Friday, March 22

Israeli doctors accused of collusion in torture

Questions are being raised about the involvement of Israeli 
doctors in the suspected torture of a young Palestinian 
detainee who died in custody last month. 
Sharmila Devi 
The death of a Palestinian prisoner in 
circumstances in an Israeli prison has reignited a 
longstanding controversy over alleged physician complicity 
in torture as well as sparking renewed Palestinian anger 
over the estimated 4600 prisoners held by Israel.
The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) denied that medical 
professionals were involved in torture or abuse and said 
that as far as it knew, torture was not approved or used by 
Israeli security forces or prisons. However, human-rights 
campaigners say Palestinian prisoners have long suffered 
from beatings, sleep deprivation, prolonged and painful 
handcuffing, humiliation, and medical neglect—considered 
torture under international standards.
Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old petrol attendant with two 
children, was arrested on Feb 18 on suspicion of throwing 
stones and Molotov cocktails during a West Bank 
demonstration held last November against Israeli military 
action in the Gaza strip. Palestinians say his arrest, months 
after the demonstration, and his interrogation was part of a 
longstanding Israeli policy to coerce prisoners to become 
informants after their release.
Palestinian leaders say some 800 000 Palestinians have 
been detained by Israeli forces since 1967, and Jaradat was 
the 203rd prisoner to die. He died after several days of 
interrogation by Israeli's Shin Bet internal security service 
on Feb 23 at Israel's Megiddo prison. An autopsy was held 
the next day at Israel's Institute of Forensic Medicine in the 
presence of Saber Aloul, the Palestinian Authority's chief 
pathologist, who said bruising on the body was evidence of 
Israel's health ministry said on Feb 28, after examining new 
findings from the autopsy that there was no evidence 
Jaradat was physically abused or poisoned, nor was it 
possible to determine his cause of death.
Israeli officials had originally attributed his death to a heart 
attack and said bruising and broken ribs were 
“characteristic findings of a resuscitation, which the 
medical crew from the Israel Prison Service and Magen 
David Adom engaged in for 50 minutes in an effort to save 
his life”.
Additional samples taken from the body were still 
undergoing microscopic and toxicology tests and results 
were not expected for several weeks. “The signs that 
appeared during the autopsy show clearly that he was 
subjected to severe torture that led immediately to his 
death”, Issa Qaraka, the Palestinian Minister of Prisoner 
Affairs said at a Ramallah press conference after being 
briefed by the Palestinian pathologist who attended the 
Kamil Sabbagh, Jaradat's lawyer, told an Israeli military 
judge a couple of days before his client's death that he was 
being forced to sit for long periods during interrogation, had 
complained of back pain, and seemed terrified of returning 
to the Shin Bet detention centre where he was being held. 
The judge ordered an examination by a prison doctor. 
Jaradat died at Megiddo prison and it was not known when 
he was moved there.
Derek Summerfield, an honorary senior lecturer at the 
University of London's Institute of Psychiatry and 
campaigner against what he called Israeli physicians’ 
violations of human rights, says he wanted to know what 
part doctors played in the circumstances of Jaradat's death. 
“By Israel's own admission, Jaradat was seen by Israeli 
doctors 2 days earlier and they found him in good health. 
The key medical ethical question is what were these 
doctors examining him for, if not to assess whether he 
could withstand torture”, he tells The Lancet. “This is 
precisely what the campaign regarding medical collusion 
with torture in Israel was launched for in 2009 and it 
continues to run.”
The IMA said in a statement: “The IMA vociferously objects 
to the claim that medical professionals are involved in 
torture or abuse, and we will continue to do everything 
possible with the tools available to us to inform doctors 
about their obligation to report and to conduct themselves 
The IMA and human rights organisations have called for 
responsibility for prisoners’ health to be taken away from 
the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and given to an outside body, 
such as health maintenance organisations (HMO) or the 
health ministry, which a year ago set up a standing 
committee to which doctors can report suspicions of 
torture. “It's true that every doctor has a conflict of 
interest between the patient and the system in the HMOs 
and also in the army”, Avinoam Reches, who heads the 
IMA's Ethics Board, told Ha'aretz newspaper. “But in the 
case of the IPS, the problem is severe because the 
treatment is given to people who have no freedom of choice 
Palestinians and human-rights groups demanded an 
independent investigation into Jaradat's death.

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