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Torture in Israeli jails

May 3, 2013

A report based on interviews with former Palestinian prisoners and detainees

by UFree Network Media centre

Israel is considered by both international human rights organizations and media polls as one of the worst countries regarding human rights abuses. Amnesty International and Middle East Monitor issued various reports in which they expressed concerns about the Israeli’s practices.

Arafat Jaradat, 30, tortured to death in Israeli prison 0218-2313 by AFP
Palestinians mourn the death of Arafat Jaradat, 30, tortured to death in an Israeli prison over only six days, Feb. 18-23, 2013. He leaves behind a pregnant widow and two children. The Israeli Prison Service claimed he died of a heart attack, but the autopsy showed he was in excellent cardiovascular health. He had sustained, however, a total of six broken bones in his spine, arms and legs. Since 1967, 72 Palestinians have been tortured to death and 53 have died due to medical neglect. When Jaradat died, 3,000 prisoners refused meals and impassioned protests erupted across the West Bank. – Photo: AFP
A BBC World Service poll in 2007 revealed that Israel is perceived by the majority of people as having a negative influence in the world, and a more recent public poll carried out in Norway and Germany circumscribed Israel as “a hostile entity.” This negative image of Israel is caused by its frequent violations of international law since its forced establishment in 1948.

Since the occupation of Palestine in 1948, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned. From 1967 onwards, over 700,000 Palestinians – 20 percent of the population of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip – have been detained. This number represents approximately 40 percent of the total male Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories.

International law sets the foundation for humane and fair treatment of prisoners, assuring that prisoners are not humiliated or tortured. Several countries, including Israel, deny these laws and regulations and practice different forms of humiliation and torture.

Israel is considered by both international human rights organizations and media polls as one of the worst countries regarding human rights abuses.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees are exposed to unfair trials, administrative detention, solitary confinement and are deprived of seeing their families. In addition, physical and psychological torture is exerted by Israeli security services. This report reveals the different methods used by Israeli forces to torture Palestinian political prisoners and is based on interviews with former Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees: a political issue

Detention and imprisonment became one of the tools for Israeli forces to oppress the Palestinian people calling for freedom and self-determination. This led to never-ending arrest campaigns that imprisoned hundreds of thousands Palestinians over the past seven decades. According to Addameer Detention Report, there were 4,812 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers in February 2013, including 178 administrative detainees, 12 women and 219 children – 31 under the age of 16.

UFree Network, established to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, mentioned in previous reports that there are no juvenile prisons for Palestinians. As a result, children often serve their sentences in the same cells as adults. More than 6,000 Palestinian children have been detained since 2000.

In February 2013 there were 219 Palestinian prisoners and detainees under 18, more than 10 percent of them being under the age of 16. A large number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees are accused of executing acts of terrorism or participating in such acts. However, those prisoners were calling for freedom and self-determination, but they did not select terrorism as the appropriate strategy.

Living conditions in prisons

In addition to the arbitrary practice of administrative detention, the restrictions on family visits and the practice of torture, Palestinian prisoners and detainees are denied access to basic health services. Israeli authorities refuse to provide the needed medications to prisoners suffering various health problems. On different occasions, the prison authorities were reported to give prisoners with chronic health disease solely pain killers.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a report issued by the Justice Ministry’s Public Defender’s Office revealed widespread overcrowding, inadequate access to medical care, poor hygienic conditions and excessive punitive measures in most Israeli facilities. In a recent report by the Independent Commission for Human Rights, the organization stated that they are “gravely concerned over the extreme deterioration of the Palestinian prisoners’ conditions in the Israeli prisons and detention centers.”

Torture in Israeli jails: methods used

Israel uses both physical and psychological torture methods while interrogating Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Recently, Arafat Shalsh Jaradat, 30, was murdered by Israeli intelligence – Mossad – while he was under extreme torture in Majdo prison facility. Jaradat died due to a heart attack because of heavy beating.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees are exposed to unfair trials, administrative detention, solitary confinement and are deprived of seeing their families. Physical and psychological torture is exerted by Israeli security services.

The torture methods and its duration vary from one detainee to another, but their overall goal is to intimidate prisoners and seek information that, in many cases, does not exist. This report reveals the main methods used by Israeli forces to torture Palestinian political prisoners.

