Since Operation “Cast Lead”: Sharp increase in beatings of Palestinians by soldiers and police reported

Published: 
24 Mar 2009

Since the beginning of Operation “Cast Lead” at the end of 2008, there has been a sharp rise in reports of violence perpetrated by security forces against Palestinians in the West Bank. During this nearly three-month period, B'Tselem documented 24 cases in which police officers and soldiers beat Palestinians, using rifle butts, clubs and other means of injury. 16 of the cases were especially serious and their victims suffered heavier injuries.  

 

As it is impossible for B'Tselem to document each and every case of violence by security forces in the West Bank, the above figures necessarily reflect only a portion of the violent incidents that actually occurred, and it is likely that other attacks went unreported.

The documented cases took place throughout the West Bank - some at checkpoints, others in Palestinian homes, and some on roadways. In one case, testimonies given to B'Tselem indicate that soldiers stopped Na'im ‘Awad at the Huwara checkpoint and beat him. His brother, Muhammad, arrived at the checkpoint by chance and asked the soldiers why they were beating his brother. An argument ensued between him and one of the soldiers, who then slammed him hard in the head with his rifle butt, causing him irreparable speech damage and weakness on the right side of his body.

In another case, soldiers encountered a Palestinian by the side of the road next to Tuqu' and beat him for several minutes. The victim, Majed Hajahjeh, related in his testimony:

They beat me all over my body, especially my head. I covered my head with my hands to protect myself. My hands were bloody from the blood from my head. I went down onto my knees and cried out in pain. The soldiers continued to beat me with clubs and to kick me in the neck, back, and hands. My right hand hurt in particular. It hurt so much, I thought I was going to die. (to read the full testimony click here)

Later in his testimony, Hajahjeh stated that the soldiers had left him lying by the road, bleeding, his arm broken.

B'Tselem referred all the documented cases to the law-enforcement authorities - the Judge Advocate General's Office and the Department for the Investigation of Police, in the Ministry of Justice. Although some of the cases occurred more than two months ago, the authorities have yet to complete the investigation in even one case.

In a letter to the commander of the IDF forces in the West Bank, B'Tselem called attention to this grave situation and demanded that the defense establishment take immediate action to stop the phenomenon of violence by security forces. Toward this end, the organization called for swift, effective investigation of the documented cases and for measures to be taken against the persons found responsible.

For some time, violence of varying intensity by police and soldiers has been part of daily Palestinian life in the West Bank. Although Israeli officials condemn beating and abuse of Palestinians and rush to disassociate themselves from such acts, the law-enforcement authorities refrain from carrying out serious investigations of reported incidents and from prosecuting the perpetrators, rarely taking any measures against them.

Since the outbreak of the second intifada, in September 2000, B'Tselem has forwarded to the authorities complaints regarding 345 offenses of violence by security forces. In only 14 of these cases, to B'Tselem's knowledge, were disciplinary or criminal proceedings initiated against security forces.

On 20 March 2009, the press reported that indictments had been filed in a few cases of soldiers' violence that occurred in the village of ‘Azzun ‘Atmah, in the Qalqiliya district, in May 2008, which B'Tselem reported to the Military Police Investigation Unit. The prosecution of the perpetrators in these cases is an exception to the rule.

The authorities' policy relays to security forces in the field a clear message of contempt for Palestinians' bodies and dignity and impunity from bearing the consequences of their acts.