1 July '09: Detainee held by Palestinian Authority dies, torture suspected

Published: 
1 Jul 2009

On 11 June 2009, Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank detained Haitham ‘Amru, 33, a resident of Beit a-Roush al-Fauqa, a village in Hebron District. ‘Amru, who was married with three children and worked as a nurse, belonged to Hamas and was a board member of the Islamic Charitable Society. He was taken to the detention facility of the General Intelligence Service (GSS) in Hebron, and PA officials denied his family's requests to visit him there. On 14 June, at night, ‘Amru was taken, in critical condition, from the detention facility to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron, and was pronounced dead within a few hours of arrival. His body was taken to the Abu Dis Forensic Institute for an autopsy.

A fieldworker for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, who saw the corpse before it was buried, reported that there were signs of severe injury all over the body. These signs, clearly evident in photographs obtained by B'Tselem and in a video broadcast on Al-Jazeera, raise concern that ‘Amru died as a result of torture he sustained at the GIS's interrogation facility.

At first, GIS officials told the media that ‘Amru had jumped from the second floor of a building in an attempt to escape from the detention facility, which led to his death. This claim has not been repeated. GIS officials subsequently stated that the circumstances of ‘Amru's death were being investigated. The forensic report has not been made public. According to media reports, on 15 June, the PA's Preventive Security Force detained an Al-Jazeera television crew for investigation after they filmed the injured body prior to burial, and forced them to erase sections of their video tapes.

Responsibility for the wellbeing of detainees rests with the authorities holding them. Torture of detainees is absolutely forbidden, and all persons who breach this prohibition bear individual criminal responsibility for their actions. The PA must investigate the death of Haitham ‘Amru and bring the perpetrators to justice. Additionally, the PA must establish clear procedures regarding treatment of detainees, which will ensure the detainee's wellbeing and clearly reflect the absolute prohibition on torture.

B'Tselem knows of at least two persons who died while being held by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank during 2008. There is grave suspicion of torture in one of the cases.