Palestine urged to compensate those killed behind bars
Palestine, Local, 12/19/1997
A Palestinian human rights organization has called on the government to reconsider its compensation policy to families of Palestinian individuals who have died in Palestinian jails.
The East Jerusalem-based Palestinian Association for Human Rights said in a statement issued lately that Palestine has not set up a specific policy for compensation and said that lack of a specific standard for compensating families of those who died in Palestinian prisons has caused injustice to those families, including the fact that they were never paid any money until after they strongly pursuit the case or after the intervention of prominent figures on their behalf.
In cases in the past, the government had declared some of those who died under interrogation as martyrs and, as such, has allocated certain amounts of money for their families. But in other cases, the government had suggested finding a suitable job for a close relative to the victim or to cover the cost of the funeral, or other costs which the organization said does not exceed the limit of a public relations ploy by the government to absorb public anger.
The report, the third since the organization was set more than two years ago, dedicated 13 out of its 52 pages to the compensations question, calling on the government to conduct thorough investigations after each incident that involves the death of a Palestinian inmate in Palestinian jails and stressed that the right of families to be compensated by the authorities in case of death is internationally recognized and should be applied to Palestine.
The organization called on the Palestinian Legislative Council to address the question and to pass regulations that maintain the dignity of Palestinian prisoners and to monitor the measure taken by the authorities behind bars. According to the report, 18 Palestinians have died while in custody since the PNA was proclaimed in 1994. The government said that five of those had committed suicide but the human rights organization said it had evidence "beyond any doubt" that the cause of death in some of those cases was otherwise. It said it had applied for official response from the government but so far "the Ramallah prosecutor general has failed to present any of those responses."
The other point raised by the report was the question of punishment, without which, it said, no investigation would ever bear any sense. It called for those found responsible to be put on trial and be punished according to the law. The organization demanded that all trials of those allegedly responsible for death of prisoners be conducted in the open so that the public would practice its right to know what goes on inside the court rooms.
The report did not spare criticism to the local Palestinian press which, it said, has caused a lot of injustice to families of those who died behind Palestinian bars. "As if the loss of a dear member of the family is not enough, the relatives face another painful issue when the Palestinian press avoids to address their case in the open because of the self-imposed censorship by most of those papers." The organization said the local press can play an effective role in mobilizing public pressure on the government to investigate improper acts by officials in general and to uncover the responsibility of those involved in the death of Palestinian prisoners.
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