Palestinian authorities must investigate torture allegations of hunger-striking prisoners and ensure their fair trial

The authorities in Palestine must ensure that six men arrested in the West Bank in June, including three who have been on hunger strike for almost two months whilst in detention, receive a fair trial, Amnesty International said today ahead of the first hearing of their court case. They must also ensure prompt, impartial investigations into the men’s allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

The men were arrested without a warrant by security forces and charged with criminal offences related to an explosion at a carpentry shop. All six were tortured during interrogation at Jericho detention centre, and afterwards in Beitounia prison, both run by the Palestinian Authority, according to their lawyer and family members who visited them in detention. One of the detainees also stated before the court that he was subjected to torture, according to court documents reviewed by Amnesty International.

Torture is never justified, and the authorities should immediately launch a thorough, effective, impartial and independent investigation into these detainees’ allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International

“Torture is never justified, and the authorities should immediately launch a thorough, effective, impartial and independent investigation into these detainees’ allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. Those suspected of harming them should be suspended from their positions, pending completion of an investigation, so that they cannot commit further violations. They must also receive a fair trial in line with international standards,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Since their indictment in early September, court sessions have been repeatedly postponed due to the failure of witnesses from the Palestinian security forces to attend and testify. The next hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, 3 November 2022.

Ahmad Hreish, 28, Munther Rheib, 54, Jihad Wahdan, 44, and Ahmad Khasib, 27 were detained on 6 June 2022. Khaled Nawabit, 44, was detained on 23 June and Qassam Hamayel, 23, was detained on 26 June. Ahmad Khasib and Khaled Nawabit – who requires heart surgery – were both released on bail in October. According to their lawyer and family members who were able to visit them in detention, the men were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment while locked up.

Since 25 September, Ahmad Hreish, Jihad Wahdan, and Qassam Hamayel have been on hunger strike in protest at their treatment and are kept shackled to their hospital beds in the Palestine Medical Complex hospital, where they were transferred to due to their deteriorating health. Despite their poor health, their families and their lawyer say they have not received adequate medical care.

The men have also been held in solitary confinement, denied family visits and phone calls and held under constant surveillance in punishment for their decision to go on hunger strike.

The family and lawyer of Ahmad Hreish, whose wife gave birth to their firstborn just as he began his hunger strike, told Amnesty International how security forces whipped him on his feet and repeatedly beat him with clubs and batons. They described how his arms were hoisted behind his back for long hours – a common torture method used in Palestinian detention centres.

Ahmad Hreish detailed his torture before a judge at a hearing on 13 June at Jericho’s Magistrate Court. Amnesty International has reviewed court documents of his account, in which he told the court: “I’ve been here for a week in these dungeons in Jericho where my wrists were tied with a rope and my face was covered and I could not see anything. I was suspended from a window and I would get beaten with sticks and whips. I was beaten on the soles of my feet, and after all of that they would tell me to ‘get up and dance…’ and they tied my hands behind my back.”

Amnesty International is not aware of any criminal investigation into Ahmad Hreish’s torture allegations. According to court documents, a judge referred him for medical examination, and although he was informed of these allegations, he sent him back to the place where he said he had been tortured. According to Ahmad Hreish’s sister, he was subjected to more torture for speaking up in court. In later court appearances, he did not mention it again.

All the accused have spent time in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons. According to their lawyer, they were interrogated by Palestinian security forces about their political opinions, affiliations and periods of detention in Israeli prisons.

Despite ratifying the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Ill-treatment and its Optional Protocol, the State of Palestine has routinely used torture in detention centres.