Gaza Guantanamo
October 25, 2008   By:    Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Palestinian Detainee   Comments are off   //   593 Views

By  Shaimaa Mustafa, Ola Attallah

GAZA CITY — He shudders whenever he hears the name of Al-Mashtal prison in western Gaza.

“You can’t believe the scale of physical and psychological torture inside,” a recently-released Fatah prisoner told, referring to Al-Mashtal prison.

“Prisoners are being held in ill-ventilated underground rooms made of concrete cement.”

Dubbed by Fatah supporters as “Hamas-run Guantanamo”, Al-Mashtal prison is considered the most notorious in Gaza.

“They are crafty in inventing torture techniques,” a former prisoner at Al-Mashtal prison told IOL, requesting anonymity.

“They tortured me to the extent that I was not able to see anything.”

Fatah has accused Hamas of carrying out a series of “political arrests” against its supporters since it controlled the strip last year.

“They arrested my husband without charges,” said the wife of a Fatah detainee.

“What is happening to Fatah members is nothing but a crime.”

Families of Fatah detainees have been staging weekly protests at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters to demand the release of their beloved ones.

“We will continue our weekly sit-in at the ICRC HQ until all prisoners are released,” said the wife of detainee Mohamed El-Nahhal.

“What is happening inside the prisons can’t be ignored.”

Human rights campaigners say there are 68 “political detainees” in Gaza.

“My son did nothing,” said the mother of Fatah detainee Gamal Zayed.

The families urged Egypt, which is mediating reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, to intervene to win the release of Fatah detainees.

“The release of political prisoners and halting media incitement are the key to a successful national dialogue,” said the families in a statement.


Maltreatment of Fatah prisoners has reportedly become a routine in Hamas-run prisons.

“Security agencies in Gaza are using the same torture techniques used by the security agencies in the West Bank such as Shabh,” said Gameel Sarhan, director of Gaza Program for Human Rights.

Shabh (Arabic for ghost) is a torture technique in which the prisoner is tied up for long periods so as to cause severe pain, especially in the hands and back.

“Fundamental human rights have no place in Palestinian jails,” said Sarhan.

“It is a chaos.”

The Gaza-based interior ministry denies any violations at Hamas-run prisons.

“Prisons are open to monitors, rights activists, independents and ICRC officials,” spokesman Ihab Al-Ghuseen told IOL.

“Gaza security agencies don’t torture political detainees.”

Ghuseen said that Hamas has released many political detainees from prisons.

“We only have 15 detainees from Fatah, who are being held in comfortable conditions,” he said.

Last month, Palestinian human rights groups and MPs established a committee to monitor political detentions, but its work never got off the ground.

Although the committee had the blessing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the security services which he controls refused to cooperate.

“Hamas released 10 political detainees and signaled readiness to set free more,” said Khalil Abu-Shemalah, the head of Al-Dhamir (Conscience) human rights group.

“But in Ramallah, the head of the preventive security agency refused to tell the committee about the number of political detainees in its prisons. He only said there is no political prisoners.”

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