Palestinian Detainee ends 10 day hunger strike in protest of conditions of detention and torture

Press Release - November 08, 2002
Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association is concerned for the safety and well being of Palestinian detainee ‘Adel Jamil Al Hidmeh, who today ended a ten day hunger strike in protest of his conditions of detention and the inhumane treatment he was subject to while under interrogation by the Israeli General Security Services (GSS). ‘Adel began his hunger strike on 30 October 2002 in the Netzan section of Ramle Prison, protesting his illegal detention in a prison cell amongst criminal prisoners where he was being physically threatened by his cellmate. This followed a period of 29 days in interrogation at the Russian Compound (Muscobiyeh) Interrogation Center, where he was tortured by interrogators from the GSS, and then issued a 6-month administrative detention order. On 8 November 2002, ‘Adel’s attorney Mohammad Na’amneh was informed that the Israeli State Attorney and the GSS submitted a letter to the Israeli Minister of Defence to transfer ‘Adel to a different prison. ‘Adel ended his hunger strike when he was informed of the decision for transfer. However, his health remains weak following 10 days of hunger strike and the effects of the physical torture he was subjected to during his interrogation.
‘Adel Jamil Al Hidmeh, a 41 year old Jerusalemite, was arrested by Israeli special forces from his home in Wadi Al Joze on 25 September 2002 at 11 p.m. Special forces units arrived at his home after spending an hour conducting house-to-house searches within his neighborhood. ‘Adel was arrested at the door of his house, handcuffed and blindfolded while still in his pajamas, and then transported directly to the Russian Compound (Muscobiyeh) Interrogation Center in Jerusalem, where he was immediately interrogated. On 26 September 2002, after his detention was renewed for 10 days, ‘Adel was informed by his interrogators that they had obtained permission from the Director of the GSS to use “all means of torture during his interrogation because he had been classified as a ‘ticking bomb’” and that the decision was based on the “submission of secret evidence they had received in his case”.
For the first five days of his interrogation, ‘Adel was interrogated in 8-10 hour sessions, with a break during lunch time for no longer than half an hour, and in the mornings for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Throughout his interrogation, ‘Adel was prevented from sleeping, punched and slapped forcefully on the face, hands cuffed and placed in front of his body. He was forced to lie on the floor, placing his legs across the seat of a chair and through the back of the chair, with his legs shackled to the side of the seat back for several hours at a time. He was forced to squat (’gambaz’) with his hands cuffed behind his back for several consecutive hours. He was also made to sit on a chair with his hands shackled and raised behind the back of the seat and placed on a table behind him for 8 hours. On other occasions, his interrogators shackled his arms just below his elbows and squeezed the cuffs until the circulation to his lower arms was cut off. On numerous occasions, ‘Adel would pass out as a result of the strain to his body, only to be punched and slapped in the face while on the ground and at the same time being told by his interrogators they would remove the cuffs only when he would start talking about the accusations against him and work with his interrogators. At one point, ‘Adel lost the ability to move his left eye.
For several days after, ‘Adel’s interrogators began to psychologically torture him, threatening that they would deport him, arrest his wife, seal and demolish his home, revoke his Jersualem ID card, destroy his academic career at Hebrew University and that of his other Arab colleagues, then inform them that their lives had been destroyed because of him. Throughout his interrogation he was told that he would be placed in administrative detention unless he confessed to what they wanted. One of the interrogators threatened that he would personally be responsible for working towards the destruction of his life and the lives of his wife and children, personally ensuring that his reputation would be tarnished to the point that he would want to commit suicide. On another occasion, ‘Adel was informed that his wife had been arrested and that she was being held in a prison amongst criminals. He was taken passed a room where his wife was being held in order for him to believe that she had been arrested. (His wife had been detained on two occasions during his interrogation, but was not held overnight.)
During the next week, ‘Adel spent a period of five days in interrogation for 22 consecutive hours each day. Following this period, the time of interrogation was shortened and he was placed in a small holding cell when he was not being interrogated. On 22 October, he was taken from his cell and into a waiting area, where several interrogators began to ask him if he knew what had happened to his brothers, or his wife and children, and whether or not he knew if his house was still standing, implying that some harm had come to his family and home. They then took him into a car and drove towards the old city of Jerusalem, questioning him about the areas they were passing, and taking pictures of him in the car with them as he tried to cover his face. ‘Adel’s interrogation ended on 23 October 2002.
On 24 October, ‘Adel was taken to the Jerusalem District Court and formally informed that he had been given an administrative detention order for a period of 6 months, issued on 22 October 2002. He was then sent back to the Russian Compound and kept in a small, inhumane cell in which he had difficulty breathing as a result of poor air circulation and the unhygienic condition of the cell. He remained in the cell until Sunday 27 October 2002, when he was transferred to the Netzan section of Ramleh Prison. ‘Adel was placed in a section of the prison holding criminals and prisoners awaiting trial, contrary to the stipulated conditions of detention for administrative detainees, which state that administrative detainees should be held in protected sections and away from convicted criminals, those awaiting trial, and habitual drug users.
