Testimony: Soldiers beat and abuse Palestinian student at the Za’tara checkpoint and nearby, November 2009

26 Jan 2010

Update: On 1 January 2012 the MAG Corps informed B'Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the file had been closed. The grounds for closing the case were not given.

According to a testimony given to B'Tselem by Ahmad Abu ‘Alia, a 21-year-old resident of al-Mughayir and a student at a-Najah University, on Wednesday, 25 November 2009, while he was waiting near the Za'tara checkpoint for a transportation to the university, soldiers came over to him and requested his identity card. After checking it, one of the soldiers took his school books and papers and threw them to the ground. The soldiers then pushed him hard, knocking him to the ground, cuffed his hands behind his back, and blindfolded him with a piece of cloth.

According to the testimony, the soldiers beat Abu ‘Alia with their hands and rifle butts while he lay on the ground, handcuffed and screaming in pain. A few minutes later, the soldiers picked him up and placed him inside a nearby storage container. He related what happened then.

Ahmad Abu ‘AliaThe soldiers laid me down on the iron floor. One of them took off my shoes and they started beating me again. One of them stepped on my bare feet, mostly on my toes. Another soldier pulled my hair. I think there was another soldier there, and he kicked me and hit me with his rifle butt. The soldiers shouted at me, speaking in Hebrew, and I couldn't understand what they were saying. While they were beating me, I felt that my mouth was bleeding and later I became nauseous. After about ten minutes, I started vomiting. I felt like I was vomiting my guts out. Then I felt so limp that I didn't feel the pain from the blows any more.

After Abu ‘Alia began to vomit, the soldiers took him out of the container. At that stage, he relates, they put him into an army jeep and laid him face down on the floor. The jeep drove off and stopped in a rocky area. The soldiers took him out and sat him on the ground.  Abu 'Alia related what happened then.

One of the soldiers tied my legs very tightly together with a rope. The handcuffs were digging hard into my wrists and my hands went numb. At some point, two soldiers, one on my right and the other on my left, started to kick me. They kicked me in the legs, waist, and back. One of the soldiers hit me hard in the neck with his rifle butt. That hurt a lot. Each time one of the soldiers kicked me, the force of the blow twisted my body in the opposite direction, and then the soldier on that side kicked me, which made me twist back in the other direction. They beat and kicked me like that while I was screaming in pain, writhing on the ground.

At some point, Abu ‘Alia heard the voice of a girl talking with the soldiers and joking with them, and the click of a camera. After a while, the soldiers put him back into the jeep, where they continued to beat him. When the jeep stopped, the soldiers grabbed him from inside the jeep and threw him to the ground.

The soldiers removed the handcuffs and blindfold. An officer came over to him, gave him back his identity card, cell phone, and school materials, and offered him a drink and packet of chips, which Abu ‘Alia refused. Abu ‘Alia stated in his testimony that the officer said “We're sorry” and then ordered him to leave the place.

Abu ‘Alia estimates that it was then around 3:00 P.M., about five hours after the incident began. Battered, bruised, and extremely dazed, he started to walk, without knowing where he was headed. Abu ‘Alia managed to get to Turmusaya, a village six kilometers from where he was released. An acquaintance he met in the village took him to his uncle's shop there. He was then taken to hospital, where the physicians said that, in addition to the physical injuries, he suffered from disorientation, which was apparently related to a psychological, rather than a physical, cause. His family filed a complaint with the Palestinian Liaison Office the same day. According to Abu ‘Alia, when he returned home, he was still in pain and suffered from memory loss, and it took him five days until he could function normally.

The incident, as described in the testimony, portrays what appears to be a severe case of abuse for abuse's sake, in which several soldiers apparently took part for several hours. Moreover, the gravity of the case is heightened if the officer indeed refrained from providing Abu ‘Alia with medical assistance, sending him to find his way home alone in his serious condition, and only dispatching soldiers to follow him in a jeep.

B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate General's Office, demanding an immediate investigation into the incident.