Millions of pounds of British government money is going to Palestinian security forces which use methods of torture including hanging prisoners by their feet and putting them in “stress” positions for hours at a time.
Evidence to be published next month in a report by Human Rights Watch was corroborated last week in interviews by The Sunday Times with victims in the West Bank, ruled by President Mahmoud Abbas’s western-backed Palestinian Authority.
Prisoners who have emerged from Palestinian Authority jails – many of whom have never been charged with any offence or even seen a lawyer – said they had been subjected to mock executions, kicked, punched and beaten with sticks, plastic pipes and hoses.
The disclosures came at the end of a week in which a Berlin conference of 40 donor nations, including Britain, pledged £121m over the next three years to bolster the Palestinian security forces and judicial system in the West Bank.
Of this total, about £20m will come from Britain, which is already committed to spending £2.7m on the training of Palestinian security forces this year. A British brigadier based in the West Bank city of Ramallah is involved in the training. Britain has set aside a further £4.5m for reform, civil justice and public prosecution over the next three years.
A total of £4 billion overall has been promised to the government of Abbas, who is the commander-in-chief of the Palestinian security forces.
Western support for Abbas’s security forces is part of a strategy to isolate Hamas fundamentalists who seized control of Gaza last year.
However, many of those detained on suspicion of links to Hamas described a form of torture called “shabah” in Arabic – being forced to hold stress positions for prolonged periods.
Some have been made to stand with one leg and one arm raised for hours. Others have had to sit on the edge of a chair with their hands tied to their feet.
Amar al-Masri, 43, a Nablus businessman who is married to Kholoud al-Masri, an elected Hamas municipal official, has been held since last month in al-Jenid prison in Nablus. Last Thursday, his son Abdullah, 13, crossed off day 54 on a calendar on the family’s refrigerator.