|PCHR Demands Investigation into the Death of a Civilian Inside Khan Younis Police Station|
|Thursday, 18 October 2012 00:00|
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights demands an investigation into the death of Mohammad Said Al-Zaqzouq in Khan Younis Police Station, and the publication of the findings.
In the evening of Tuesday, 16 October 2012, Mohammad Said Abdul-Motaleb Al-Zaqzouq (27), married and father of three children, from al-Qarara, was pronounced dead inside Khan Younis police station, according to the police after committing suicide.
In his testimony to a PCHR fieldworker Said Abdul-Motaleb Al-Zaqzouq (60), the victim's father, said that two persons in civilian clothing riding a motorcycle came to his house, located in the al-Qarara area in Khan Younis, last Thursday and asked for his son Mohammad. They then arrested Mohammad and transported him to al-Qarara police station. He added that at approximately 14:00 he learnt that the police had transferred Mohammad to Khan Younis police station, and that he had been arrested following a complaint filed against him by his uncle Jamal Abdul-Motaleb Al-Zaqzouq, claiming that Mohammad had attempted to set his car ablaze. "Later that evening, I received a phone call from someone who identified himself as ‘the police’, informing me that my son had been transported to the emergency room of the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, and that he was dead," continued Al-Zaqzouq. Late that same night, medical resources announced the death of Al-Zaqzoug after trying to resuscitate him. However, the medical report state that Mohammed was dead upon arrival at the hospital.
Mr. Al-Zaqzouq also stated to a PCHR lawyer that the family was able to examine their son's body at approximately 23:00 on Tuesday evening, in the presence of a committee from the Ministry of Interior and a number of human rights organizations. However, due to his weak vision he only noticed blue marks on his son's face, while his brothers confirmed that they saw signs of strangulation on their brother’s neck, as well as bruises on his left arm and right leg. Mr. Al-Zaqzouq also pointed out that his son had psychological problems, and that they had sought psychiatric help for him in the Mental Health Clinic on 28 March 2002, where they prescribed him medication, which Mohammad had refused to take. Eventually, the family stopped following it up.
On their part, the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza said in a press release on their website that Al-Zaqzouq committed suicide while being held in Khan Younis Central Prison pending investigation of criminal charges. The press release also stated that the victim hung himself using his blanket, and that he was immediately transported to the hospital in a critical condition but nevertheless passed away later.
PCHR has followed Al-Zaqzouq's case from the beginning: a PCHR fieldworker visited the Khan Younis police station. According to a police source, Al-Zaqzouq arrived at the center in a furious state at approximately 13:00 following a warrant from the Attorney General. He was left in the hallway in order to calm down, since he was screaming loudly and telling them to leave. The source also added that Al-Zaqzouq calmed down later in the afternoon but had another outburst after that, during which he took his clothes off, soiled himself and scattered feces on himself and on the surrounding walls. The police said it had to call the civil defense to clean him and the place. Al-Zaqzouq was placed in solitary confinement and was given a blanket to protect him from the cold. In the evening hours, he was found hanging in his cell on a part of the blanket. The police staff took him to another room, and one of the detainees, who is a nurse, tried to resuscitate him while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The ambulance transported Mohammed to Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, where they confirmed his death.
PCHR obtained an affidavit from one of those who were detained with al-Zaqzouq. That person confirmed that he saw three policemen who came and took al-Zaqzouq out of the cell and pushed him on his back down on the ground. They beat him on his feet with a stick 15 times. The witness added that he heard the policemen talking to the officer in charge about the detained person. Then they entered again and hit Mohammed on his body with a hose ten times, after which they closed the door of the cell and left. All policemen left the place and closed the outside door. The witness said also that at dinner time he, with the help of another prisoner, delivered dinner to other prisoners. He entered al-Zaqzouq cell and offered him dinner. He saw a rope around Mohammed’s neck. He did not care or tell the guards about it, assuming that al-Zaqzouq was not serious, as he had attempted to do that twice on that day. The eyewitness said that he later noticed that al-Zaqzouq'a cell was silent. Therefore, he called Mohammad from the window, but there was no response. The eyewitness saw a rope tied to the window of al-Zaqzouq'a cell. He touched the rope and discovered it was strained by something heavy, due to which he opened the door of the cell and found Mohammad hanging by the door, sitting on his knees. The witness called out to the policemen to bring a knife in order to cut the rope. A policeman threw a knife, which the eyewitness took and cut the rope with that was tied around the neck of the victim.
In view of this, PCHR demands the Attorney General and the Police Administration to open an immediate investigation on suspicion of negligence regarding the death of Al-Zaqzouq, and to publish the results of the investigation. PCHR states the following:
1. The police neglected its duty to protect the detainee's life when he was in an extreme state of fury, did not transfer him to the hospital immediately, and did not call a doctor to examine his health, as prescribed by article 15 of the Law of the Rehabilitation and Correction Center;
2. Al-Zaqzouq was beaten and maltreated while in detention, which may have contributed to the deterioration of his psychological state and pushed him to commit suicide;
3. The Al-Zaqzouq family has a right to demand compensation if negligence by the police to protect their son's life is proven judicially;
4. The PA is responsible for the life of all prisoners and detainees in its prisons, thus it is responsible for protecting their dignity, as well as providing proper medical care for them.
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