Zio-Nazi Occupied Lives: 13 days of trauma

Rahwi Qarqaz in front of his house in Jabalya. 

3 years ago, Rahwi Qarqaz (42) had a motor bike accident.  As a result, he fractured his right shoulder and suffered a breakage in the cartilage of his left knee.  Since then, he has had to undergo surgery on several occasions, most recently in April 2010 when he his knee ruptured.  On 15 July 2012, Rahwi was arrested at the Erez checkpoint while on his way to Tel-Aviv to seek further treatment and an operation.  He was subsequently detained for 13 days.

“I had my previous operations in Gaza, but I still suffered a lot of pain in my leg.  The kind of treatment I required was not available in any of Gaza’s hospitals, so I went to see my doctor and asked to go to Israel.  In May, I started the process of obtaining my medical referral.  I waited so long to get a permit and my health kept deteriorating.  It was only in July that I finally got my permit and an appointment with a hospital in Tel-Aviv.”

Rahwi was asked by the Israeli Intelligence Service to attend an interview with them before he could be allowed to go to Israel: “I got to Erez at around noon, they searched me and an Israeli officer asked me what the purpose of my visit was.  I showed him all my medical reports.  Then, I was taken to an investigation room.  The officer said to me, ‘I do not care about your documents.  We have been waiting for you for a long time.’  They then accused me of making and storing rockets in my house.”

Rahwi was subsequently blindfolded and taken to Ashkelon: “I was questioned all day and night with maybe 1 or 2 hour breaks in a solitary cell.  They tied me to a chair that was fixed to the ground.  My hands were tied to the back of the chair and my feet were tied to the legs of the chair.  They did not harm me physically, but they swore at me and verbally insulted me.  The number of investigators in the room was between 1 and 5 at any given time.”

During the investigation, several charges were leveled against Rahwi: “For the first 4 days, they asked me about my house and a steel factory owned by my brother.  In 2010, my house had caught fire.  I do not know what started the fire, but I stored the diesel for my generator and the machines for my brother’s factory in my house at that time.  They said that this fire was caused by the rockets I was making and that my brother and I had made 900 to 1000 rockets.  I told them that, even if it had been a fire caused by rockets, it would not have affected my house only, but the entire neighborhood.”

After 4 days, Rahwi was transferred to the Barshiva central prison, where he spent the next 3 days with other prisoners: “They sent other prisoners to come and talk to me and to try to get me to admit to Israel’s charges.  One of the prisoners they sent to me, an old man of about 60 years old, got very angry and argued with me when I refused to admit to the charges and he tried to make me admit forcibly.  Another one came with a notebook and was taking notes of what I was saying.  He lied to me by saying that my brother had said that the charges are true and I should also confess.”

Rahwi was then taken back to Ashkelon, for what he describes as the worst days of his detention: “I was interrogated from 9am to 4:30pm on Sunday and then given a 30 minute break.  I could tell the time by looking at the investigator’s watch.  At 5:00pm, the interrogation resumed and I was interviewed until 5:30am on Tuesday with no breaks.  They would give me the names of different people and demand I give them information about these people.  They also showed me a map of my neighborhood and asked what I knew about my neighbors.  I was psychologically traumatized by all the questioning and they would not let me go, even when I told them that I did not know what they were asking for.”

On 02 August, at around 11:30, Rahwi was finally released: “They told me that I had not been helpful and that I could go only if I agreed to give them information on my neighbors and other people in future.  I agreed to not lie to them in exchange for my release.  When I was reclaiming my items at Erez, I found out that the NIS 1,660 and USD 300 I had for my treatment was missing.  At that time, I did not even care about the money.  I was just happy to be free and to see my family.”

Rahwi is grateful to be re-united with his family, but, up until now, has yet to receive treatment for his leg.  He limps and supports himself with a crutch on his right hand: “This was the hardest time for my wife and 3 children.  They went through a lot since all they could do was call lawyers and the ICRC to try and get me released.  My own psychology was also greatly affected by the endless questioning.  Right now, I am just taking medication that I was given by my doctor after I returned.  Hopefully, I will be able to go for an operation in Egypt in September, but, for now, I will just wait.”

Under Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.  No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.  No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.” Rahwi’s detention, as he was not informed of the charges against him or brought before a judge, in violation of Article 9(2-3) of the ICCPR, blatantly violates international human rights law.  Further, the lengthy interrogation over 13 days constitutes a violation of Article 1 of the Convention on Torture, which prohibits “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.”



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