Young Palestinian dad died from torture: forensic expert

12 Apr

The Funeral of Arafat Jaradat in the West Bank village of Se'eerA mourning relative clutches a portrait of Arafat Jaradat in the West Bank village of Sair, 25 February 2013.

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 11 April 2014

An internationally renowned expert on torture says that evidence confirms that a young Palestinian died of injuries he sustained in Israeli custody due to torture.

Arafat Jaradat, a 33-year-old father of two, died on 23 February 2013 in Israel’s Megiddo Prison where he was being interrogated by the Shin Bet secret police.

As Haaretz reported, Jaradat was arrested on the night of 18 February 2013 on suspicion that he had thrown stones and a Molotov cocktail at Israeli occupation forces: “It was a bit after midnight and everyone in the house – he himself, his wife Dalal, his four-year-old daughter Yaara and two-year-old son Mohammed – was sleeping, as was his brother Mohammed, who lives in the same building. The soldiers, ten or 12 of them, burst into the home and behaved with rare courtesy. They asked for identity cards and when Arafat gave them his, they told him to say goodbye to his family and come with them for detention. His small children, Yaara and Mohammed, clung to his legs but the soldiers promised them their father would be home soon.”

He never did come home.

Autopsy: torture

Israel claimed Jaradat died of “natural” causes, but human rights groups and family members said the horrific injuries on his body indicated he had been severely beaten, a finding supported by the autopsy carried out by Dr. Saber al-Aloul, a forensic medicine specialist and director of the Palestinian Medico-Legal Institute, along with two Israeli pathologists.

Al-Aloul’s autopsy report concluded that Jaradat died due to “nervous shock as a result of extreme pain from the intensity of the injuries … which resulted from multiple direct and extensive acts of torture.”

Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups jointly condemned Jaradat’s death and urged an international investigation.

“Blunt trauma”

Now, in an 8 April joint statement, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Al-Haq have released the findings of Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, a forensic medicine specialist with three decades of experience.

The human rights groups say:

Dr. Korur Fincanci, relying on the autopsy data and analysis provided by the Israeli forensic authorities and pointing to the various bruises visible in the pictures taken of the corpse by the Palestinian police prior to burial, concludes that the autopsy findings actually “are indicative for blunt trauma with a long and thick object” and are not consistent with resuscitation efforts. The immediate cause of death is lung edema leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome, both of which “are highly consistent with timing of previous injuries that should be within 1-3 days prior to his death.” Dr. Korur Fincanci’s findings dispute Israel’s official expert opinion, which stated the cause of death as “natural.” The Palestinian forensic expert concluded that Mr. Jaradat’s death is attributable to torture.

Korur Fincanci contributed to the drafting of the “Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” – generally known as the Istanbul Protocol – which, the statement notes, “is an official and internationally authoritative United Nations document.”

She has been called on in numerous cases such as the exhumation of mass graves in Bosnia, as well as to investigate alleged cases of torture in Bahrain. Korur Fincanci has also been at the forefront of training others in forensic medicine.

Korur Fincanci was in Israel to give expert testimony in court hearings on Jaradat’s killing that are being held in secret due to officially imposed censorship banning the media from reporting on them.

Megiddo Prison: model for America?

As previously reported by The Electronic Intifada, Megiddo Prison, where Jaradat was killed, is an interrogation facility equipped by the British-Danish multinational prisoner profiteering firm G4S.

As I note in my book The Battle for Justice in Palestine, Megiddo Prison is also where Israel takes delegations of US law enforcement officials to showcase its supposed “security” expertise.

In October 2012, for instance, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange took senior police officials from the New York, Los Angeles and Houston police departments on a junket which included visits to various Israeli occupation installations and forces including specifically Megiddo Prison.

Commander Richard Webb of the Los Angeles Police Department, one of the participants, claimed: “My experiences in meeting with the various [Israeli] experts and leaders confirm they not only are experts, they are pragmatic and collaborative. Equally as important they do their duties while vigilantly protecting human rights. I will take many lessons I learned back to Los Angeles.”

The abuse and torture of Palestinians in Israeli detention, including of children and of women, is a pervasive practice, according to human rights organizations.

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