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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

UN Human Rights head details Palestinians being "beaten, humiliated, subjected to ill-treatment" by Israeli forces

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A damning report released January 19 by the head of UN Human Rights Office Occupied Palestinian Territory, Ajith Sunghay details how Palestinian prisoners -- many of them civilians and believed to number in the thousands -- are being held without charge, in secrecy and are "being beaten, humiliated, subjected to ill-treatment, and to what may amount to torture."

The report begins by that we "are reaching yet another staggering milestone in Gaza – nearly 25,000 people reported killed, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Seventy per cent of them women and children. Another 61,500 – at least – have been injured. Several thousands more are under the rubble, many presumed dead."

Sunghay, who has been in Rafah in Gaza since Monday, talks of how it "is a pressure cooker environment here, in the midst of utter chaos, given the terrible humanitarian situation, shortages, and pervasive fear and anger. The communications blackout has continued for a sixth consecutive day, adding to the confusion and fear, and preventing Gazans from accessing services and information on areas to evacuate."

Meanwhile, heavy "bombardment of Middle Gaza and Khan Younis is clearly visible and audible from Rafah – especially at night".

Sunghay has also spoken to released Palestinian detainees. They "were detained by Israeli Security Forces in unknown locations for between 30 to 55 days. They described being beaten, humiliated, subjected to ill-treatment, and to what may amount to torture. They reported being blindfolded for long periods – some of them for several consecutive days. One man said he had access to a shower only once during his 55 days in detention. There are reports of men who were subsequently released – but only in diapers, without any adequate clothing in this cold weather."


What they told me was consistent with reports our Office has been gathering of the detention of Palestinians on a broad scale, including many civilians, held in secrecy, often subject to ill-treatment, with no access to their families, lawyers or effective judicial protection. The families of detainees – believed to number in the thousands – have not been provided with information on the fate or location of their loved ones.

He ends by demanding that all prisoners be either charged or released and that the widespread reports of abuse and mistreatment be investigated and those responsible be held to account.

Israel has a long and troubling history of detaining Palestinians both in the West Bank and Gaza -- many of them children -- without proper charges being laid or without the ability to defend themselves in a civilian court.

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