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PCHR Calls upon the Attorney General to Open an Investigation into Death of a Person Detained by ISS

Ref: 13/2020

Issam Ahmed al-Sa’afeen (40), from al-Buraij refugee camp in Central Gaza, was pronounced dead this morning, 23 February 2020 at al-Shifaa Hospital in Gaza City. Al-Sa’afeen was referred to the hospital yesterday, 22 February 2020, by the Internal Security Service (ISS) after being held in prison for the past month. PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to open an investigation into the death circumstances of al-Sa’afeen and to post the results to public. PCHR expresses its extreme concern over the recurrent deaths inside Gaza Strip prisons and detention centers under various circumstances and fears they would be due to torture and/or medical negligence.

According to PCHR’s investigations, the victim, a PA police officer, was arrested on 27 January 2020 by ISS officers in al-Bureij refugee camp and taken to the ISS office in Gaza City. The victim’s brother, Yousef al-Sa’afeen (33), said to PCHR’s fieldworker that on 27 January, masked men in plain clothes arrested his brother, who suffered from diabetes and a lacerated peripheral nerve, when the latter was in front of al-Burij Services Club, taking him to an unknown destination. Yousef added that his family knew from unofficial sources that Issam was detained in the ISS office in Gaza City without knowing the reason or being allowed to visit him. He also said that the family was not officially informed of his brother’s death, but knew after the area residents gathered in front of their house.

The Ministry of Interior published on its website today morning, 23 February 2020 that a detainee namely ‘Issam Ahmed al-Sa’afin was declared dead in al-Shifa Hospital on Sunday morning as he was referred earlier for treatment on Sunday noon for the surprising deterioration of his health condition.  The statement added that the Ministry will form a commission of inquiry and the corpse will be referred to the Forensic Department to identify the death reasons.

PCHR emphasizes that the Public Prosecution is responsible for the life and integrity of the prisoners. Thus, PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to open a serious investigation into the incident and publish the results to the public.

PCHR emphasizes that the life of prisoners and detention facilities is under the responsibility of the General Directorate of Reform and Rehabilitation Centers as codified in Article (7) of the 1998 Reform and Rehabilitation Centers Law, “… inmates in any detention center are under the legal custody of the center’s director…” Thus, PCHR demands that the investigation should include the possible negligence that lead to the detainee’s death.