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TRC, Palestine

The Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (TRC) was established in Ramallah, the administrative capital of Palestine, in the West Bank in 1997. The West Bank and East Jerusalem areas of Palestine have been occupied by the Israeli armed forces since 1967.

Since its establishment, TRC Palestine has treated over 26,000 survivors of torture and ill-treatment. 90 percent of its cases are Palestinians detained by Israeli security forces.

Survivors Speak Out:

“I felt like I wasn’t human”

Manar Shweiki was 14 years old when she was arrested and beaten by Israeli police after an altercation with Jewish settlers as she walked home from school in Jerusalem.

Manar denied charges of possessing a knife and plotting a stabbing attack, and was interrogated without a lawyer or her parents. She was convicted after she says an Israeli police woman, posing as a social worker, visited her cell and tricked her into agreeing with anti-Israeli statements, while secretly filming her. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but was eventually released after four years, and received rehabilitation treatment at TRC Palestine.

Suha, who is a Palestinian, US and Panamanian citizen, was arrested by the PA on suspicion of spying, and taken to its detention centre in Ariha. “I felt like I wasn’t human from the way they treated me,” says Suha “I watched the young men being arrested and tortured, so I knew that what they will do to me.”

“When I started at TRC I was not in a good mental state. My religious faith had been shaken … You no longer trust anyone and everything is broken. TRC helped me to get up again, and to feel safe. I was able to get married and to go on with my life and with my children, helping them with their education.”

Fatima – not her real name – was arrested by Israeli forces in 2018 in a raid on her university dormitory. “In my first court appearance I was asked to do a strip search, but I refused,” says Fatima, who was held at the Ofer detention centre, which is both a prison and a military court. “Then a male and female officer and prison warden came in and severely beat me. The goal is humiliation.”

“When I was released two years after I was arrested, I was confused. There was a chasm between me and reality. I had lost my abilities and was in constant fear of being arrested again,” says Fatima.

“The aim of torture is not to kill the body, it’s to kill the spirit, to kill the soul. To spread fear in the person, in the family, and in the whole community. To change the character and behaviour. It is the aim of torture.”

Dr Mahmud Sehwail , President and Founder, TRC Palestine

One quarter of the Palestinian people have been imprisoned at least once in Israeli prisons and the vast majority of detainees are exposed to torture or to other ill-treatment,” said Khader Rasras, General Director, TRC Palestine. “This is a very large number of people who passed through this traumatic experience. So it’s very important to provide psychosocial support, medical support and psychiatric support to them so that they will be able to resume a normal life and be integrated into their own society.”

“The vast majority of Palestinian detainees are exposed to torture and ill-treatment, so psychosocial, medical and psychiatric support is very important.”

Khader Rasras , General Director, TRC Palestine

Israeli authorities say their security forces act in compliance with Israeli law. Torture for interrogation was legal in Israel until a Supreme Court ruling in 1999. Yet according to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, the Israeli Security Agency Shin Bet continues to torture suspects using a legal loophole allowing for “physical interrogation” in exceptional circumstances.

“I work with female detainees and with their children. I never thought that I could become a psychologist. But now when I help people, I am happier. When I see people happy, I am happy too.”

Rasha Fkhaidah, Psychologist, TRC Palestine

“You know we are under occupation, we are exposed to traumas in our lives. I work in the Qalandia Camp which is a point of contact with the occupation. There are always arrests and frequent martyrdoms. There are raids in the schools and the streets,” said Rasha Fkhaidah, Psychologist, TRC Palestine.


The Work of Healing

Each year, TRC Palestine receives around 900 cases of Palestinians left severely traumatised by torture and ill-treatment by Israeli authorities.

Supporting survivors to return to work has become integral to TRC’s process of rehabilitation. With its grant from IRCT, TRC was able to expand its livelihoods support and conducted research into the impact on rehabilitation.

Results from TRC’s surveys with the women showed huge improvements in outcomes for survivors receiving additional livelihoods support. Levels of self esteem and family integration were twice as high among the women who received MHPSS with vocational training as compared to those who received only MHPSS.

More information

From Torture Journal

The personal reflections of TRC’s founder, Mahmud Sehwail, in this prize winning article (CTI Prize, 2023).

A study of 600 ex-detainees finds sleep deprivation in the framework of interrogations ineffective.

This Protocol summarises relevant (health and legal) factors regarding threats as a method of coercion and complements the Istanbul Protocol when documentation of threats is required.