A Palestinian woman sits outside of a prison in the Gaza Strip, April 14, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Every time Mariam G. prepares food for her family, sharp pain shoots through her legs and back as a result of the severe torture
she was subjected to in one of Khan Yunis’ police detention centers in southern Gaza. She was held on charges of possessing large quantities of the illegal drug Tramadol
found at her place of residence in October 2014.
Mariam, who lives in Khan Yunis, told Al-Monitor, “During my interrogation, I was savagely beaten and kicked all over my body by male detectives from the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA], which caused me to bleed between my legs. They then tied my hands and struck me on the feet with black knotted batons.”She added, “Afterward, I was transferred to the Ansar prison in Gaza City, where I remained for eight months, and where my fellow prisoners saw the black and blue marks all over my body.”The DEA’s director, Col. Sameh al-Sultan, whom Al-Monitor met at his office, denied the practice of torture by his department’s agents located in police detention centers throughout Gaza’s governorates.He affirmed that police officers never touch female detainees, except if altercations occur during raids on drug dealer houses, where — more often than not — female relatives of the accused attack the officers, who then try to defend themselves. “Trespasses may occur, for we are not angels,” he said.Al-Monitor was given exclusive access to the testimonies of female prisoners inside Ansar prison
, documented by a Gaza human rights organization on condition of anonymity, concerning them being subjected to beatings and torture in police detention centers.The first testimony was given by inmate M.A., 27, who stated that on June 3, 2015, she was assaulted by a man working for the DEA inside the Zahra city police station, where he beat her with plastic batons on her legs, back and head. He subsequently forced her to sit on the floor and extend her legs, striking her feet approximately 200 times, which led to cyanosis and swelling in her toes — all to get her to confess that she was addicted to Tramadol.In her testimony, the prisoner said, “I was brought to the Deir el-Balah district attorney’s office on June 4, and I told them about being beaten, to no avail, despite the visible bruising on my body.” She indicated that she was remanded to the DEA’s custody in the central Gaza Strip police station of Nuseirat, where she was again beaten prior to being transferred to Ansar prison.The director of Ansar prison, Capt. Amal Nawfal, told Al-Monitor in this regard, “When we receive a prisoner with visible bruises, she is referred to the prison physician, after which we send reports to the district attorney’s office, the police and the comptroller general, documenting those cases as part of written complaints.” She added that, for the past year or so, the prison had not received any female prisoners showing signs of beatings.When Sultan of the DEA was provided with a copy of inmate M.A.’s testimony, he told Al-Monitor that the issue would be investigated and reviewed, despite the fact that he gave little credence to the whole affair. “Many of those convicted claim to have been tortured or coerced by force to confess all in order to deny the charges leveled against them or to receive lighter sentences,” he said.A.L., 18, was accused of theft and transferred to a police station nicknamed Abu Arban in Nuseirat on April 19, 2014. Due to her deteriorating psychological condition, A.L. refused to talk to Al-Monitor. But her father, Ahmad L., recounted her story, saying, “They hung her from the rafters and she was violently beaten by police officers, leading to her confessing to a series of crimes that she did not commit.”He said, “My daughter is suffering both emotionally and physically as a result of the torture and beatings suffered at the hands of officers at the police station prior to being transferred to Ansar prison, where she remained for 10 months.”He added, “When I went to the police station to check up on my daughter, I was detained, my hands tied to the ceiling and viciously beaten. The interrogation and beatings continued for a week, after which one of the investigators read me a report accusing me of inflicting harm to myself, to which I replied, ‘How can I tie myself to the ceiling?!’”Article 1 of Chapter 3 of the Palestinian Criminal Procedures Law No. 3 for 2001
— which is enforced in the Gaza Strip — states: “No person may be arrested or imprisoned except by order of the competent authority as designated by law. He must be treated in a manner that will preserve his dignity and may not be physically or morally harmed.”Articles 99 and 100 of Chapter 5 of the same law stipulate: “Before interrogating an accused, the deputy prosecutor must subject him to a physical examination and establish the visible injuries he sees and the reasons for their occurrence. The deputy prosecutor orders medical and psychological examinations of the accused by the competent authorities, either sua sponte when he deems them necessary or at the request of the accused or his counsel.”In its annual 2014 report
, the Independent Commission for Human Rights stated that it received about 750 complaints from citizens claiming that they had been mistreated or tortured during their detention — among them 144 complaints from the West Bank and 606 complaints from the Gaza Strip.Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bazm told Al-Monitor, “The five prisons located in the Gaza Strip are adequate, preserve the human rights of inmates and are under constant scrutiny. On the other hand, some police detention centers are not up to par and do not conform to specifications, because they [do not remain in] permanent locations, as they are repeatedly shelled by the Israelis.”He did confirm, though, that contact may occur between police officers and citizens in those detention centers, but added, “There is no torture or any form of beating there, for these centers are not equipped for such activities,” in reference to these centers not having the equipment used for torture.Bazm added that when and if an accused is beaten, such actions are not indicative of Interior Ministry or security force policies in the Gaza Strip; on the contrary, commissions of inquiry are formed to investigate such infractions.Testimonies by Dalal E., 24, and Nadia E., 48, were obtained by Al-Monitor. They both described similar forms of torture and declared that they were tortured on June 5, 2015, in two central Gaza Strip police detention centers. They were both hung by their hands on iron hooks in the ceiling and beaten with knotted plastic batons in order to force them into confessing to having unlawful intercourse, in reference to having sexual relations outside wedlock.Al-Monitor presented both testimonies to the Palestinian Police spokesman in Gaza, Lt. Col. Ayman al-Batniji, at his office in the Arafat Security City in Gaza. He denied the allegations that they contained and explained that seven supervisory local agencies — including the comptroller general of the Interior Ministry and the police inspector general — monitored the work of police, leading to regular penalties being imposed on police officers in the event of any disciplinary infractions or the leveling of complaints against them by citizens.During Al-Monitor’s meeting with him, Batniji contacted the director of the Bureau of Investigation in the Central Governorate, Maj. Arafat Abu Jiyab, to whom Al-Monitor read both testimonies over the phone. Abu Jiyab categorically denied the existence of torture and said, “They were treated well and humanely,” adding that they were accused of serious moral infractions.Al-Monitor obtained other statements by female prisoners beaten and tortured in police detention centers throughout Gaza’s governorates, who described similar torture methods, as well as similar backgrounds rife with poverty
and broken families, further exacerbated by the disdainful treatment at the hands of some security forces.