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Letter to the Attorney-General regarding Palestinian Detention Facilities

Thursday, 28 February 2008 13:26 REF.: 05.2008E
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[ below is the edited translation of an Al-Haq Arabic press release issued on 24 February 2008]

On the evening of Friday 22 February 2008, Majd abdel Aziz Barghouti, aged 44, died after having being detained by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service (GIS) from 14 February 2008. The autopsy carried out by the pathologist at the Ramallah hospitalrevealed that a heart failure caused the death of Mr. Barghouti.

On the evening of Friday 22 February 2008, Majd abdel Aziz Barghouti, aged 44, died after having being detained by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service (GIS) from 14 February 2008. The autopsy carried out by the pathologist at the Ramallah hospital revealed that a heart failure caused the death of Mr. Barghouti.

On the evening of Friday 22 February 2008, Majd abdel Aziz Barghouti, aged 44, died after having being detained by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service (GIS) from 14 February 2008. The autopsy carried out by the pathologist at the Ramallah hospital revealed that a heart failure caused the death of Mr. Barghouti.

Al-Haq does not dispute the reliability of the autopsy report. However, Al-Haq has also received information on the conditions of detention from individuals detained by the GIS. During Al-Haq’s preliminary investigations into the death of Mr. Barghouti, evidence was found indicating that GIS agents were mistreating and imposing inhuman and degrading conditions on detainees. It also emerged that security and detention officers ignore or choose to disregard the procedural rules relating to the apprehension and detention of suspects.

Al-Haq is deeply concerned by the information gathered regarding the arrest and detention procedures employed by the GIS, which show that members of the GIS have committed the following violations of Palestinian law, which incorporates international human rights standards:

1. Al-Haq’s investigations into the condition of detention and subsequent death of Mr. Barghouti show that members of the GIS ignored or disregarded the rules pertaining to the treatment of detainees. Additionally, the detainees were treated in a degrading and inhuman manner. Al-Haq is conducting further investigations into these issues, the results of which will be made public in due course.

2. The GIS persists in violating the rules regarding the apprehension and detention of suspects. Indeed, Mr Barghouti was not brought before a judge, either civil or military, within the provided time limit of 24 hours following his arrest. This is a violation of the rules of the Palestinian Criminal Procedural Law, namely of Articles 34 and 117, under which security officers, including the GIS and the Preventive Security Forces, are under the obligation to work for the expeditious release of detainees if no grounds for detention emerge during interrogation.

3. Members of the GIS, in disregarding the time limit for bringing a detainee before the competent judge, have committed a violation of domestic criminal law, breaching in particular Articles 178, 179 and 180 of the Palestinian criminal law. Keeping the detainee in custody beyond the limits imposed by Article 346 of the Palestinian criminal law constitutes arbitrary arrest, which is also prohibited under international human rights law.

4. It emerged that the Palestinian Attorney-General failed to exercise his legal duty to monitor detention centres, and in particular the application of the terms provided by law for custody before trial.

5. Al-Haq has informed the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) that there are individuals who are being detained by the Preventive Security Forces for over a month, without access to a competent judge. This situation represents a clear violation of criminal procedural law by the Preventive Security Forces, and also a lack of control by other organs, such as those we informed of the facts, on the respect of existing laws. This is striking evidence of the inefficiency of the Attorney-General and the executive authorities in preventing these violations and in prosecuting those responsible.

6. The violations committed by the GIS and the Preventive Security Forces constitute crimes for which there is no statute of limitations under Palestinian law. Article 32 of the Basic Law states that any attack on the life or personal freedom of an individual, or on other rights or public freedoms that are protected by the law, is a crime, and no statute of limitations can be applied. Also, the PNA is under the legal obligation to provide effective remedies for those whose rights were violated. The victims of such crimes have the right to ask for the prosecution of the perpetrators before domestic courts and, in certain instances, before other jurisdictions in case of lack of domestic remedies.

7. The fact that members of the GIS and the Preventive Security Forces have failed to respect the rules of procedure and violated the law requires the immediate intervention of the Attorney-General, who must monitor and ensure the application of the law in order to ensure respect for the rights of the Palestinian people.

Al-Haq calls on the Monitoring and Public Freedoms Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to:

1- Immediately open an investigation into the conditions of arrest and detention of individuals by members of the Palestinian security authorities.

2- Implement an efficient monitoring system of the detention centres, which will be placed under the supervision of the PLC to ensure that the officers abide by the rules of procedure and human rights standards, in particular the time limits for detention prior to trial.

3- Investigate the reasons behind the inaction of the Attorney-General in adequately monitoring the detention centres of the GIS and the Preventive Security Forces, and the negligence in addressing the Office of Prosecutor when powers pertaining to its office have been abusively exercised by unauthorised officials.

 

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