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Occupied Lives: 13 days of trauma

Rahwi Qarqaz in front of his house in Jabalya.

3 years ago, Rahwi Qarqaz (42) had a motor bike
accident.  As a result, he fractured his
right shoulder and suffered a breakage in the cartilage of his left knee.  Since then, he has had to undergo surgery on several
occasions, most recently in April 2010 when he his knee ruptured.  On 15 July 2012, Rahwi was arrested at the
Erez checkpoint while on his way to Tel-Aviv to seek further treatment and an
operation.  He was subsequently detained
for 13 days.

“I had my previous operations in Gaza, but I still
suffered a lot of pain in my leg.  The
kind of treatment I required was not available in any of Gaza’s
hospitals, so I went to see my doctor and asked to go to Israel.  In May, I started the process of obtaining my
medical referral.  I waited so long to
get a permit and my health kept deteriorating. 
It was only in July that I finally got my permit and an appointment with
a hospital in Tel-Aviv.”

Rahwi was asked by the Israeli Intelligence
Service to attend an interview with them before he could be allowed to go to Israel: “I got
to Erez at around noon, they searched me and an Israeli officer asked me what the
purpose of my visit was.  I showed him
all my medical reports.  Then, I was
taken to an investigation room.  The
officer said to me, ‘I do not care about your documents.  We have been waiting for you for a long
time.’  They then accused me of making
and storing rockets in my house.”

Rahwi was subsequently blindfolded and taken to
Ashkelon: “I was questioned all day and night
with maybe 1 or 2 hour breaks in a solitary cell.  They tied me to a chair that was fixed to the
ground.  My hands were tied to the back
of the chair and my feet were tied to the legs of the chair.  They did not harm me physically, but they
swore at me and verbally insulted me. 
The number of investigators in the room was between 1 and 5 at any given

During the investigation, several charges were
leveled against Rahwi: “For the first 4 days, they asked me about my house and
a steel factory owned by my brother.  In
2010, my house had caught fire.  I do not
know what started the fire, but I stored the diesel for my generator and the
machines for my brother’s factory in my house at that time.  They said that this fire was caused by the
rockets I was making and that my brother and I had made 900 to 1000
rockets.  I told them that, even if it
had been a fire caused by rockets, it would not have affected my house only,
but the entire neighborhood.”

After 4 days, Rahwi was transferred to the Barshiva
central prison, where he spent the next 3 days with other prisoners: “They sent
other prisoners to come and talk to me and to try to get me to admit to Israel’s
charges.  One of the prisoners they sent
to me, an old man of about 60 years old, got very angry and argued with me when
I refused to admit to the charges and he tried to make me admit forcibly.  Another one came with a notebook and was
taking notes of what I was saying.  He
lied to me by saying that my brother had said that the charges are true and I
should also confess.”

Rahwi was then taken back to Ashkelon,
for what he describes as the worst days of his detention: “I was interrogated
from 9am to 4:30pm on Sunday and then given a 30 minute break.  I could tell the time by looking at the
investigator’s watch.  At 5:00pm, the
interrogation resumed and I was interviewed until 5:30am on Tuesday with no
breaks.  They would give me the names of
different people and demand I give them information about these people.  They also showed me a map of my neighborhood
and asked what I knew about my neighbors. 
I was psychologically traumatized by all the questioning and they would
not let me go, even when I told them that I did not know what they were asking

On 02 August, at around 11:30, Rahwi was
finally released: “They told me that I had not been helpful and that I could go
only if I agreed to give them information on my neighbors and other people in
future. I agreed to not lie to them in exchange for my release.  When I was reclaiming my items at
Erez, I found out that the NIS
1,660 and USD 300 I had for my treatment was missing.  At that time, I did not even care about the
money.  I was just happy to be free and
to see my family.”

Rahwi is grateful to be re-united with his
family, but, up until now, has yet to receive treatment for his leg.  He limps and supports himself with a crutch
on his right hand: “This was the hardest time for my wife and 3 children.  They went through a lot since all they could
do was call lawyers and the ICRC to try and get me released.  My own psychology was also greatly affected
by the endless questioning.  Right now, I
am just taking medication that I was given by my doctor after I returned.  Hopefully, I will be able to go for an
operation in Egypt
in September, but, for now, I will just wait.”

Under Article 9(1) of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) “Everyone has the
right to liberty and security of person. 
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.  No one shall be deprived of his liberty
except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established
by law.” Rahwi’s detention, as he was not informed of the charges against him
or brought before a judge, in violation of Article 9(2-3) of the ICCPR,
blatantly violates international human rights law.  Further, the lengthy interrogation over 13
days constitutes a violation of Article 1 of the Convention on Torture, which
prohibits “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or
mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining
from him or a third person information or a confession.”

To see a video narrative given by Rahwi Qarqaz please click