'The goal of torture is to subjugate an entire people'

February 27, 2013
Sarah Benton

For the report of a conference on torture by Adalah, PHR-Israel and Mezan, see On Torture. For the failure of Israeli doctors to take a stand against torture, see Doctors who are complicit with harm
This posting has 4 items:
1) Amira Hass: After Palestinian dies in Shin Bet hands, time to question the interrogators;
2) PIC: Ex-prisoners assert they were tortured in Israeli interrogation centers;
3) Harriet Sherwood, 2011: Israeli doctors ‘failing to report torture of Palestinian detainees’;
4) PCATI: Israel – List of concerns for UN Committee Against Torture;

An Israeli actor is seen demonstrating one of several standard torture techniques reportedly used by the Shin Bet. Photo by AP

After Palestinian dies in Shin Bet hands, time to question the interrogators

By Amira Hass, Ha’Aretz
February 25, 2013

For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.

Arafat Jaradat, 30, died while under interrogation by the Shin Bet security service. Every week dozens if not hundreds of Palestinians start down the road he began on February 18.

Dozens of Israelis whose names are unknown are on a parallel track: the soldiers who make the arrest in the dead of night, the military doctor who examines the new detainee, Shin Bet interrogators in their changing shifts; Israel Prison Service guards, workers at the prison clinic, and the judge who extends the remand.

True, thousands of others take this road or sometimes a longer and harder one – and stay alive. This is probably what the Shin Bet and the prison service will say in their defense. But from the Palestinian perspective, every stop on the road of detention and interrogation involves enormous physical and psychological pain that the army, the police, the Shin Bet and the prison service inflict intentionally.

This goes well beyond the suffering that should be caused by taking away a person’s liberty and issuing an indictment. For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.

Jaradat was not a ticking bomb. He was arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and an incendiary device at Israeli targets. After three days of interrogation the police asked the court (in the name of the Shin Bet) to extend his remand for another 15 days for questioning. The remand hearing took place on Thursday, February 21, at the Shin Bet’s Kishon interrogation facility, in front of a military judge, Maj. David Kadosh. The judge ordered the remand for 12 days.

Unclear confession

Kamil Sabbagh, an attorney for the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs Ministry, asked the police investigator at the hearing whether there were other suspicions against his client; he was told there were not. He asked whether Jaradat had confessed, and the police investigator answered: “partially.” Sabbagh concluded that Jaradat had confessed to throwing stones.

Experience shows that the additional days of interrogation – many, considering the minor nature of the offenses – were not intended merely to extract more confessions, but to get Jaradat to implicate others or to gather personal information, even of an embarrassing nature, to use in the future. From reports by detainees to their attorneys, it’s clear that sleep deprivation combined with painful and prolonged handcuffing is very common. As we learn at military court and elsewhere, people confess to things they haven’t done or implicate others falsely, only to be allowed to sleep.

In the short time Jaradat and his attorney had before the remand hearing, Jaradat, who was suffering from a herniated disc, was able to tell Sabbagh that he was in pain from prolonged sitting. Judge Kadosh knew about the pain from a secret report he had been shown.While the judge was writing his decision, Jaradat told Sabbagh that conditions were difficult for him in isolation and he wanted to be moved to another cell. Sabbagh had the impression that Jaradat was under severe psychological stress, and told the judge this.

The judge then added to his decision: “The defense attorney requests the court’s permission to present the matter of the suspect’s mental health while in a cell alone, and his concerns about psychological damage. He requests that the suspect be examined and properly attended to.”

The role of informants
The remand hearing took place at 10 A.M. Thursday. As of Sunday, Sabbagh did not know when Jaradat had been moved to Megiddo Prison, where he died. Palestinian organizations representing prisoners say one possibility is that he was placed in a cell with informants at Megiddo.

Unlike Shin Bet interrogations, which are documented in memos, the existence of informants is not officially acknowledged by the authorities. Informants use various means to extract information, whether true or false. They boast about their exploits as members of Palestinian organizations, they suggest that the detainee is a collaborator because he does not discuss his actions with them, and they threaten him.

The investigation of Jaradat’s death must go through all phases of his detention and interrogation – and those of thousands of others. But any interrogation will be flawed from the outset because, by authorization of the High Court of Justice, Shin Bet interrogations are not filmed.

