Rights Monitor Demands Probe of Israel’s ‘Guantánamo-Like’ Prison

Detainees at Israel’s Sde Teman camp were “blindfolded and bound, with both their hands and feet handcuffed, and if they tried to ask for anything, were met with abuse and threats,” said Euro-Med Monitor.

By Julia Conley. Published 12-19-2023 by Common Dreams

Sde Teman camp. Photo: Palestine Captives/X

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor on Monday demanded an independent investigation into Israel’s alleged “torture and murder of Palestinian civilians” who have been captured and detained by the Israel Defense Forces—particularly those who have been held in the Sde Teman army camp, located between the Israeli city of Beersheba and Gaza.

Sde Teman has been turned into “a new Guantánamo-like prison,” the monitor said, comparing it to the U.S. prison where inmates accused by the U.S. of being terrorists have been held indefinitely, many without being charged, and subjected to torture for more than two decades.

The monitor said it has gathered testimonies from former detainees who have been recently released from Sde Teman and who have reported severe mistreatment of prisoners—who are all male and range from young children to elderly people—as well as the executions of some detainees and the deaths of others under what one outlet called “unclear circumstances.

Israeli authorities have kept detainees in “open-air chicken coops” and withheld food and drink for long periods of time.

Detainees have also been blindfolded and had their hands tied while being subjected to harsh interrogations, during which “lights are turned on and intensely shone upon them at night, with the intention of exhausting and torturing them.”

They have been barred from using phones to contact their families, meeting with lawyers, and receiving medical care from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Euro-Med Monitor said.

Released prisoners also told the Geneva-based group that they witnessed elderly prisoners enduring “cruel beatings and humiliating treatment.”

“The detainees were blindfolded and bound, with both their hands and feet handcuffed, and if they tried to ask for anything, were met with abuse and threats,” said the monitor.

The group’s report and demand for an impartial and urgent investigation followed reporting in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Monday which revealed that several of the hundreds of Palestinians who have been detained at Sde Teman since Israel began its bombardment of Gaza in October have died while in Israeli custody.

Haaretz reported that Israel had detained the Palestinians under its so-called Unlawful Combatants Law of 2002, which released Israel’s government “from the need to provide evidence justifying the internment and its continuation, thus switching the burden of proof onto the shoulders of the internee, who can never refute the allegations.”

Israel-based human rights group B’tselem has frequently called on the government to stop detaining people under the law.

Haaretz reported on the deaths of two Palestinians at Sde Teman, which the IDF had not publicly acknowledged. Generally the Israeli military announces the deaths of prisoners in its custody. The monitor said that one of the men had requested medical attention before he died, “but the army ignored his request and kept him in appalling conditions, which ultimately caused his death.”

A former detainee who spoke to the Euro-Med Monitor also said he had witnessed “Israeli soldiers directly shooting and killing five detainees in separate incidents.”

The group had previously reported on Israel’s arrest and detention of more than 1,200 Palestinian civilians across Gaza since beginning its assault on the blockaded enclave in retaliation for Hamas’ attack on southern Israel on October 7.

In November, Amnesty International separately documented the detentions of more than 2,200 Palestinian men and women from the West Bank since October 7, and reported on testimony from released detainees and human rights lawyers, video evidence, and images showing “forms of torture and other ill treatment” prisoners have been subjected to by Israeli forces since the current escalation began.

Amnesty described “Israeli soldiers beating and humiliating Palestinians while detaining them blindfolded, stripped, with their hands tied, in a particularly chilling public display of torture and humiliation of Palestinian detainees.”

Israel’s use of “administrative detention,” in which detainees are held without charges or a trial, often indefinitely, has also spiked significantly since October 7, said Amnesty, with the number of Palestinians arbitrarily imprisoned rising from 1,319 to 2,070 between October 1 and November 1.

The Euro-Med Monitor called on the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the ICRC to pressure Israeli officials to publicly disclose “the fate of all detainees from the Gaza Strip,” release all civilians, and investigate the reported treatment of detainees at prisons including Sde Teman.

The group’s call echoed that of Amnesty last month.

“Israeli authorities must immediately reverse the inhumane emergency measures imposed on Palestinian prisoners and grant them immediate access to their lawyers and families,” said Heba Morayef, the group’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Israeli judicial authorities must also impartially and independently investigate complaints of torture and other ill treatment and prosecute in fair trials those responsible for ordering and carrying out torture.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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