The Palestinian Authority systematically tortured dozens of suspected collaborators with Israel between 1990 and 2003, and must compensate them for the physical and mental harm it caused them, a Jerusalem court ruled this week.
In the landmark case, which was released for publication on Wednesday, the Jerusalem District Court reviewed the files of 51 Palestinians who alleged they had been arrested on suspicion of providing Israeli authorities with information and assistance.
The plaintiffs testified that they were incarcerated in various facilities for different periods of time — some were held for years — and suffered brutal torture at the hands of their investigators, who sought to extract information and confessions from them.
Plaintiffs said interrogators beat them, put out cigarettes on their bodies, pulled out their teeth, forced them into painful positions for lengthy periods of time and withheld food and drink. Several said their genitals were abused, leaving them sterile and impotent.
In some cases prisoners were locked inside hot metal containers on hot days, or were alternately doused with searing and freezing water. Others recounted being forced to drink out of toilet bowls or sit on broken bottles. Some were made to witness the executions of other suspected collaborators. Prisoners were often denied medical attention.
The PA, while acknowledging the imprisonment of some of the plaintiffs, denied that any torture took place.
The court, in an 1,800-page ruling following 90 court sessions and years of deliberations, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, with judge Moshe Drori saying the testimonies and evidence proved the allegations beyond any reasonable doubt.
“During the day they’d tie you up to the wall until dark. At night they’d take you for questioning,” one plaintiff, whose identity was not disclosed, told Channel 2 news. “When you go in you don’t see the interrogator because you have a sack on your head. They had one room… where they put a sack on your head that was [soaked] in sewage… you can’t see where the beatings are coming from.”
Three plaintiffs interviewed anonymously told Channel 2 they were never presented with evidence or proof, only told repeatedly to confess — which many did, to make the suffering stop. It often did not.
Barak Kedem, the lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, hailed the court’s decision, saying his clients had been subjected to “unimaginable torture” by the PA.
“It’s as though someone there read Dante’s ‘Inferno’ and tried to emulate it,” he said, referring to the medieval Italian poet’s work detailing sinners’ tormented journey through the nine circles of hell. “After 14 years (of deliberations)… the court has brought justice.”
The court will next look into each of the 51 cases and determine the damages that each of the plaintiffs will be awarded for their suffering — a process that could take several more years.
The three men interviewed by Channel 2 said they now live in Israel, penniless and without family or any sense of belonging.
“I was arrested at the age 18 or 19,” one said. “I haven’t lived life since. I don’t want money. I want to be [treated as] a human being, that’s all.”