Only two weeks ago, on February 6, justices Asher Grunis, Hanan Melcer and Noam Sohlberg turned down a petition by four human rights groups demanding the annulment of a 2003 law letting the police forgo the filming or audiotaping of security suspects’ interrogations. The organizations also asked the court to require the Shin Bet to visually document the questioning of suspects. The justices said that because the law was now under scrutiny, “the time has not yet come to examine the petitioners’ arguments themselves.”

The Palestinians do not need an Israeli investigation. For them, Jaradat’s death is much bigger than the tragedy he and his family have suffered. From their experience, Jaradat’s death isn’t proof that others haven’t died, it’s proof that the Israeli system routinely uses torture. From their experience, the goal of torture is not only to convict someone, but mainly to deter and subjugate an entire people.

Ex-prisoners assert they were tortured in Israeli interrogation centers

By Palestinian Information Centre
February 26, 2013

NABLUS – Palestinian liberated prisoners asserted that the Israeli authorities have been practicing brutal torture and tyranny against them during interrogation.

MP Sheikh Mohammed Jamal Natsheh, a leading figure in Hamas movement from al-Khalil who was arrested in December 1990, told PIC that he had been subjected to different forms of torture in the Moscobiya interrogation center in Jerusalem.

He said that among the methods of torture used by the Shin Bet is to deprive the prisoner from sleeping, noting that he had been deprived of sleeping during the interrogation for nearly three weeks.

The liberated captive Dr. Adnan Abu Tabana, 50 from al-Khalil, was also subjected to interrogation during his arrest in 2002 in the Jalama interrogation center, as he confirmed that the interrogators tortured him during the interrogation.

He stated that one of the forms of torture used at the Jalama center is that a burly investigator comes in during the investigation and begins to violently shake captive until he loses consciousness. Dr. Abu Tabana noted that this form of torture affects the spinal cord and may lead to death.

Dr. Abu Tabana added: “Due to this kind of torture the prisoner Abdul Samad Ehrizat, from al-Khalil, and many other captives died”.

Following the international protests that condemned the occupation because of this torture; the Shin Bet started in March using another form of torture, which is psychological torture, under which the Shin Bet holds the Palestinian prisoner in a very small closed cell (of 80 cm × 150 cm) for three continuous months, isolated from the rest of world, without even being able to see the sun.

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been subjected to this form psychological pressure, which enabled the Israeli interrogators to forcibly extract confessions.

Israeli doctors ‘failing to report torture of Palestinian detainees’

Human rights groups accuse doctors of failing to document signs of torture and returning detainees to interrogators

By Harriet Sherwood, guardian.co.uk
November 03, 2011

Israeli doctors are ignoring the complaints of Palestinian patients who claim they have been mistreated, according to the report. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian
Medical professionals in Israel are being accused of failing to document and report injuries caused by the ill-treatment and torture of detainees by security personnel in violation of their ethical code.

A report by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Public Committee Against Torture (PCAT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), claims that medical staff are also failing to report suspicion of torture and ill-treatment, returning detainees to their interrogators and passing medical information to interrogators.

The report, Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim, to be published later this month, is based on 100 cases of Palestinian detainees brought to PCAT since 2007. It says: “This report reveals significant evidence arousing the suspicion that many doctors ignore the complaints of their patients; that they allow Israeli Security Agency interrogators to use torture; approve the use of forbidden interrogation methods and the ill-treatment of helpless detainees; and conceal information, thereby allowing total immunity for the torturers.”

Alleged ill-treatment of detainees, some of whose cases are detailed in the 61-page report, includes beatings, being held for long periods in stress positions, hands being tightly tied with plastic cuffs, sleep deprivation and threats. Israel denies torturing or ill-treating prisoners.

Doctors are failing to keep proper medical records of injuries caused during interrogations. The report cites “countless cases wherein individuals testified to injuries inflicted upon them during detention or in interrogation, and yet the medical record from the hospital or the prison service makes no mention of it.”

Without such evidence, the report says, it is very difficult to obtain legal redress for ill-treatment. “Effective documentation of the injury can be a decisive factor in initiating an investigation, in bringing the perpetrators to trial and in ensuring that justice is carried out.”

A medical report should include a description and photograph of the injury, the victim’s account of events and a record of treatment, the report says.

Among the cases it cites is “BA”, arrested in November 2010. In an affidavit he alleged he was beaten, held in stress positions and deprived of sleep. He said he told doctors of his ill-treatment and said he was suffering from severe arm, leg and back pain. His medical record shows that he was seen by doctors but the only comment noted is that the patient had no complaints and was in good overall condition.

