel.

The court will now conduct in-depth examinations of all the cases with evidence of torture in which it found the Palestinian Authority to have “primary liability” in order to determine the specific amount of compensation to be paid to the victims.

The ruling describes dozens of cases of people who were tortured. In one case, a man was abducted in 2001 from Jerusalem. The man, a Palestinian, had received Israeli citizenship seemingly for his cooperation with Israeli authorities and lived in Jerusalem. In his testimony, the man said that his father had cancer and was hospitalized in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, just outside Bethlehem. He received a phone call saying his father’s condition had worsened and was asked to come quickly to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, where his father had supposedly been transferred.

When he arrived to the hospital, which is located in an area under Israeli jurisdiction, he was arrested by Palestinian security forces and brought to Palestinian Authority territory. “They beat me on the main road [in Jerusalem] and forced me into a car and brought me to Bethlehem,” said the man. He was tortured for over a year, beaten with metal bars and plastic pipes, had cigarettes extinguished on his body and was left hanging in the air for hours. When he told the people holding him that he was an Israeli citizen, they just beat him more.

There are many other instances of abduction and torture of Palestinians who had been granted Israeli citizenship for cooperating with Israel.

In another case, which the court dismissed because it lacked the authority to rule on it, a man said Palestinian Authority security forces arrested him as revenge for something that happened when he was four years old, although they gave the reason that he was a collaborator.

In at least one case the victim was an Israeli Jew. The man, a doctor, has both French and Israeli citizenship. In 2001 he was arrested in Nablus after going to visit his mother, who was married to a Palestinian and lived there. He says he was close to death while being tortured because he had undergone a heart operation only a short time earlier. After being tortured and held without food or water for a few days, he signed a document confessing that he was an Israeli intelligence agent and agreed to convert to Islam. He was robbed of 600,000 shekels before being released to the Israeli army.

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