Tuesday, 26 February 2008
A Police State without a State - Palestinian tortured to death by Abbas's Palestinian Authority
Those who have condemned Israel for its routine torture of Palestinians cannot look the other way or remain silent whilst Abbas's quisling Palestinian Authority savagely tortures one of the inhabitants of the area it rules to death. The following is a report which we have just been sent.
A government that murders its political opponents, by way of torture or assassination, and then tries to cover up the crime, or mitigate its gravity, is a criminal government, pure and simple.
As Palestinian citizens, we are worried that the Ramallah-based government is effectively becoming just another Arab police state, to be added to the other 22 other police states in the Arab world. But there is a very a conspicuous difference, because in our case, the Palestinian "state" is obviously a police state without a state.
Two weeks ago, the Palestinian General Intelligence, also known as Mukhabarat, arrested, reportedly in a brutal manner, eight people from the village of Kober near Ramallah. Among the detainees was the imam of the local mosque, Majd al Barghouthi, 45, and father to eight children. The main charge leveled against him was related to a firearm he allegedly was hiding somewhere. Al-Barghouthi denied that he possessed or knew of any firearm.
For eight successive days, al-Barghouthi was subjected to harsh physical torture, including severe beating, burns, sleep deprivation, and the so-called hooding technique, virtually the same types of torture employed by Israeli domestic intelligence apparatus, the Shin Beth, against Palestinian inmates.
On Wednesday, 20 February, al-Barghouthi lost consciousness and was unceremoniously taken to a hospital in Ramallah. The treating doctor told the Mukhabarat agents that the man was in critical condition and that he needed urgent hospitalization.
However, the Mukhabarat agents didn't heed the doctor's advice, and decided to take him back to the torture chamber.
On Friday, 22 February, al Barghouthi died, reportedly during an extended torture session.
According to inmates, who were being held in a neighboring chamber, he cried out for help for several hours to no avail, and then his voice got weaker and weaker, until he died.
Following his death, Mukhabarat officials as well as some PA and Fatah spokespersons switched into the "damage-control mode," claiming that the man had been ill and that he had had a heart problem.
His family and relatives have vehemently denied that he had had any serious health problems. They insist that their son was simply murdered by the ruthless Mukhabarat apparatus.
This writer has had the opportunity to observe the body of the victim and can testify that the man had indeed been subjected to extremely savage and beating, strangulation, and administration of electrical burns.
Dozens of physicians, journalists, lawmakers and ordinary people have seen with their own eyes the extent of the torture the victim had undergone.
These are not allegations, but facts.
Now, the ball is undoubtedly in Mahmoud Abbas's court. As President of the Palestinian Authority, he is legally and morally responsible for what happened.
The Palestinian people expect him to behave and act, not like a head of the Fatah organization, but as President of all Palestinians. This is indeed the ultimate test of the credibility of Mr. Abbas, and if, God forbids, he fails this test, he won't be taken seriously ever after.
This means that he must order a truly neutral and professional inquiry commission to look into what exactly happened and establish the truth within a reasonable period of time.
The Palestinian people must be assured that there will be no foul-play and no whitewashing and no cover-up. After all, we are not a group of imbeciles and simpletons whom the so-called "government" can easily deceive and bamboozle. In the final analysis, the raison d'etre of any government is to serve the people, not kill them.
Indeed, if it turns out that al-Barghouthi died as a result of torture, which is very likely, the PA chairman and his government must have the courage to address the Palestinian people and tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about what happened.
And then, we, the people of Palestine, will expect his Excellency, to immediately fire the Head of the General Intelligence, Mr. Tawfiq al Tirawi, for violating the law which prohibits the practice of torture and for being instrumental to a homicide.
We will also expect him to prosecute the person or persons directly and indirectly involved in the death of al-Barghouthi.
But there are certain tasks Abbas doesn't have to wait for the results of the investigation to carry them out.
President Abbas should immediately instruct all his security agencies to stop the employment of torture in their dungeons and interrogation chambers. It is really a disgrace that while we complain about the rampant use of torture by Israel, we ourselves are using it against our own people, against ourselves. Shame on us.
More to the point, Abbas should issue a timely decree outlawing all political arrests, that is arresting people because of their political views. This decree should make it sufficiently clear to all these young and mostly uneducated or undereducated security cadres that they are not above the law and that they will be punished severely if they indulge in torture again.
I know we can't possibly bring al-Barghouthi back to life. However, for the sake of his family and friends and the Palestinian people as a whole, we can prevent the recurrence of this crime. But this is only if we have the will to do what is right.
Finally, a word to the European Union and other donors who are keeping the PA afloat.
You are not completely innocent of this crime. You know well the men who may have killed the victim receive their salaries from you. You are their bankrollers.
And I am sure that the European peoples you represent don't accept that their tax-payer money is used to effect serious human rights violations, including the right to life, of the Palestinian people.
Hence, it is extremely important that you make all your financial aid to the PA conditional upon its observance of human rights in the occupied territories.
I am not even alluding to the American role in this macabre quagmire in the West Bank for obvious reasons, for the US, which practices renditions and torture, is part of the problem.
I am addressing the Europeans, especially the European parliament, because they still have a semblance of civility and decency.
Hence, the hope that the EU will tell the Ramallah government to stop it now.
grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign advisor on Jordan Valley
Comment by Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah