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Israeli Forces Degrade and Humiliate Two Palestinian Women in East Jerusalem
- [25-31 May] - Ref.: 55/2015
06، Jun 2015

East_Jerusalem_2015On Friday 29 May 2015, Nihaya Daoud Muhesein, 40, was on a minibus heading home in Al-'Eisawiyya following Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. That day, Israeli forces had partially closed down the western entrance of Al-'Eisawiyya, but still allowed for cars to pass. There, the Israeli Border Police stopped the minibus that Nihaya was on. A female officer ordered one of the passengers (a woman who was with three children) to step out of the minibus. The officer also ordered Nihaya to step out. The same officer then ordered everyone to get off the minibus and give her their ID cards. Nihaya was ordered to give the same officer her purse. She took her money and phone out and did as ordered. At that time, Nihaya received a phone call from her husband. When the officer saw her speaking on the phone she snatched it from her. The officer then ordered Nihaya and the other woman to get back on the minibus, and instructed the minibus driver to drive to a nearby yard on a hill. The officer was joined by two other female officers on the minibus, who held Nihaya and the other woman from their arms. The other woman was not allowed to take the children on the minibus - they cried and stayed with the rest of the detained passengers.

Once they reached the nearby hill, the officer ordered the driver to park with the door facing the valley, then asked him to leave. The officer told Nihaya that she had to take off her clothes and would be searched. Nihaya objected. The officer told her not to start trouble and ordered her to take off her clothes again. Another officer passing by thought Nihaya did not understand what the officer had told her in Hebrew; he reiterated to Nihaya in Arabic that if she did not take off her clothes, they would do so against her will.  Nihaya could hear her cell phone ringing the entire time, and believed that it was her husband calling her. Nihaya asked that her husband be present during the search process but they refused.

Around ten minutes later, still refusing to be strip-searched, the officers brought Nihaya down from the minibus holding her from her arms. They then ordered the other woman to get on the minibus and ordered her to take off her clothes. Nihaya recalls that the officers ordered the woman to remove her headscarf and clothes; she was then searched while in her underwear. Nihaya saw the officers search even inside the woman's underwear. Following the search, she got dressed and was ordered to step out of the minibus. The whole process happened while the minibus's door was open and facing an empty valley. Male officers were standing close by, and Nihaya thought they might have been able to see everything.

Nihaya was ordered again to get on the minibus and get undressed - she did as ordered fearing they would resort to violence against her. She remained in her underwear and underwent a body search by the three officers. She then was forced to leave the minibus. As she was leaving, Nihaya fell to the ground and fainted.

When she woke up, Nihaya saw the border police beating her husband, Hassan, 43, with a baton on his neck and on his knees. She also saw the officers beating her son, Ali, 18, with batons. Nihaya started shouting. Officers approached the three of them, tied their hands behind their backs, then put each in a police car separately. Nihaya and Ali were first taken to the police station in Bab Al-Sahira in East Jerusalem, and then to the Border Police station in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. There, Nihaya’s husband’s hands remained tied and the police surrounded him. There she also saw the minibus they were on, the driver and the passengers who were still detained. Nihaya was kept in the police car with her hands tied and watched as the police officers took her husband and son inside. Nihaya then heard the female officer that had stopped her earlier telling the other officers to put the scarf on her face so that she couldn't see, which they did.

Nihaya, her husband and son were then taken to the police station in Bab Al-Sahira where they were left handcuffed and seated from 3:30 pm until 11:00 pm that night. Ali and Nihaya were interrogated for about an hour each. Nihaya was later fingerprinted and escorted outside. Her husband was also questioned for about ten minutes. The three of them were accused of beating the police officers, which Nihaya denied. Nihaya's brother came and bailed the three of them out. Ali was released on the condition that he remain under house arrest for five days. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10714/2015)

Al-Haq strongly condemns the treatment of both women, and underscores that the actions of the Israeli Occupying Forces are in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment"[1] of civilians. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) also lists “outrages upon personal dignity” as a war crime. The Elements of Crimes for the ICC defines "outrages upon personal dignity" to be acts that humiliate, degrade or violate the dignity of a person.[2] It also adds that the ”relevant aspects of the cultural background of the victim” must be taken into account. In the case mentioned above, Nihaya and the other woman were targeted and humiliated by Israeli officers on the basis of their Palestinian identity. It is clear that neither woman posed a threat to these officers or to the security of the area. Both women were humiliated by being ordered to take their clothes off and inappropriately searched in a public space for no reason.

Alongside the searches, which were also in violation of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Nihaya, her husband, and son were arbitrarily detained in violation of Article 9 of the ICCPR. Al-Haq condemns Israel's policies against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian civilians are subjected to discriminatory, degrading and humiliating policies and procedures on a daily basis.

[1] ICRC, Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, available at: []

[2] ICRC, Rule 90. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, available at: []