The methods of torture were obtained by UFree through a series of interviews with former Palestinian prisoners and detainees. For the sake of clarity, the methods are divided into two categories: physical and psychological methods. However, many of the methods used are a combination of both physical and psychological torture.

Physical methods

  1. Repeatedly beating or kicking the prisoner in different parts of the body – head, hands, face, abdomen, back, genitalia – using hands and/or metal tools. Sometimes the prisoners’ hands were being tied to the wall or to metal bars during the beatings. Former prisoners also reported to have been beaten deliberately on wounds and injuries caused earlier.
  2. Tying the prisoners’ hands and/or legs together for a long period of time. Former prisoners reported to have been tied to the ceiling through their hands and legs. Others have been tied and left in the rain or cold weather for a long period of time.
  3. Shaking prisoners violently. This is being done by investigators who change from time to time.
  4. Forcing the prisoner to sit on a small chair – chairs for kindergarten kids – for long hours and sometimes days. This is associated with covering the head with a dirty plastic clothing bag. While the prisoner is in this position, he is exposed to very loud music and deprived of sleep.
  5. Forcing the prisoner to remain standing for a long period of time.
  6. Forcing the prisoner to sleep on the floor without mattress, even during wintertime. Former prisoners also reported they were forced to sleep while sitting on the floor.
  7. Blindfolding a prisoner and dragging him or her on the stairs.
  8. Spraying gas in the face of a prisoner and using electric shocks against them.
  9. Pulling out the hair of the prisoner.
  10. Pouring cold water on the prisoner while asleep.
  11. Suffocating the prisoner by putting his head in the water and telling him that he will be drowned to death.

Psychological methods

  1. Placing the prisoner on a chair with his head covered whilst meanwhile drops of water hit the head regularly.
  2. Depriving the prisoner from food for a long period of time or providing the prisoner old or spoiled food.
  3. Exposing the prisoner to loud music for a long period of time.
  4. Using military and police dogs to frighten the prisoners. Investigators threaten prisoners the dogs will be unleashed and will attack the prisoner.
  5. Threatening the prisoner will be sexually abused. Former prisoners reported being forced to be nearly naked.
  6. Speaking negatively about the prisoner’s family members and/or threatening the prisoner that their family members will be caused harm. Some former prisoners reported being threatened that their wife would be sexually abused.
  7. Depriving the prisoner from defecating or urinating for a long period of time. Other former prisoners reported being forced to defecate or urinate in front of prison inmates.
  8. Telling the prisoner, wrongfully, that his family will visit him today. Other former prisoners were wrongfully informed that one or more family members passed away.
  9. Spitting in the prisoner’s face.
  10. Forcing the prisoner to verbally abuse his/her religious and national symbols.
  11. Jailing some of the relatives of the prisoner and torturing them in front of the prisoner.

Legal background

The treatment of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees is a violation of Articles 32, 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The use of torture methods is not in line with Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). According to Conor Foley of the University of Essex and the Human Rights Centre, torture is also prohibited in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), the American Convention on Human Rights (1978) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981).

Additionally, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987) and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (1985) reject the use of torture methods.

Conclusions and recommendations

Palestinian prisoners and detainees face the arbitrary practice of administrative detention, restrictions on family visits, the denial of medical care and the practice of torture. This report reveals the most frequently mentioned methods of torture practiced by Israeli forces against Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

The documented methods were obtained through interviewing former Palestinian prisoners and detainees and violate international law. The international community must meet its legal obligation by putting pressure on Israel to abide by international law and the treaties cited above. UFree therefore recommends the following:

  1. European Union-Israeli relations should be frozen until the latter abides by international law.
  2. United Nations and its agencies must expose Israeli crimes and save the lives of Palestinian prisoners. Press releases and condemnations are not adequate any more; freezing Israeli participation in the U.N. meetings is a step in the right direction.
  3. Palestinian Authority should freeze its security contacts with Israel and take action to stop its human rights violations.
  4. Civil society organizations must engage in exposing the atrocities perpetrated by Israel. The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) campaign can be the cornerstone of any steps in this direction.

This report was documented and compiled by the Media Centre of the UFree Network, an independent European-wide human rights network set up to defend the rights of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees. They can be reached at or or email or The network can also be found on Facebook, followed on Twitter and subscribed to on YouTube. Join their email list at



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