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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

PA whitewashed torture death of prisoner

From Ma'an:
Palestinian security officials privately offered American diplomats candid details about the 2009 death of a detainee while they publicly refuted allegations of torture, according to a US diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks.

Suspected Hamas member Haitham Amr, a nurse at a Hebron hospital, died less than a week after the PA’s General Intelligence division arrested him in June 2009.

Security officials claimed publicly that Amr fell to his death trying to escape through a second-story window. But the recently released cable, part of a full batch posted online in late August, reveals that General Intelligence officials told the US Consulate in Jerusalem that their initial account was "simply wrong."

Corroborating allegations of torture from the victim’s family and human rights groups, the cable says the PA’s own investigation found evidence that Amr was abused before his death.

...The PA never retracted its initial account, although Interior Minister Said Abu Ali conceded in October 2009 that there had been a "violation of the rights" of Haitham Amr.

Rights campaigners say the new information casts doubt on the credibility of a special military court which acquitted five officers who were charged in connection with Amr's death.

No PA security official has ever been criminally convicted of abusing persons in custody "despite hundreds of documented complaints of torture and other abuse," [HRW's Bill Van] Esveld says. "Given these serious and widespread abuses, the US should stop funding PA security agencies until the PA ends this record of impunity."

In 2010, the US provided $350 million to the PA for its security forces in addition to $150 million in direct budgetary aid, according to Human Rights Watch.

US government officials have consistently denied that American funds support security agencies accused of torture; they say most aid goes to the PA's National Security Forces.

News reports suggest otherwise. In December 2009, The Guardian quoted Western officials saying that the CIA works so closely with the General Intelligence and the Preventive Security organization that the Americans seem to be supervising the Palestinians' work.