Palestinian Territory - In a new report released on Tuesday, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor documents the testimonies of about 100 released Palestinian detainees. These testimonies confirm that the Israeli authorities and army committed horrific crimes of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and inhuman and cruel treatment against thousands of Palestinian civilians who were arrested as part of Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip, ongoing since 7 October 2023.

In a 50-plus-page report titled “Hostages of Israeli Revenge in the Gaza Strip”, Euro-Med Monitor brings to light the widespread practice of arbitrary collective and individual arrests by Israeli forces against civilians in the Strip. Those arrested during Israel’s military incursions and its ground attacks on cities, camps, and residential neighbourhoods throughout the Strip include women, children, the elderly, and displaced individuals.

The report is based on statements, testimonies, and in-person interviews that the Euro-Med Monitor team conducted with 100 detainees who had been released from Israeli army custody following ground operations in different parts of the Gaza Strip. Approximately half of the recently-released detainees are men under 50, while the remaining 17 are elderly men; 22 are women and four are children. Additional information was also gathered from reports released by the relevant authorities, local and international media, and human rights organisations. 

   They stepped on my head, and four of them peed on me while insulting me   

M.Q., a Gaza City resident and engineer employed by a local company

 The information gathered concludes that the Israeli army routinely commits widespread crimes of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, premeditated murder, torture, inhuman treatment, sexual violence, and denial of a fair trial. It also confirms that the Israeli army used physical and psychological torture against Palestinian civilian detainees, including beatings with the intent to kill, sexual violence, electrocution, blindfolding, and long-term hand and foot shackles. Israel also denied them access to food and medical care, including critical and life-saving care, spat and urinated on detainees, and committed other cruel and degrading acts, in addition to psychological abuse including rape and death threats, verbal harassment, and other forms of sexual violence.

Abdul Qader Jamal Tafesh, 33, spoke with the Euro-Med Monitor team after being taken into custody by the Israeli army from the Kamal Adwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, where he had been sheltering as a displaced person. “On 12 December 2023, the soldiers arrested and detained me in one of their camps in the northern Gaza Strip,” he stated. “They interrogated me inside the Al-Barawi family villa on Beit Lahia Street, which the army had converted into a military barracks.”

According to Tafesh, as soon as he and the other prisoners arrived in this home’s yard, they were inspected with tools including specific “eye fingerprint” scanners. “After being stripped of our clothes and placed in handcuffs, [one in five people] were told to line up in front of cameras, get down on their knees, and bow their head. I was among these people.”

Once he was on the ground, continued Tafesh, “[O]ne of the soldiers blindfolded me, put a sticker with a number on my shoulder, and made me run for about 500 metres before throwing me to the ground.” He explained that one soldier beat and tortured him, switching his handcuffs from front to back even after he revealed that he was hurt and had previously had an operation during which platinum was inserted into his left shoulder, which the soldier could see because Tafesh was naked. “He also hit me with his shoe, which made the pain worse, and [specifically] at the operation site, which made me pass out multiple times. I asked them to bring a doctor or take me to a doctor, but they refused,” Tafesh stated.

Added Tafesh: “I was approached by a soldier who asked, ‘Do you want to die?’ He lifted his own weapon, removed its components, and fired close to my head.”

M.Q., a Gaza City resident and engineer employed by a local company, requested that his full name be withheld due to safety concerns. He stated that he was detained and severely tortured by the Israeli army in his home: “They severely beat me for more than half an hour continuously, then forced me to sit on a bathroom chair next to the room. One of the soldiers asked me to recite the Shahada (a Muslim prayer said when one believes he is about to die) and after I did, he shot straight into the wall beside me.”

Continued M.Q., “After that, I was handcuffed and tied in place while the soldiers threw stones at me. About fifteen minutes later, they took me out [of the bathroom] and threw me on the floor of the room. They also stepped on my head, and four of them peed on me while insulting me.”

Along with being detained and subjected to torture in Israeli military bases and detention facilities—including covert and unofficial detention centres, particularly those near the borders of the Gaza Strip—Palestinian detainees were also subjected to detention and prolonged detention without any due legal procedures or being brought before judicial authorities, in violation of pertinent international laws.

The international community must uphold its legal obligations under international law to stop Israel from committing crimes against all Gaza Strip residents, including detainees. It must also activate effective pressure mechanisms to compel Israel to immediately cease these crimes and to adhere to international law and protect Palestinian civilians in the Strip.

Under Articles 146, 147, and 148 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the High Contracting Parties are obligated to stop Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, including crimes of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinian detainees.

All nations must fulfill their international obligations and halt all military, political, and financial support for Israel in its crimes against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip; in particular, all arms transfers, export permits, and military aid to Israel must be halted. Otherwise, these nations will be complicit in all crimes committed in the Strip, including genocide.

Pressures should be put on Israel to stop its practice of forcibly disappearing Palestinian prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip; to immediately reveal all secret detention facilities; to reveal the identities of all Palestinians Israel detains from the Strip, their whereabouts, and their fate; and to take full responsibility for their safety and preserving their lives.

In order to conclude the investigation that was opened in 2021, the International Criminal Court must cooperate with all parties and take serious action in submitting specialised reports about the crimes which Palestinian prisoners and detainees have been exposed to in Israeli prisons and detention centres since 7 October. The Court must also issue arrest warrants for all those responsible for these crimes, including those crimes committed against prisoners and detainees, in order to bring them to justice and hold them accountable.

Euro-Med Monitor was taken aback to learn that the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, disregarded the widespread and systematic crimes of torture committed by Israel against Palestinian prisoners and detainees, particularly those in the Gaza Strip, when he announced on Monday that he had submitted a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber to issue two arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galat for allegedly participating in war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians in the Strip. These accusations include war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people, but not torture, even though there is ample evidence to support such allegations.

Pressure should be exerted on the Israeli authorities to release all Palestinian detainees who were arbitrarily arrested, and if they are brought to trial, ensure all fair trial procedures. In addition, Israel must return the remains of Palestinian prisoners and detainees who died in Israeli prisons and detention centres.