During the previous week, Al-Haq documented the case of seven Palestinians who were kidnapped in the North Gaza governorate by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades (al-Qassam) - the military wing of Hamas - and subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. Al-Haq’s field researcher faced obstacles in gathering data related to this case due to the reluctance of the hospital director and the hospital security to divulge information regarding internal Palestinian violations. Al-Haq’s field researcher did, however, succeed in obtaining affidavits from two of the victims.
The methods of torture included beating, Shabeh* and hitting the victims’ feet with iron batons, causing them to fracture. Under the threat of being executed, the seven Palestinians were video-taped stating that they were drug users and dealers and that they were kidnapped and beaten up for this reason.
Yousif Ahmad Abu Shammas – Beit Lahya
On Tuesday 2 July 2013, at around 8:00 pm, Yousif Ahmad Abu Shammas, 34, received a phone call from the head of the North Gaza governorate anti-drug department, Abu Ahmad al-Bayari. Abu Ahmad informed Yousif that he needed to see him to discuss an urgent matter. When Yousif met Abu Ahmad on a street close to his home, five masked armed men introduced themselves as members of al-Qassam brigades and attacked Yousif using the butts of their rifles. Yousif recalls Abu Ahmad saying that the anti-drug department were no longer in charge and that they had handed over control to the al-Qassam brigades. Yousif was then dragged into a car and driven away.
Shahir Khalil Abu Dhahir – Beit Hanoun
On Wednesday 3 July 2013, at around 5:00 pm, Shahir Khalil Abu Dhahir, 36, was in his brother's shop in Beit Hanoun when five masked armed men raided the shop, called Shahir a dog and informed him that they were from the al-Qassam brigades. Subsequently, Shahir was attacked by one of the men and was hit on his head with the butt of a rifle, causing him to feel nauseous. Shahir was eventually dragged to a car parked outside the shop and was driven around for about 20 minutes, during which time he was beaten up.
The Conditions of Detention
Although kidnapped on different days, Shahir and Yousif experienced similar conditions while being detained by al-Qassam. Both men were taken to a location near Jabalya, where another 20 people who had also been kidnapped were being held. Shahir and Yousif were both blindfolded and handcuffed upon arrival and then beaten by the al-Qassam members with iron batons and cables. Whilst being beaten, they were both able to hear the screams of other men, who were being ill-treated in close proximity to them.
During Shahir’s interrogation, which continued for over six hours, a noose was loosely placed around his neck and hung over a pipe on the ceiling. Members of al-Qassam interrogated Shahir about his possession, use and sale of the drug Tramadol** and would occasionally pull the rope, causing the noose to tighten around his neck, in an attempt to make him confess.
Although both Shahir and Yousif explained to the al-Qassam members that they were detained last year for possession of Tramadol and had since stopped using it, they were nevertheless both subjected to Shabeh, in which they were blindfolded, their hands and feet were tied behind their backs and they were attached to a rope hanging from the ceiling. While remaining in this stress position, Shahir and Yousif were both hit continuously by al-Qassam members. Both men recall that their interrogators made statements affirming that they were al-Qassam, that they had taken the men’s files from the anti-drug department and that they would serve as the men’s “judge” and “executioner”. The al-Qassam members also told both Shahir and Yousif that they were awaiting a decision to execute them, in order to make an example out of them.
Both men recall that when the interrogation period had come to an end they were both taken, along with the other abductees, to another room, where their blindfolds were removed. A masked member of al-Qassam held a video camera and, under the threat of execution, ordered Shahir and Yousif to confess that they were drug users and dealers and that although they had been detained and imprisoned in the past, they had not stopped using and dealing drugs.
The al-Qassam members then dragged Shahir, Yousif and the other abductees to several cars and drove them for about 15 minutes until they reached a field. Shahir and Yousif were forced out of the cars and then hit with iron batons by the al-Qassam members while their hands and legs were tied.
They were then dragged back to one of the cars, forced inside and driven away from the field. Every five minutes the driver would stop the car and al-Qassam members would throw two to three men out of the car into the street. At approximately 1:30 am, Shahir and Yousif were thrown out of the car onto different streets in Jabalya, where they were found by residents of the neighbourhood, who called ambulances for them. Once at Kamal 'Udwan hospital in Beit Lahya, the doctors informed both Shahir and Yousif that they would have to undergo surgery, as they had several fractures to their feet.
At the time of writing, Shahir and Yousif were both still in hospital recovering from their injuries. Both men have also undergone surgery on their feet. (Al-Haq Affidavits No. 8787/2013, 8786/2013)
Al-Haq expresses its grave concern at these cruel, inhuman and degrading acts and acts of torture committed by the al-Qassam brigades. Possession of criminal records by the victims does not give rise to the right or duty of any party to punish them in such a cruel manner and with no respect for the Palestinian law. Al-Haq urges Hamas as the de facto government, the Palestinian Attorney General and police officers to abide by their obligation to conduct immediate, transparent and impartial investigations into allegations of torture and to punish those responsible.
Shabeh* is a method of torture in which the subject is blindfolded and the body is placed in stress positions for prolonged periods.
Tramadol,** also known as Tramal, is a drug used to ease severe pain but can also cause addiction if it is used carelessly without a doctor’s prescription.