Palestinian bystanders, protesters, minors, and attorneys were subjected to 'systemic' torture in an Israeli police station in Nazareth, a new report reveals.
In Israel’s Nazareth, police ran a “torture room” for Palestinian detainees, a report by legal center and human rights organisation Adalah reveals, indicating the use of systemic violence against Palestinians.
The organisation’s lawyers cite testimonies of former Palestinian detainees who were arrested in May during a police crackdown amid widespread protests in the country against the forced expulsion of native families from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The Israeli police detained more than 1,900 Palestinian citizens of Israel in a few days following May 9.
According to the report, the detainees were taken to a room located on the left side of the police station and their heads were slammed against its walls. Handcuffed and bruised, the police kicked every part of their bodies and used more violence if any of them attempted to raise their heads.
Not only the protesters, but also minors, bystanders, paramedics and even attorneys were among the detained and were affected by the abuse they faced at the police station, the report revealed.
The torture experienced by the detainees in Nazareth police station violates the human rights as well as the limited rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, Adalah attorneys Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi and Wesam Sharaf said in a letter, emphasising that these rights included liberty, dignity, and bodily integrity and right to counsel.
Omaiyer Lawabne, a Nazareth resident who was detained by the police among other Palestinians, agrees the violence he was subjected to was illegal and pointless.
He was withdrawing cash from an ATM machine when he was detained on the last day of Ramadan, he said in his testimony. He was out to celebrate the Muslim holiday with his friends and hadn't been to the area where protests took place.
Next, he saw one Israeli police officer in full riot gear running towards him firing stun grenades. He was then knocked to the ground, kicked and punched. The beatings continued until he was taken to “the room” where he found detainees who looked like "prisoners of war," as they sat curled up on the floor with their bodies displaying signs of torture.
After receiving more violent blows, Lawabne started bleeding from the head. Unmoved by the sight of his blood, the officers used the waterboarding torture technique, drowning his head in the water.
After the arrival of the ambulance, the officer who hit Lawabne in the head didn’t allow him to tell paramedics what had caused the bleeding.
“The officer – in an attempt to cover up my accusation – rejected my explanation and said, "Wrong. You were hit by a rock" [thrown during the demonstration],” when he attempted to explain that the officers had beaten him with some object.
“I replied that I was not at the demonstration at all, and that police had in fact photographed me at the entrance to the station without any wounds and without bleeding,” Lawabne said in his testimony.
Adalah says the police denied urgent medical treatment of the detainees after the beatings, while ambulances made regular visits to pick up wounded Palestinians almost every night in the course of a few days of protests.
The detainees appeared in the court with visible signs of excessive violence and torture.
Adalah filed a formal complaint against Israeli officers on June 7, 2021.
"What happened inside the police station in Nazareth amounts to torture and ill-treatment, and requires the immediate opening of a criminal investigation to examine the circumstances and conditions of the protesters' detention at the station – including the investigation and prosecution of police officers involved in the violence," Adalah attorneys said.
Mounting evidence documenting Israeli police’s torture method
Adalah’s report comes as the latest of claims of rampant, systemic Israeli police torture of Palestinians.
In one of the most recent incidents, Israeli policemen were captured torturing a Palestinian after detaining him in Jerusalem.
Children are particularly affected by Israeli detention. Israeli security forces arrested hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel in May, and one in five of them were children.
On May 12, a group of Palestinian children who were blindfolded and handcuffed appeared on an Israeli soldier’s Instagram stories. Most of the children looked sedated and one of them was half-naked. According to a 2019 report by the Palestinian Ministry of Information, up to 95 per cent of Palestinian children are being tortured during detention.
The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRTC) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), in the past, demanded Israel’s Ministry of Health follow ethical obligations while asking Israeli doctors to avoid any involvement in the torturing of Palestinians and take a stance against it.