Physicians for Human Rights Issues Preliminary Forensic Assessment of Jenin Refu
Physicians for Human Rights Issues Preliminary Forensic Assessment of Jenin Refugee Camp;
Calls for International Investigation and Security of Site
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2002
Contact: Barbara Ayotte, (617) 695-0041 ext 210/(617) 549-0152 cell
A preliminary forensic assessment released today by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) (USA) of deaths and injuries in the Jenin Refugee Camp raised several serious issues, including those relating to the shooting of civilians and access to medical care. PHR (USA) believes that these issues warrant an investigation to determine the exact circumstances relating to them. The group reinforced the need today for a thorough, objective, and comprehensive investigation (including a forensic component) of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in Jenin and its refugee camp that commenced on or about April 3, 2002. PHR (USA) called on the Government of Israel to allow in a UN fact-finding team without delay.
PHR (USA) also strongly advised that security at the site be an immediate priority. A trained, politically neutral force should be quickly deployed to Jenin camp to secure the perimeter of the site and stop the haphazard removal of remains and personal property from the rubble. Unexploded ordnance in the area is continuing to endanger civilians and local authorities at the site. PHR (USA) believes that a substantive and thorough investigation will be impeded as long as the site is left unsecured by an outside force.
"Of particular concern to any future fact finding effort is the lack of any centralized control over the location itself, the extraction of bodies, and the collection of evidence and witness names, and statements," said Leonard S. Rubenstein, Executive Director of PHR (USA). "For any team to thoroughly document the incidents in Jenin, they must have independence, unfettered access to all locations, witnesses, lists of victims and medical records, physical and documentary information (including videotape, photographs, and audio tapes) compiled by local inhabitants; and adequate resources such as personnel, logistical support, storage space and forensic experts."
The PHR team's preliminary assessment is based on observations, information received from individuals, and 102 medical records that were reviewed at the Jenin Governmental Hospital. PHR (USA) received no response to its requests for meetings with representatives of the Israeli government. This assessment is by no means a comprehensive accounting of deaths and injuries in Jenin, but it is intended to serve as an initial assessment of the situation.
The team was unable to determine the exact context and chain of events that led to the injuries and deaths reported in this preliminary assessment. Until a thorough and impartial investigation takes place, factual and legal conclusions about responsibility cannot be reached.
The following information collected by the PHR team warrants such an investigation:
Nearly 95% of injuries during the recent IDF incursions into Jenin and the Jenin Refugee Camp were treated or examined at the Jenin Governmental Hospital. The hospital treated a total of 102 patients between April 3-22, 2002. As of April 23, the hospital had processed 45 fatalities.
According to hospital records reviewed by PHR (USA), over 33% of the patients were women, children under 15 years and men over the age of 50 years, including a two year old child presenting with crush injuries. 12.7% of the patients were over the age of 50 years. 18.7% of the patients were women. Children under 15 years, women and men over the age of 50 accounted for nearly 38% of all reported fatalities.
One out of three reported fatalities was due to gunshot wounds with a vast majority sustaining fatal wounds of the head, or head and upper torso. In addition, several of those injured reported that they were either shot by Israel Defense Force (IDF) snipers or by IDF soldiers from helicopter gunships. Shrapnel injuries and blast injuries accounted for nearly 32% of all admissions. In addition 13 admissions were civilians suffering severe soft tissue trauma reported by the patients to have resulted from their being beaten by IDF soldiers.
Eleven percent of the total reported fatalities were due to crush injuries in addition to a 55-year -old male crushed by a tank in the township of Jenin.
Patients and hospital staff allege that serious damage and gunfire was inflicted on the Jenin Governmental Hospital and medical vehicles were destroyed. Preliminary examination of the facilities by the PHR team shows the presence of destroyed medical vehicles and some damage to the hospital.
Over two-third of reported fatalities examined came from the Jenin Refugee Camp with over 20% from neighboring villages. 11% of the reported fatalities were from the township of Jenin.
Some patients have been unable to receive timely access to medical care regardless of the severity of their injury. In some instances, the injured reported that they were unable to access medical assistance as much as seven days after sustaining life-threatening injuries. Nearly all of the remaining patients still housed at Jenin Governmental Hospital reported delays ranging from 3-7 days.
The Jenin Governmental Hospital and its staff are currently unable to accommodate an investigation because of a lack of appropriate infrastructure and adequately trained personnel. Work, autopsy, and storage space as well as storage and retrieval specialists are needed to examine evidence and ensure its integrity.
An attempt to identify bodies that remain unidentified must be made. Identification can be facilitated by total body X-rays, X-rays of the teeth, and a three inch segment of the thigh lobe to be used for mitochondrial DNA comparisons.
The PHR (USA) assessment team was composed of Dr. William Haglund, Director of PHR (USA)'s International Forensic Program; Dr. Nizam Peerwani, Chief Medical Examiner, Tarrant County, Texas and a Senior Forensic Consultant to PHR (USA); and Col. Brenda Hollis (USAF-ret.), an attorney, senior investigative and legal consultant to the Institute for International Criminal Investigations and Senior Forensic Consultant to PHR (USA).
Founded in 1986, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)(USA) mobilizes the health professions to promote health by protecting human rights. The International Forensic Program of PHR has conducted scientific investigations in over a dozen countries, including several efforts in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia on behalf of International Criminal Tribunals. PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its role as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
phone: (617) 695-0041 ext 2
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