The torture culture on the West Bank is an open secret

Cruel and vicious treatment of detainees has been endemic for decades, despite millions of pounds in British taxpayers' money being spent on training Palestinian security forces to make them more 'accountable'


Torture on the West Bank — particularly in the notorious Jericho basement interrogation centre known as the “slaughterhouse” — has been endemic for decades, despite tens of millions of pounds in British taxpayers' money being spent on training Palestinian security forces and making them more “accountable”.

Some victims have defied threats from the Palestinian Authority (PA) to break their silence about their suffering. Speaking to the JC in Ramallah on condition of anonymity, a man who had been detained at the “slaughterhouse” for 40 days said:

“They beat me on the hands and the arms. They placed me in stress positions and beat me on the legs and on my feet. When I told them I was suffering from toothache, they broke my tooth. This was so painful I thought I was going to die.”

The 42-year-old, who had been accused of planning a terrorist attack on a police station, was later released without charge.

Similar evidence has been published in reports by human rights organisations for years. In 2018, Human Rights Watch said torture by Palestinian forces appeared to be a “crime against humanity”, adding in June this year that abuse remained “systemic”.

The international community is aware of the problem. In July, the UN Committee Against Torture said it was “seriously concerned” by the “consistent reports” of torture taking place in Palestinian detention centres and police stations.

But Ziyad Habalreeh, the PA’s Minister of the Interior, told the committee that “Palestine is opposed to torture” while Israel “legalises and sanctions it”.
In response, however, the only action taken by the UN was to recommend that the PA “prosecute torturers and punish them”.

This has made little difference. Only last week, journalist Mujahed Tabjana, who had been detained after publicly criticising the PA, was freed from Juneid prison in Nablus.

He said: “I was beaten on arrival. I was hit with a hose, kicked, placed in stress positions for many hours, asked about my work and my friends and colleagues. This went on for days and nights.”

One sadistic technique that has become widespread, the JC has learnt, is forcing a prisoner to try to climb a picture of a ladder painted on a wall and beating him when he fails, inflicting both psychological and physical torture at once.

More traditional methods include “shabbeh”, or tying victims up in stress positions which become agonising over time. In one pose, known as the “banana”, a prisoner is hog-tied while bent backwards over a chair.

Human rights lawyer Michael Teplow, 61, who for 25 years has represented hundreds of Palestinians fleeing PA brutality to claim asylum in Israel, said:

“Human rights are just a theory taught on the blackboard. Evil has got into the system, and if you don’t cut off systemic evil, it will continue to grow.”

Some victims are women who have been raped multiple times. “Women’s bodies create opportunities,” Mr Teplow said. “Afterwards, it’s even more devastating. In Arab culture, the impact is appalling, because what they went through is seen as a mark of Cain.”

Despite graphic evidence of torture coming to light numerous times as Mr Teplow represented his clients at asylum courts, the PA — which receives billions of pounds of international aid — has been put under no pressure to reform, he said.

“For well over two decades I have consistently heard similar stories from victims of PA interrogations,” he said.

“The PA has a standard operating procedure for torture. The exact same methods are used in 90 per cent of cases, whether they’re from Jericho, Nablus, Hebron or Jenin. It’s clear that all the interrogators had the same training in how to break a person.”

In the two decades since he started representing victims, the torturers have become more adept at inflicting pain without leaving scars, he said.

Not only has Britain been responsible for training the forces who have perpetrated torture since 2008, it has repeatedly boasted how its efforts are safeguarding human rights.

Britain is working to “improve the accountability of the security forces” and to “promote their professionalisation, including on human rights”, said a Government report issued in 2011.

It added: “Our assessment is that the PA leadership is committed to strengthening human rights and is making good progress.”

Further UK documents compiled in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 made almost identical claims.

In reality, while British officers may not have taught torture techniques to Palestinian trainees, Mr Teplow added, they have failed to take action to stop it.

“Through its long term support of the PA, the West has become complicit with evil,” he told the JC.

“Western countries need to recognise the reality in the field and clearly state, OK, for 25 years we’ve seen the way the PA operates, and it is critical to demand that it be reorganised.

“Instead, the West continues to indulge in its fantasy that somehow they are making a difference, while ignoring and even contributing to the growth of a very evil force.”

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