Letter to State Department Regarding the Death of Arafat Jaradat

John Kerry

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C St NW

Washington, DC 20520

 

Dear Secretary Kerry:

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) joins senior United Nations officials who have voiced deep concern about the detention and death of Palestinian Arafat Jaradat while in the custody of Israel’s General Security Service, Shabak (Shin Bet), at Megiddo Prison. We demand that the State Department investigate the substantial and credible evidence that Jaradat was tortured to death in Israel’s Megiddo Prison on February 23, 2013.

 The “Leahy Law” prohibits the United States from sending aid to security forces that commit “gross violations of human rights.” Israel is not exempt from this rule. The NLG is particularly concerned that Israeli security units use equipment obtained through U.S. military aid to Israel when perpetrating gross violations of human rights in this and other cases.

UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, have called for an independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Jaradat’s death, as have more than 14 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations.

Jaradat is survived by a 4-year-old daughter, a 2-year-old son and his pregnant wife, Dalal.  He was killed on his sixth day in custody, following his arrest on February 18. According to Jaradat's attorney, Kamil Sabbagh, Jaradat told an Israeli military judge during a hearing shortly before his death that his interrogators had forcefully restrained him in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Jaradat also complained of back pain and seemed terrified to return to the Shin Bet lockup. Although the judge ordered that Jaradat be examined by a prison doctor, this never happened.

At the time of his death, Jaradat was detained for interrogation by the Shin Bet without charges. This is the Israeli military’s modus operandi: to arrest and interrogate Palestinians for extended periods prior to any charges being filed or even the issuing of administrative detention orders. An initial government report claimed that Jaradat died from a heart attack, but a subsequent autopsy conducted in the presence of Saber Aloul, the Palestinian Authority’s chief pathologist, revealed signs that Jaradat was likely tortured to death.

Dr. Aloul found no signs of heart failure when he examined Jaradat, and neither Dr. Aloul nor Israeli officials found any other signs of illness on Jaradat’s body.  On the contrary, the autopsy did find “strong and excessive” fresh bruising on the chest, arms, shoulders, and back, as well as several broken ribs on both the right and left side of Jaradat’s chest. Aloul concluded that Jaradat died from “nervous shock as a result of extreme pain from the intensity of the injuries.”

This is not the first time that Israeli authorities have been accused of torturing Palestinian detainees. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Palestinians have filed more than 700 complaints concerning mistreatment by Shin Bet agents during the past decade, but not a single one has led to a criminal investigation. The NLG calls for an objective international investigation of Israel's treatment of detained Palestinians. At present, Israel holds more than 4,800 Palestinians, at least 178 of whom are in administrative detention or otherwise held without charge.

We do not want our tax dollars to fund a government and security forces that commit torture, arbitrary and unreasonable detention, and other gross violations of human rights. We urge you to speak publicly about the allegations of Jaradat's torture and to immediately open an investigation into the matter. We further demand that the State Department identify the Israeli unit responsible for Jaradat’s death to determine whether it receives U.S. military aid and to take all appropriate steps to immediately suspend aid to Israeli government and security forces. We further expect that the U.S. government will demand that the perpetrators be prosecuted if this investigation finds violations of international law.

Sincerely,

Azadeh Shahshahani

National Lawyers Guild President