Another, “MA”, arrested in June 2008, claimed in an affidavit that his hands were cuffed with tight plastic ties, he was held in kneeling position resting on his fingertips for hours, and his head was slammed into a bench 20 times causing an eye injury. A medical report the following day included a comment from a doctor: “Overall condition satisfactory, heartbeat regular.” A further examination, two weeks later, resulted in doctor’s comment: “Complains of pain in teeth, eyes”. A few days later, a judge referred MA to an eye doctor for treatment with the comment, “Claims he was beaten in the course of his arrest, complains that he does not feel well and complains of blurring in the eyes”.

The report also accuses medics of returning detainees to interrogators following treatment of injuries. This, it says, is in violation of ethical obligations and “also serves as a stamp of approval for the interrogators, who rely on the doctors’ action as having granted medical permission to continue with their practices”.

Among the PCAT/PHR report’s recommendations are clear guidelines regarding the medical treatment of prisoners, investigations of and disciplinary action against staff who violate rules, and protection for whistleblowers.

Israel prohibits torture or “inhuman treatment” during interrogation, although its high court has ruled that physical means of interrogation could be defensible to save lives.

“In Israel it is illegal to abuse inmates, including security prisoners,” said government spokesman Mark Regev. “Guidelines have been passed to the relevant authorities. If years ago the guidelines were not clear, they are today. And if there are allegations of wrongdoing against people in custody, they are investigated thoroughly.”

The ministry of health and prisons service did not respond to requests for comment.

Israel – List of concerns for UN Committee Against Torture

Document on use of torture against detainees in Israel, submitted to UN 2008

By Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Jerusalem, September 2008

General non-compliance with the Convention:
1. The Israel Security Agency/General Security Service (henceforth: GSS/ISA) has
employed torture in the interrogation of dozens if not hundreds of Palestinian detainees since the UN Committee Against Torture (henceforth: CAT, the committee) considered Israel’s previous report, and used cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (henceforth: other ill-treatment) in the interrogation of many more.

The use of techniques of torture, officially referred to as “special measures”, is officially sanctioned and justified by the claim of “necessity”. Complaints of torture victims are invariably closed by the State Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General without taking any criminal steps against the interrogators or their superiors.

2. Violence and humiliation constituting ill-treatment, and at time torture, is inflicted by soldiers and other security forces during the arrest and initial detention of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, in defiance of orders but with little preventative, investigative, prosecutorial or punitive action from the authorities.

3. CAT’s recommendations with respect to Israel’s previous reports have been roundly ignored.

Articles 1 & 4 – definition, criminalisation of torture:
4. There is no legislation in Israel establishing a crime of torture as defined in Article 1(1) of the Convention. The existing offences of cruel treatment, by physical or mental abuse, apply only if the victim is in custody or helpless and do not include several elements of the definition of torture. The crime of a public servant extorting a confession, or information concerning an offence, prohibits the use of force or violence or threat of injury, but does not criminalize causing mental suffering. Nor
does it prohibit acts for purposes such as punishment or for any reasons based on discrimination. The maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment for this offence is not proportionate to the gravity of the crime of torture.

5. Ad-hoc committees established by the Justice Ministry have pointed out the lacunae in the existing Penal Law and recommended enacting a specific offence of torture consistent with Article 1 of the Convention. These recommendations have, however, been ignored for more than a decade.

6. The Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee discussed in 2007 the inclusion of a prohibition of torture in its draft Constitution. The Committee Chairperson concluded the session by supporting a constitutional prohibition of torture. However, the proposed provision does not cover cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the prohibition would be subject to the Constitution’s general limitation (balancing) provision. If adopted, the constitutional prohibition
would restrict the power of the Knesset to adopt a law permitting torture, but the prohibition would be less than absolute.

Article 2 – actions to prohibit torture:
7. Following the Supreme Court judgment of September 1999 (in HCJ 5100/94 Public Committee against Torture in Israel v. the State of Israel), torture in certain circumstances (referred to as “ticking time-bomb” situations) is justified as a “lesser evil” through making available to torturers, ex post facto, the “defence of necessity” as provided in Israel’s Penal Law.