‘Adel was placed in a cell with another individual who claimed that he had just finished a five-year sentence and was then placed in administrative detention. This cellmate is a habitual drug user, continuing to take drugs while in the cell, and has continuously threatened ‘Adel with physical harm. When ‘Adel initially protested to the prison warden that he was being threatened and requested to be removed from the cell, he was informed that his cell placement was ordered by the director of the prison and that the order had to be obeyed. On 29 October 2002, ‘Adel was taken to the Jerusalem District Court again to confirm his administrative detention order and discuss the circumstances of his detention. His attorney lodged a complaint during the session, requesting that his client be transferred as he was being held in a criminal section of Netzan prison and was being physically threatened by his cellmate. The court recorded the complaint and the presiding judge ordered that the prison administration must abide by the regulations of administrative detention and ensure the appropriate conditions of detention.
Upon returning back to the prison, ‘Adel spoke with one of the prison wardens to draw his attention to the content of the court’s administrative detention order and the order that the prison administration must comply with the text of the law and move him from the criminal section. However, the warden responded by shackling ‘Adel’s hands, forcefully dragging him from the holding cell and shoving him back into the cell with the same cellmate. ‘Adel sustained injuries to both his arms and underarms, in addition to his wrists as a result of tightening of his shackles. He remained shackled in the room for an hour and a half.
On 30 October 2002, fearing for his life, ‘Adel began a hunger strike in protest of the prison administration’s refusal to abide by the court’s decision and their disregard for his safety. On 5 November 2002, Attorney Mohammad Na’amneh prepared to submit a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice, but was informed by the Jerusalem District State Attorney that, based on the complaint made on 29 October, the GSS, in coordination with the General State Attorney, had submitted a request on 3 November for ‘Adel’s transfer to another prison, and that the request had gone to the Minister of Defence on 5 November for his approval. On 7 November, ‘Adel’s attorney was informed by the Jerusalem District Court that his case had been re-examined and that his place of detention would be changed to a protected section of another prison, Kfar Yona, and that the transfer would occur once the Minister of Defence signed the recommendation. However, no date was set for his transfer in the court decision.
Attorney Na’amneh visited ‘Adel this afternoon in order to inform him of the decision, after which ‘Adel wrote a letter to the prison administration stating that he had decided to end his hunger strike based on the court’s decision, and forwarded the court orders along with the letter.
‘Adel Al Hidmeh is the father of two young children, aged 3 and 5, and works in the harmacology Department of Hebrew University’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Campus. He has been a student at Hebrew University since 1993, and has a remaining 3 months to complete a PhD in Pharmacology, which he has been unable to complete whilst in detention. ‘Adel is one of over 1000 Palestinians whose lives and the lives of their families have been torn apart as a result of Israel’s most recent wave of arbitrary detentions. Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial, based on military orders that allow for an individual to be detained for periods of up to 6 months. These orders can be extended indefinitely, with no set maximum time period stipulated for administrative detention. Detention is based on secret evidence, which neither the detainee or his/her lawyer are able to view, making a farce of the judicial process employed to issue such orders in closed military tribunals. Detainees do not know why they are being detained, nor do they know how long they will remain in detention.
Israel’s use of administrative detention is illegal under international and humanitarian law, as it does not conform to the restrictions placed on this form of detention. It has been used against Palestinians over decades as a form of collective punishment, in many instances to silence politically active individuals, suppressing the right to freedom of opinion and derogating the right to liberty and due process. Administrative detainees are not criminals, as they have not been charged with a crime, and by law their conditions of detention must reflect their status. This includes being placed in protected detention centers, away from convicted criminals, and causing the least disruption to the life of detainees by affording those items necessary to conduct their lives. However, the over 1000 Palestinians currently being held in administrative detention are being held in substandard conditions, including exposure to extreme heat and cold, overcrowding, poor quality and insufficient food, extremely poor hygiene, inadequate access to medical treatment and denial of family visits.
The practice of administrative detention is a breach of the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, therefore constituting a violation of Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. It is but one method of torture used by Israel against Palestinian detainees. Israel remains one of the only countries in the world to have legalized torture within its judicial system. Although a decrease in the use of extreme forms of torture was documented following a1999 Israeli Supreme Court decision prohibiting the use of torture in most cases, a loophole remained within the law that allowed for the use of torture in particular cases. Since the Israeli invasions into the Occupied Palestinian Territories in March 2002, the use of physical and psychological torture against Palestinians detained in the wave of mass arrest campaigns conducted as part of Israeli’s military operation has particularly increased. Article 2, Paragraph 2 of the Convention against Torture provides that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of the use of torture. In direct contravention of this basic precept of human rights law and despite continued resolutions specifically prohibiting and condemning Israeli policy in this regard, Israel continues to use systematic torture against Palestinian detainees with impunity.
Adel Jamil Al Hidmeh’s arbitrary detention and torture is but one painful story from an ongoing saga of continuous human rights violations that make up the daily life of every Palestinian living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Everyday, at least one Palestinian is detained by the Israeli occupation forces. Everyday, the possibility of torture and arbitrary detention, separation from loved ones for unknown periods of time, is a part of the daily reality for every Palestinian. It is a phenomenon that has affected every Palestinian family living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Addameer documents but one aspect of human rights violations that form a part of the overall systematic collective punishment of an entire nation in the name of occupation. Until that occupation comes to an end, and its illegal policies no longer ravaging the lives and hopes of an entire population, there can be no just basis for negotiations, solutions or reforms that will have a lasting impact on the region.