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From the field

A-Ram Checkpoint: Border Police officers beat two brothers, November 2002

Bassem Abu Safiya, victim, aged 28

On Sunday, 17 November, at around 7:30 A.M., I left for work together with my brother Yusef, 26, and our cousin, Usama Abu Safiya, age 24. We get work at a-Ram, north of Jerusalem (Ramallah District). When we got to the a-Ram area, my cousin Usama asked if we wanted to come with him to the military checkpoint, which is in the area. He wanted to go there to get back his ID, which had been confiscated by the border police about ten days earlier. When we got to the checkpoint area, I saw about six border police officers standing in the road. My cousin approached one of the officers, who was standing on the traffic divider, in the middle of the Ramallah-Jerusalem road, checking the ID cards of people crossing the checkpoint. We waited for him by the side of the road, about ten meters from the checkpoint. As Usama was talking to the officer, another officer called us. We approached him. He demanded to see our IDs, and after checking them, he handed them back to us. I heard the other officers address him as 'Miki'.

After the officer had checked our IDs, he told me and my brother to leave the checkpoint. We turned to go, but we had only taken a couple of steps when the officer called us to come back. He told us in Hebrew (I know Hebrew): "I want to check your IDs". We handed him our IDs and he gave them to another officer, who was standing next to a concrete booth at the side of the road. I think the booth is used by the officers manning the checkpoint. The officer ordered me, my brother, and my cousin to go to the booth and handed our IDs to a third officer inside the booth. The officer searched us and then shoved us into a narrow passageway, about fifty centimeters wide, between the booth and a concrete fence. The officer shoved and swore at us. He took us behind the booth. The officer was saying things like: "Get in you scum, get in you son of a bitch, get in you bastard". I asked him not to push us because we had not been arrested, and had only come to inquire after the ID card. But the officer shouted to me: "Shut up!" and continued swearing at us. I heard Usama asking him in Hebrew not to swear at us because we were human beings like him. Immediately after Usama said this, the officer took him to a spot, which could not be seen by people on the street, behind the fence. My brother and I remained in the passageway and an officer guarded us.

I remember the officer who took Usama behind the fence. He was short, thin, and had dark skin. His hair was short on the sides and long in the back. After about two minutes, Usama came back. His face was red. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me that he had been beaten. Then, the short officer called me and took me behind the fence together with the first officer, Miki. As they were taking me behind the fence, I said to them: "Do whatever you want, just please don't hit me". The officer asked: "What are you going to do about it?" I said: "There is the law". The officer hit me hard on the face, and then he and the second officer beat me all over. They kicked me and hit me on the head, back, chest, and legs with the butts of their rifles. A third officer joined the other two. He also beat me and swore at me. I swore back: "Don't lay a hand on me you bastard, you son of a bitch." They continued beating me for about three minutes, mostly on the head until I felt sick and fell on the ground. Only then, did they stop beating me and the short officer asked me: "Do you want to go home or to jail?" I told him I wanted an ambulance and the police so that I could file a complaint against them. The officer told me to leave the area and threatened to arrest me if I didn't. When I insisted on filing a complaint, the officer contacted someone on his walky talky. He said: "I have a man here who beat a border police officer and I have him under arrest". He told the person on the other side of the line my name and my ID number.

Then the officers tied my hands up in front with plastic cuffs and brought me back to the passageway. After about 15 minutes, a border police commander arrived and talked to the officers off to the side. Afterwards, he came up to me and asked me what had happened. I told him what had happened and heard him tell the officers to take me to the police station in Neve Ya'akov. The soldiers hauled me into a border police jeep and made me sit in the rear, next to Miki. On the way to the police station, Miki said: "Okay, now you are going to sit at the police station for two hours. How about we put and end to this and you don't file a complaint?" I refused and insisted on filing a complaint. When we got to the police station, I was taken into a room and was left there for two hours. The door was open and every now and then border police officers would go in and out the room.

After two hours, an investigator by the name of Kamal Fares came to me, took off the cuffs, and asked me what had happened. When I told him, he told me that the officers had filed a complaint against me and claimed that I had attacked them. After he had taken my testimony, he told me I should bring an Israeli citizen to post bail for me. I called my cousin, Usama. He came with a friend of his, Suna, who posted bail. At the police station I asked to file complaint against the officers, but the investigator told me there was no need since I would give my testimony at my trial. I was released around 2:30 A.M.

When I got back to my village, Beit Sira, I went to the medical center in nearby Kharbatha al-Misbah, and got examined. The examination showed that I had bruises in the head, back, chest, pelvis and legs. Also, my left eye was red. The doctor prescribed me medication, and advised me to go to the hospital to undergo the necessary examinations.

Bassem Zahran Muhammad Abu Safiya, age 28, is married and works as a laborer. He lives in Beit Sira, Ramallah district. The testimony was taken by Iyad Khadad on 18 November 2002.