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From the field

Container Checkpoint: Border Police officers beat Palestinian student on his way to university, October 2003

Jum'a Ramis, age18, resident of 'Za'tara, Bethlehem District

I live in 'Za'tara, which lies east of Bethlehem. I am a first-year law student at Abu Dis University. Today [October 1] was the first day of classes. Around 8:00 A.M., I left home and took a taxi to Beit Sahur. Along with thirty other students, I got on a bus on Suq a-Sha'ab Street that goes to the university. The bus drove through Wadi a-Nar to the "Container"checkpoint and stopped about 150 meters in front of the checkpoint. Taxis were waiting to cross. The police officers did not let the taxis pass and ordered the drivers to return to Bethlehem.

Seeing this, the bus driver asked us to get off the bus so that he could return to Beit Sahur. The other students and I got out and walked toward the checkpoint. There were three Border Police officers at the checkpoint. I saw them pushing people back and not letting them move forward or cross the checkpoint. I backed up because I was afraid of the police officers.

The checkpoint lies in a hilly area. I walked along an area that was below the checkpoint. I saw people climbing the hill facing the checkpoint. At the top of the hill, there is a barbed-wire fence that is intended to prevent people from going around the checkpoint. Despite the fence, people climb the hill, walk about 500 meters over a hilly terrain and bypass the barbed-wire fence. This path is around 250 meters from the checkpoint, in the direction of a-Sawahreh.

I climbed the hill with several other people, walked along the fence, and reached the road leading to a-Sawahreh. On the road were taxis with yellow [Israeli] license plates waiting for passengers to take them to Abu Dis. When I approached one of the taxis, I saw three Border Police officers standing about twenty meters from the taxis at the far end. I knew they were Border Police officers because they were dressed in dark green uniforms.

Two students got into the taxi. Then I stepped into the taxi, but before I could get all the way inside, one of the Border Police officers grabbed me. He said in Arabic, "You are under arrest." He was tall, thin, had brown hair, and a beauty mark on his left cheek. I think he was about twenty-two years old. A second Border Police officer came over and hit me in the face with his radio transmitter and shouted at me in Hebrew. He was short, heavy-set, and about twenty-three years old. The two of them were wearing bulletproof vests. They beat me with their rifles and kicked me, knocking me down. The third Border Police officer stood alongside the taxis and did not hit me. He was thin, light-skinned, medium height, about twenty-five years old.

The two Border Police officers beat me for about five minutes and then the three of them ordered me to go to the checkpoint, which was about 200 meters away. I began to walk to the checkpoint, during which two of the police officers continued to kick me and hit me with their rifles. They beat me on the arms and head mostly. Each time that I fell, they hit me and ordered me to get up.

When I got to the checkpoint, I fell down and could not move. The two Border Police officers dragged me to the control tower near the checkpoint, pushed me behind it, and beat me. The third officer, who had not beaten up to then, came over and hit me on my head and hands with a club. The club was flexible and plastic-covered. The blows hurt a lot. Then he ordered me to raise my hands, spread my legs, and lean forward on a wheel that was tied to the tower. The first Border Police officer, the one who grabbed me at the beginning, kicked me in the left leg. The second Border Police officer kicked my right leg. The back of my head and my arms and legs really hurt.

After forty-five minutes passed, two of them searched me. The first officer took my ID card. He began to talk on the radio transmitter. I heard him say my ID number. He was checking it. The second officer, the short one, brought me a cup of water. He gave me the cup in one hand and a pill in the second hand and told me to take it. I refused to take the pill. He beat me on the head with a club until I fell. He opened my mouth, put the pill inside, forced me to drink the water, and closed my mouth. I do not know what kind of pill it was. Then he ordered me to move away from the tower. I went to sit on the ground about ten meters from the tower. I couldn't move.

About fifteen minutes later, a Border Police jeep pulled up. It was black with the word "Police" written on it in English, and there was a blue light on the roof. Four Border Police officers got out. Five minutes later, one of them called me over to him. I approached slowly because my legs hurt. When I reached him, he raised his hand toward my face. I thought he was going to hit me, but he smiled. He said that he was the jeep commander. He was thin, dark-skinned, tall, his hair was combed straight back, and his teeth were very white. He spoke to me in fluent Arabic with a Bedouin accent. He told me that I was under arrest and would be taken into detention.

I told him that I had not done anything, and that all I wanted to do was get to the university for the first day of classes. I told him that I saw others climbing the hill and that I went with them, and that when we got to the road to take a taxi to Abu Dis, the police officers arrested me, beat me, and forced me to swallow a pill. He said, "I am going to give you your ID card, but go home and not to the university."

I took my ID card and started to go toward Wadi a-Nar. I walked for about 200 meters until I got to a taxi that took me to Bethlehem. My whole body hurt. I laid down on the seat because I couldn't even sit up. When we reached Bethlehem, I couldn't get out of the taxi. The taxi driver, Musa Zahlan, drove me to al-Yamama Hospital, in al-Khader. The physicians pumped my stomach, because of the pill the police officers had made me swallow, and gave me other first-aid treatment. I was at the hospital for three hours.

When I got home, I had a bad headache, and it was hard to breathe. I couldn't move my hands and legs. I was taken to Beit Jala Government Hospital, where the physicians did a blood test and are keeping me under medical supervision for twenty-four hours.

Jum'a Musa Jum'a Ramis is 18 years old and single. He is a first year law student at Abu Dis university, and a resident of 'Za'tara, Bethlehem District. The testimony was taken by Suha Zeyd at Beit Jala Hospital on 1 October 2003.