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PCHR Calls for Investigation into Death Circumstances of Detainee in Bitonia Prison in Ramallah

Ref: 52/2019

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is following up with concern the investigations into the death of Mahmoud Rashad al-Hamalawi (32), on 27 March 2019, at Bitoniya Police Station, west of Ramallah, after 13 days of his arrest. PCHR is awaiting the results that will be announced when investigations are completed according to the Attorney General. It should be noted that the Forensic Department confirmed that there were bruises on the victim’s body and about two liters of pus in the pleural cavity (pleural empyema), clarifying there was medical negligence.


According to PCHR’s investigations, on 14 March 2019, Mahmoud, from the Gaza Strip, who had lived in the West Bank for years, was arrested from his house in Bitonia, west of Ramallah, by persons identified themselves as Preventive Security Service (PSS) officers.


The victim’s brother, ‘Emad, living in the Gaza Strip, said that  on 27 March 2019, he received a call from Bitonia Police Chief in Ramallah, informing him that his brother Mahmoud died in the police station due to a stroke and he will be referred to the Forensic Department. ‘Emad said to PCHR’s fieldworker that on 20 March 2019, his brother Mahmoud told him in a phone call that he was assaulted by five persons when the PPS officers arrested him, adding he was in Bitoniya Prison and his health condition was bad.


The Forensic Department issued a report clarifying that the cause of death was “septic shock”, due to pleural empyema. The Attorney General in Ramallah confirmed in a statement issued on Tuesday that an investigation was opened on the same day of al-Hamalawi death. The Attorney General added that it has taken all necessary measures, including referring the corpse to the forensic medicine to identify the death cause with the help of a private forensic doctor. The results will be announced as soon as investigations are completed.


PCHR stresses that this incident requires a serious follow-up and investigation by the Attorney General, especially the arrest circumstances and torture. PCHR annually receives numerous complaints of torture, which are only part of the reality of torture in interrogation centers. All the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the forensic report, hold the detaining authority responsible for the medical negligence as it did not provide any level of treatment regardless of causes.


PCHR highlights that life of persons detained in prisons and detention facilities falls within the responsibilities of the Ministry of Interior and Prison Service according to the Reform and Rehabilitation Centers Law No. 6/1998 as Article 7 of it stipulates that “…Inmates in any prison remain under the legal guardianship of the prison director…..” 


PCHR expresses its concerns over the death of detainees in prisons and detention facilities, especially that there were bruises and superficial abrasions in the victim’s right thigh, upper left breast and the right leg, according to the Forensic Department. PCHR hereby calls upon the Attorney General not only to reveal the death cause, but also investigate if the detainee was exposed to torture during his detention and punish the perpetrators.


PCHR stresses the responsibility of the competent authorities like the PLC members, Attorney General and judges to supervise the lawfulness and circumstances of detention according to article 70 of the Judicial Authority Law 1/2002 that grants the Attorney General and judges the right to supervise and inspect the conditions, wellness and lawfulness of detention.