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From the field

Border police arbitrarily delay traffic at the Container Checkpoint and beat a man for stepping out of his car, November 2006

Samir al-Harb, 40

I am originally from Iskaka village in the Salfit district, but since 1999 I have been living with my wife and children in Ramallah.

Since I moved to live in Ramallah, I have visited my family and relatives in Iksaka village every week. The drive there used to take half an hour, but since the restrictions on movement have been put in place after the second Intifada, the ride there takes about three hours. On the way there we pass at least two checkpoints: 'Atara checkpoint and Za'tara checkpoint, where one is delayed a lot.

Because of the difficulty of movement from Ramallah to the village, I now only visit my family during special occasions or holidays. For the most part I go alone without my wife and children because I want to spare them the distress and humiliation I go through at checkpoints.

For a few months I didn't leave Ramallah at all and then on November 21, 2006 I had to go to Sa'ir near Hebron , together with three friends, to pay a condolence call to another friend whose father had passed away. We arrived in Sai'r relatively easily. We left Ramallah at 3:00PM, we passed Jaba' checkpoint without delay, we continued to al-'Eizariya , Abu Dis and to a-Sawahrah a-Sharqiya until we arrived at the Container checkpoint. There were only 5 cars at the checkpoint and after 15 minutes it was our turn to be checked. We crossed the checkpoint and continued toward Sa'ir where we arrived at 5:00PM. We paid our condolences to our friend and, about half an hour later, left and headed back to Ramallah. [The ride took 2 hours. Before the restrictions on movement, however, it only took one hour to get from Ramallah to Sa'ir. - A.A.].

Around 6:00PM we arrived at the Container checkpoint, where many cars were waiting. The driver of the taxi we were in overtook the line of cars and got to a distance of a few meters from the checkpoint. I saw the border policemen carefully checking a Palestinian taxi. They took apart the seats and the door upholstery and various other parts of the car. They continued with their inspection while we, as well all the passengers in the other cars, became tired of sitting in the cars.

A young boy, about 16 years old, stepped out of the car in front of us. I think he wanted to urinate. Three border policemen approached him quickly attacked him and started kicking and punching him. The boy screamed but it did not help him. They continued beating him for 5 or 6 minutes. I think they did it demonstratively to scare the rest of the passengers into remaining in their cars. There were approximately 100 cars there already. After they finished beating him, they announced on the loudspeaker that it was forbidden to get out of the cars.

We waited over three hours at the checkpoint, until 9:15PM. Only then did the border police allow traffic to start flowing. They didn't search the car but let everyone pass. The delay at the checkpoint was a result of the policemen's mood. They just chose to delay traffic with no reason or security need. I arrived home to Ramallah around 10:30PM.

Samir 'Abd a-Rahim Mohammad Harb, 40. married and father of 2, a, is a manager of an organization that provides services to youth in Ramallah and a resident of Ramallah. His testimony was taken by Kareem Jubran, at the witness' house on January 3, 2007.