(1 October 2019) PNGO & PHROC Condemn the Torture and Ill-Treatment of Samer al-‘Arbeed during Interrogations and while in Israeli Detention

The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) condemn the torture, ill-treatment and critical injury of Samer al-‘Arbeed during detention and interrogation by the Israeli occupying forces. It should be noted that the Israeli “Shin Bet” was granted permission by an Israeli judicial body to allow for the use of “exceptional ways to investigate” and interrogate Samer al- ‘Arbeed amounting to torture.[1]

On Wednesday, 25 September 2019, Israeli occupying forces arrested Samer al-‘Arbeed,  44, from in front of his workplace in Ramallah. His wife, alongside other eyewitnesses, witnessed the Israeli forces brutally beating Samer. He was then taken to al-Mascobiyya (Russian Compound) in Jerusalem where he was denied access to his lawyer. The following day, 26 September, Samer had a court session without his lawyer. According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, during the court session, Samer told the judge that he suffers from severe pain in his chest, unable to eat and that he throws up continually.[2] Samer was transferred to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem on 27 September although the lawyer and his family did not learn about his transfer until Saturday, 28 September, at approximately 8:00 pm. According to Addameer’s lawyer who saw Samer for a short period of time at around 1:30 am on 29 September, Samer was in critical situation, unconscious, had several broken ribs and on a respirator, suffered severe kidney failure and had marks all over his body.

Despite ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture in 1991, Israel has systemically used torture and ill-treatment against Palestinian prisoners as a form of punishment or to extract confessions. Torture and ill-treatment continue to be codified in Israeli military and civil law, where physical pressure and extreme mechanisms during interrogations may be used as “necessity defense”.[3] Since 1967, 220 Palestinian prisoners were killed or died in Israeli custody, 73 of whom died due to torture.[4]

Torture is prohibited under international law. Under customary international law, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, are prohibited.[5] Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits “cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” of civilians and persons hors de combat. The Four Geneva Conventions prohibit torture and cruel treatment, such as Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits torture and “other measures of brutality”. Torture, inhuman treatment and the willful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and are war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In addition, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment provides that the prohibition of torture is absolute and non-derogable and that no “exceptional circumstances whatsoever” may be invoked as a justification of torture. In 2016, the Committee against Torture recommended Israel to incorporate in its domestic law the principle of the absolute prohibition of torture.

In light of the above, PNGO and PHROC call upon:  
  • Third States, the International Committee of the Red Cross and relevant UN bodies to ensure Samer al-‘Arbeed receives the necessary medical treatment and urge Israel to release him;
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Samer al-‘Arbeed in hospital and open an investigation into his torture and ill-treatment;
  • The relevant UN bodies and mechanisms to exhaust available avenues to end Israel’s systemic and sanctioned practice of torture and ill-treatment against Palestinians, notably Palestinian prisoners;
  • The international community to take concrete measures to hold Israel accountable to their responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law, particularly those relevant to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment
[1] See, Al-Jazeera, ‘Palestinian detainee hospitalized after Israeli interrogation’, 30 September 2019, available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/palestinian-detainee-hospitalised-israeli-interrogation-190930054310899.html and Amnesty International, ‘Israel/OPT: Legally-sanctioned torture of Palestinian detainee left him in critical condition’, 30 September 2019, available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/09/israel-opt-legally-sanctioned-torture-of-palestinian-detainee-left-him-in-critical-condition/
[2] Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, ‘Addameer: Prisoner Samer al-‘Arbeed in a Critical Health Situation due to Torture’, 29 September 2019, available at: http://www.addameer.org/news/addameer-prisoner-samer-al-%E2%80%99rbeed-critical-health-situation-due-torture
[3] Al-Haq, ‘Palestinian Detainee Dies in Israeli Custody – PHROC: Israeli authorities bear responsibility for Palestinian Prisoners’ Life and Protection from Medical Negligence, Torture and Ill-Treatment’, 24 July 2019, available at: http://www.alhaq.org/palestinian-human-rights-organizations-council/14691.html
[4] Ibid.