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Charges of Abuses in Palestinian Jails Growing

August 16, 1996

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) _ With charges of torture in Palestinian jails on the rise, Yasser Arafat has agreed to give the Red Cross access to his prisons, a Norwegian envoy said today.

The human rights group Amnesty International called today for the immediate release of two Palestinian police officers who have not been heard from since their arrests in May and July.

Deputy Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Egeland said Arafat had agreed in a meeting between the two men Thursday night to allow the international Red Cross into his prisons.

``It’s worrying us very much,″ Egeland said of the torture charges. ``We are very concerned with the humans rights abuses, but we are now hopeful that President Arafat will take very active measures.″

Egeland said Arafat’s government ``finally ... is taking seriously our request to play a much more active role in defending human rights. It’s possible to arrest people without mistreating or torturing them.″

Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups have complained of mistreatment of detainees in Palestinian jails. Seven Palestinians have died in custody since the start of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in May 1994.

A Palestinian human rights activist, Mohammed Dahman, was arrested Monday after suggesting that another detainee _ Nahid Dahalan _ may also have been tortured to death.

Dahalan, 24, was found dead hours after being interrogated by security forces. Palestinian Attorney General Khaled Kidreh said Dahalan committed suicide, and said Dahman was arrested for publicizing false accusations against Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli human rights group Betselem and the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights called today for Dahman’s release.

Israeli media reported that another Palestinian prisoner, Khaled el Abal, also died this week as a result of torture. His son Rizak, who was arrested with his father, said his father was tortured for hours the night before his death at the Ramallah police headquarters.

Issam Ansari, the district attorney for Ramallah, said Abal had committed suicide and that there was no indication he had been tortured.

Amnesty International said two Palestinian police officers held without charge and without access to their families either had been tortured or might be soon.

Sgt. Mohammed Rifat was arrested in May and Ibrahim Farid Shukairi was arrested in July. Both are believed held in Gaza.

Israel radio said two Palestinian attorneys from Gaza are also being held incommunicado.

Palestinian officials had no immediate response to the allegations.

Egeland said he had brought up several cases raised by human rights group with Arafat, but did not specify which.

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