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From the field

Testimony: Soldiers severely beat and abuse Palestinians near the Dead Sea, May 2009

Ramzi Salah, laborer

Ramzi Saleh

On Thursday night, 28 May, I went with some friends to the Dead Sea to swim and have some fun. It is very nice there at night. We got to the ‘Ein Gedi checkpoint between 11 P.M. and midnight, and left our van about 150 meters from the checkpoint. There were lots of vehicles there. We walked to the sea, about 400 meters away.

Shortly after getting to the sea, I saw people and a light near the van. I was afraid thieves were trying to break into our vehicle, and I ran, along with ‘Ata, Hamzah, ‘Abed, and Hisham, to the van. When we got there, we didn't see anything. We decided to move it to a place that was better lit, next to the checkpoint.

‘Ata drove the van and parked it by the checkpoint. Then two soldiers ran to him and told him to drive the van into the checkpoint. He didn't want to do it, but the soldiers insisted and threatened him. Then I asked him to do what they said. He got into the van and took it into the checkpoint. The soldiers told us all to go into the checkpoint and stand by the van. We did as they said.
A little while later, I went over to three soldiers. I asked them why they were detaining us. They grabbed me and pulled me to a sign, and handcuffed me to it. I didn't understand what they were doing, and I told them I didn't understand what they wanted from me. ‘Ata went over to them and asked why they cuffed me, and then one of them hit him hard in the head with his rifle butt. His head started to bleed. The soldiers dragged him to an electricity pole, a few meters from me, and tied him to it.

About half an hour later, a large army vehicle arrived and soldiers with helmets got out. They pointed to ‘Ata and asked “Who's this?” and then went over to him and beat him. One of them hit him hard with this rifle butt. The other soldiers kicked him, and one soldier threw a stone on his shoulder. The soldiers continued doing that for a few minutes, and then ‘Ata fell to the ground and sat down next to the pole. A soldier kicked him in the head, knocking his head against the pole.

I was afraid they would do the same to me, but I also hoped they would leave ‘Ata alone and come over to me. I didn't have to wait long. One of the soldiers stood on ‘Ata's shoulder and quickly came over to me and kicked me hard in the face. Out of fear and pain, I grabbed the cuffs that bound me to the sign. They tore and I fell. I put me hands to my face to protect it. The soldiers kicked me all over my body. A bit later, two soldiers grabbed me, sat me in a chair, and cuffed me again. I sat like that until the morning. I even managed to sleep a bit, I was so tired.

When I awoke in the morning, soldiers were at the checkpoint. Also there were people in civilian clothes, who I think were policemen. They asked me what happened and I told them. Then they went to our friends, who were next to the checkpoint. Finally, they arrested Hamzah and Hisham and drove off. The soldiers at the checkpoint asked our friends to go and take the van with them. They drove off, and only ‘Ata and I remained at the checkpoint, both of us handcuffed.

About an hour later, around 7:00 A.M., the soldiers removed our cuffs and told us to go. We walked about 500 meters, but ‘Ata couldn't go any further. Our friends came to get us, and drove us to Abu Dis. We took ‘Ata to the medical clinic.

‘Ata went to the police to file a complaint. I didn't go with him. Later, he told me that they forced him to pay a bond of 500 shekels. He said that the investigator told him to tell me that I should go and file a complaint, and it was a good idea to bring 1,000 shekels, to make things easier. After hearing that, I didn't file a complaint.

Ramzi ‘Adel Ahmad Salah, 25, is a laborer and a resident of Abu Dis in al-Quds District. His testimony was given to Kareem Jubran at the witness's workplace on 6 June 2009.