On Thursday, 12 November 2015, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a panel discussing the results and recommendations of a new report titled “Crimes of Torture in Palestinian Prisons and Detention Centers” from June 2014 – June 2015 in PCHR’s head office in Gaza City. The panel discussion was attended by representatives from security services in Gaza, Comptroller General of Security Services and representatives from human rights organizations.
The panel was opened by Mr. Hamdi Shaqoura, PCHR’s Deputy Director for Program Affairs, who explained that the aim of the panel was to discuss seriously the mechanisms to confront torture in the Palestinian Authority, especially after Palestine’s accession to a number of international conventions, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Shaqoura stressed that the crime of torture is not subject to the statute of limitations, and the absence of local accountability mechanisms allows prosecution of perpetrators from a third party according to the Torture Convention. Moreover, he displayed the most prominent topics covered in the report, as the cases of torture and maltreatment in the Palestinian Prisons and Detention Centers continued in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Mrs. Ahlam al-Aqra’, lawyer at PCHR’s Legal Aid Unit, presented the complaints filed by the unit to the offices of the Attorney General and the Comptroller General and the replies received from the two offices. In addition, she displayed photos relevant to some torture cases received lately by the unit, as they show torture and degrading treatment.
Lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, highlighted that the panel was organized to have a dialogue between human rights organizations and security services to conclude recommendations that would improve the performance of security services to maintain the Palestinian dignity. Sourani also said that human rights organizations speak out of national and moral responsibility that does not contradict with the professional duty they hold. He stressed that our strength lies in our moral and legal superiority over the Israeli occupation the practices wide-scale violations.
Representatives of Palestinian security services and the Comptroller General underscored that they are not adopting a systematic policy of torture and that any violations are committed by individuals. Besides, there are supervisory mechanisms on all levels whether from the Comptroller General’s office or different security services. The representatives stressed that complaints filed by human rights organizations and individuals are taken seriously and responsibly, and necessary measures are taken against those proven to be involved in any violations. However, investigations are not published.
Lawyer Sobhiya Jom’aah, Director of Documentation and Complaints Unit at the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), presented statistics on complaints received by ICHR since the beginning of the year regarding torture, degrading treatment and assault on physical safety in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
By the end of the meeting, the participants highlighted the significance of promoting cooperation between the supervisory bodies in security services and human rights organizations. They agreed on holding another meeting to enhance cooperation between human rights organizations and supervisory bodies at the Ministry of Interior.