Moral Low Ground


Palestinian Women, Including Hunger-Striking Hana al-Shalabi, Testify about Israeli Torture and Humiliation

A group of nine Palestinian women, including the hunger-striking Hana al-Shalabi, have testified or lodged complaints with Israeli authorities alleging mistreatment, abuse, torture and humiliation during their arrest and interrogation.

Badia al-Shalabi with a photo of her hunger-striking daughter Hana, imprisoned by Israel (Photo: Ayman Nobani/APA Images)

According to Electronic Intifada, the nine current and former female prisoners’ complaints were filed by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), addressing gender-specific forms of abuse and torture. PCATI, an Israeli human rights group, sent its legal team to collect evidence and testimony in meetings with 29 different women.

One complaint details torture during interrogations by the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet), some of which lasted as long as several weeks. According to PCATI:

[Women] testified that during interrogation they suffered inhuman detention conditions used as a method of interrogation; absence of basic hygienic conditions, including denial of sanitary pads to women who were menstruating during interrogation; prolonged interrogation sessions, lasting in some cases up to 20 hours; threats, including threats against family members; verbal abuse including of a sexual nature; sexual harassment, and other forms of humiliating and degrading treatment.

Another complaint deals with violence by Israeli soldiers at the time of arrest. The women testified that they:

suffered painful shackling; physical violence during arrest; strip searches conducted under inappropriate (and immodest) conditions; threats and intimidation; verbal abuse, humiliating and degrading treatment, including denial of menstrual pads and disregard for or exploitation of cultural and religious sensitivities as a form of humiliation.

The human rights group Addameer reported on the violent mistreatment of Hana al-Shalabi, whose brother was killed by the Israeli military and who was then imprisoned in administrative detention— indefinite imprisonment without charge nor trial– for over two years before being released in the prisoner swap that freed kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit last October. But Israeli forces re-arrested al-Shalabi on February 16, claiming she was  “a global jihad-affiliated operative” who “posed a threat to the area.” She’s been on a hunger strike ever since, which is now in its 23rd day. According to Addameer:

Hana objected [to a male Israeli soldier grabbing her hand] and told him that if they needed to hold her, they should bring a female soldier to do it. He completely disregarded her and when she tried to remove his hand, he began to beat her upper body and slap her in the face. Hana’s brother, Omar, attempted to jump in front of her to protect her, but the soldiers attacked him and beat him with their guns. A female soldier was then brought to detain her. Hana was blindfolded and put in a military jeep, where she was made to sit on the ground on her knees. Each time she tried to move, the soldiers ordered her to stay still and shut up.

Hana was taken to Salem Detention Center and left blindfolded for two hours in a tiny room before being transferred to HaSharon Prison. While at Salem Detention Center she was further subjected to beatings and humiliating treatment. Hana began an open hunger strike on the first day of her arrest in protest of the ill-treatment she was subjected to during and following her arrest. She was kept in solitary confinement for the first three days of her detention, in a section of the prison far from where the other Palestinian women are held.

It is unlikely that the complaints filed by PCATI will accomplish much; every last one of the 701 complaints of torture and abuse filed by Palestinian detainees between 2001 and 2010 has been dismissed.

Meanwhile, al-Shalabi’s parents have pleaded for urgent action to save their daughter. They’re even began a hunger strike of their own. Here is a video appeal featuring Badia al-Shalabi, Hana’s mother:

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