PCHR Calls for Investigation into Death Circumstances of Detainee in Military Intelligence Prison, West Bank
Date: 20 October 2022
Time: 22:00 GMT
On Wednesday evening, 19 October 2022, Major General Talal Dweikat, General Political Commissar and Spokesperson for the Security Services, announced “the death of Mohammed Tariq al-Banna, from Qalqiliya, by suicide in one of the Palestinian security centers.”
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is concerned over the recurrence of such incidents at the Palestinian detention centers and calls upon the Public Prosecution to open an investigation into the death circumstances and release the results to the public.
According to PCHR’s investigations, at around 18:00 on Monday, 17 October 2022, a force arrived in two civilian cars in Kafr Saba area, Qalqiliya, and a well-known Palestinian Military Intelligence officer stepped out of one of the cars with 4 other security members in military uniforms and arrested Mohammed Tariq al-Banna (28), who was sitting with his uncle and another person in front of their house in the area. They confiscated Mohammed’s pistol and took him with them. While at night, the family was informed to bring him clothes and cigarettes.
His sister, Falastin (26), said to PCHR’s fieldworker that after his arrest, the family received a call from someone introducing himself from the Palestinian Intelligence Service. He told them that Mohammed was under arrest on grounds of a cheque and would stay in prison for 91 days. The next day, his cousin went to the Military Intelligence Prison in Qalqiliya to give Mohammed the clothes and cigarettes, but security officers there told him that he was not in the prison as he was referred to the Central Intelligence Prison in Ramallah. She added that they were shocked late at night on Wednesday, 19 October, with the announcement of her brother’s death by suicide. She said that when her brother, “Mohammed was arrested, he was in good shape and did not suffer any psychological problems.”
Nabeel Mohammed Mahmoud Hawtari (57), Mohammed’s maternal uncle, said to PCHR’s fieldworker that at around 23:30 on Wednesday they learnt about Mohammed’s death in the Central Prison after hanging himself. He added that afterwards, they gathered in front of their house when Qalqiliya’s Governor, Rafe’a Rawajbah, arrived with 2 other officials informing them about Mohammed’s death and that his body will be autopsied. On Thursday, 20 October 2022, in the morning, the body was autopsied by a medical examiner at Abu Dis University Hospital in the presence of a family doctor and representative from the Independent Commission for Human Rights.
A doctor engaged in the autopsy confirmed to PCHR’s fieldworker “hanging as the cause of death because there were marks on the neck and a bruised lung, indicating lack of oxygen due to hanging.”
According to the security services spokesperson, Mohammed al-Banna was arrested upon many arrest warrants issued against him on criminal grounds. The announcement added that human rights organizations and the Public Prosecution were informed of his death; thus, they initiated an investigation into the incident to identify the death circumstances and publish the results.
PCHR emphasizes that investigating the suspicious death circumstances at detention centers is not only limited to autopsy, but it should include visiting the scene, where the death occurred, checking the surveillance camera recordings in the detention center, hearing the testimonies of investigators and checking the daily investigation records, hearing the testimonies of the investigators and eyewitnesses, including the detainees and warders who were with him in the detention cell or next to it in addition to the guards, examining the suicide instrument and its source and finally reviewing the integrity of arrest procedures.
PCHR emphasizes that the General Directorate of the Rehabilitation and Reform Centers, the Ministry of Interior and Public Prosecution are all fully responsible for the life of the detainees and for occurrence of such incidents regardless of the reasons, as codified in Article (7) of the Rehabilitation and Reform Centers Law no. 6/1998, which provides that “… inmates in any prison remain under the legal guardianship of the prison director….” Moreover, PA has international obligations under the first rule of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”, which stipulates that “…. the safety and security of prisoners…. shall be ensured at all times.”
Accordingly, PCHR calls upon the Public Prosecution to open a serious investigation into the death circumstances, including the integrity of arrest procedures, especially that the deceased was civilian, his charges were criminal, and he was detained at the Military Intelligence Prison and not in a police station as so often in such cases. PCHR also demands validation of the security and integrity procedures at the detention centers to guarantee the integrity of the detainees, including their attempts to harm themselves, publish the results to the public and take all the necessary legal proceedings.