by: The Coalition for Palestinian Political Prisoners, Women for Women Political Prisoners
The Coalition for Palestinian Political Prisoners is deeply concerned-fearful--for the welfare of the women political prisoners in Neve Tirza prison, following the most recent lawyer`s visit in which the women prisoners spoke of unprecedented, cruel abuse by the prison authorities. The situation is extremely serious. We are asking you to either mail or fax (preferable) the prison immediately in order to pressure the wardens to cease their abusive behaviour. We are also calling for a demonstration in front of Neve Tirza on Friday, October 5 at 12:00.
The following is a summary of the women`s situation including excerpts from their affidavits given to the Women`s Organization for Political Prisoners (WOFPP) lawyer, Allegra Pacheco, who visited the Neve Tirtza prison on 16 September 2001. Below is also a sample letter to be faxed or sent to the prison and attached are the complete affidavits of Amne Muna and Maha Al-Ok.
The abuse worsens on Thursday, September 13, the prison wardens of Neve Tirtza entered the cells of the women political prisoners, took away all their possessions and took Maha Al-Ok (22), Abeer Amer (21), Suad Ghazal (18), Wijdan Buji (22) and Rab`a Hamael (14) to isolation. They then took Amne Muna (25) to an entirely different section, where there are only criminal prisoners. The wardens` explanation: only Amne Muna stood up at role call while the others didn`t.
Maha, Abeer, Suad, Wijdan, and Rab`a feared for Amne, screaming, calling out her name. It was later that evening that male and female police and wardens entered the isolation cells of the five women and started beating them. The police and the wardens tied and spread their arms and legs to their beds in plastic handcuffs that were tight to the point of causing swelling and severe pain. The wardens covered Wijdan`s and Suad`s face with their veils while they were chained to the bed, so that they had difficulty breathing. Only after two hours of pain and agony, the wardens came back to the isolation cells and loosened the handcuffs, but left them chained to their beds in this humiliating position for the entire night.
Amne`s beating was even more severe. She was relentlessly beaten, her finger broken, and sprayed twice with gas at close range. She describes the abuse in her affidavit as the following: "They tried to attack me with their plastic shields. I tried to protect myself. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor, protecting my head - three men were beating me on my head and on my body. They sprayed gas on my face. I thought I was going to die. I couldn`t breathe and I was screaming. One of the policemen started stomping his boot on my hand and I was bleeding...They put my face on the floor and continued to beat me. Then they grabbed me by my arms and legs and dragged me to the other room. My head was knocking on the floor. My hand was bleeding. Then Miri (a female warden) sprayed me again. I thought I was going to die. Then they put me on the bed, they tied my hands and legs to the bed - all the while beating me - holding my head and neck in a choking position."
During the attorney`s visit, the prison warden refused to take off the shackles from Amne`s legs. There is no water in Amne`s cell, and at the time of the visit, at 13.45 h, she still had not received any water on that day. One finger of her right hand was swollen, badly bruised and bloody.
On 16 September, when the lawyer saw the women, all the women were still in isolation and had bruises, wounds and blue marks on their face and body.
September 23, 2001
Ms. Debbie Sagy
Director, Neve Tirza Prison
P.O. Box 229
Dear Ms. Sagy:
I am writing to express my deep concern about the ongoing violence, abuse and degrading treatment of the Palestinian political women prisoners held in your prison. Numerous Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations report that in the last four months, male and female wardens and riot police brutally assaulted and beat the women prisoners several times resulting in injuries, bruises and lacerations on their bodies. These wardens and police also humiliated and sexually degraded the women. Using unbearably tight handcuffs, they spread their arms and legs and chained them to the bed for 24 hours, dragged the women on the floor by the chain of the handcuffs and by their hair, and they also tied the women`s veils over their faces to cause them difficulty in breathing.
The worst reports concern the leader of the Palestinian women prisoners, Amne Mona, who was gassed, beaten several times and is now in total isolation with a broken finger from the assault. I am fearful for her life as criminal prisoners in Neve Tirza continue to threaten to kill her. My concern is augmented by the fact, that though an investigation has been opened, not one warden allegedly involved in the beatings and assault has been suspended or transferred. Rather, these male and female wardens and officers - Miri Weitzman, Vered, Yehudit, Alex, Uri, and Erez- continue to have 24-hour contact with the women and oversee their day-to-day activity.
Reports have also surfaced that the nurses and medics have not adequately reported the abuse and injuries and have participated with the prison personnel in covering - up the violence in the prison. Though as an occupying power the Israeli government has no legal authority to imprison Palestinians inside Israeli prisons, as long as the women prisoners remain under your custody, you are fully responsible for their welfare. I am aware that the women have been denied their most basic rights as prisoners and have undertaken several non-violent protest actions during this period. Nevertheless, the prison violence and abuse directed against the women prisoners remains unjustified and illegal under all international standards.
"Principle 6: No person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No circumstance whatever may be invoked as a justification for torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, UN General Assembly - Res.
43/173, Dec. 1988
"33. Instruments of restraint, such as handcuffs, chains.shall never be applied as a punishment.
" 53. Women prisoners shall be attended and supervised only by women officers." Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (UN ESC, Res. 663, 1957 & 1977)
I request that you fulfill your responsibilities accordingly, and put an immediate end to the abuse, violence, and sexual humiliation occurring in the Neve Tirza prison.