The “defence of necessity” thus provides justification, and consequently exemption from criminal liability, to torturers in these perceived situations, in violation of Article 2(2) and the very object and purpose of the Convention. This, more than 14 years after the Committee first explained the inapplicability of this defence for torturers to the State Party, and in defiance of repeated recommendations by the Committee; the Human Rights Committee; and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

8. Consistent allegations made by Palestinian detainees in detailed affidavits to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and to B’Tselem and HaMoked, have described the use of methods which clearly constitute torture under the Convention’s definition and the jurisprudence of international tribunals and human rights monitoring bodies. In several cases these allegations have been substantiated by internal GSS/ISA memoranda, by testimony of GSS/ISA interrogators in court and
by medical evidence.

These methods include, but are not limited to, the following: prolonged incommunicado detention; sleep deprivation by means of continuous or nearly continuous interrogation for periods exceeding 24 hours (for example 46 hours with a two hour break after 25 hours); forcibly bending the detainee’s back over the seat of a chair at an acute angle, often with the legs shackled to the feet of the chair, and keeping the suspect bent backwards in an arch until the pain is unbearable; slapping and blows; coerced crouching in a frog-like position; tightening handcuffs on the arms near or above the elbows and pressing or pulling the handcuffs, causing the
arms to swell and often injuring the radial nerves; threats of arrest and physical abuse of family members, exposing a suspect to a parent or spouse being abusively interrogated or exposing a family member to a son or brother exhibiting signs of physical torture.

Three or more GSS/ISA interrogators are invariably present when employing the physical methods of torture and they usually employ more than one method, repeatedly, against the same detainee.

9. Doctors in infirmaries of prisons where GSS/ISA interrogations are conducted are clearly aware of the torture and other ill-treatment that take place there: they examine exhausted, pained, bruised and traumatized detainees, and are aware that their diagnosis may determine whether or not the detainee they are treating will return to the GSS/ISA wing to be tortured further. As, more often than not, they knowingly send detainees back to their interrogators; such doctors must be considered at least
passive participants in GSS/ISA torture, in violation both of the Convention and medical ethics.

10. An essential guarantee against torture is assuring that a detainee is brought promptly before a judge after arrest and has frequent access to judicial oversight over the nature of the interrogation. This guarantee has been drastically weakened in security cases by the Criminal Procedure (Detainee Suspected of Security Offence) (Temporary Provision) Law, 2006. Originally enacted as a temporary arrangement for eighteen months, it was extended by the Knesset through the end of 2010 with the
intention of incorporating its provisions in a permanent anti-terror law.

This Law allows the detention and interrogation of persons suspected of security offences for up to 96 hours before bringing them in front of a judge. Subsequent judicial remand hearings may take place in the absence of the detainee for up to 20 days, and the suspect need not be informed of the hearing or of the decision concerning the extension of his detention. As the Law also permits denying a detainee
suspected of security offences access to a lawyer for up to 21 days, such detainees may be interrogated incommunicado for four days without judicial oversight, and with the exception of one hearing before a judge, the interrogation may continue while the detainee is held incommunicado for three weeks.

11. Israeli military law in the West Bank allows detaining a suspect for up to eight days before bringing him in front of a judge and permits preventing detainees from meeting a lawyer for up to 90 days. Echoing the new Israeli law described above, the West Bank Military Order was amended to allow remand hearings to be held in the absence of the accused for up to 30 days, aggravating still further the already long periods of incommunicado detention that may be authorised.

12. Lengthy incommunicado detention was extended to a new category of administrative detainees under the Detention of Unlawful Combatants Law, 2002. As amended in July 2008, the Law now permits holding a detainee for up to 14 days before bringing him in front of a District Court judge to determine whether his status is that of an “unlawful combatant”, and permits preventing the detainee from seeing a lawyer for up to 21 days. Thus a person from the Gaza Strip or Lebanon may be
detained and interrogated in total isolation for 14 days and, aside from one judicial hearing, the interrogation may continue while the detainee is held incommunicado for 21 days.

13. The above new provisions of Israeli law, authorising the interrogation of detainees while they are held in isolation from the outside world and preventing them from seeing a judge, expressly sanction by law measures which, as determined by international human rights bodies, constitute a form of ill treatment, in addition to facilitating further torture or other ill-treatment.

Article 3 – extradition and refoulement to where there is a risk of torture [Refoulement is a legal term meaning handing back a victim of persecution to their persecutor; non-refoulement is a principle of international law.]
14. In May of 2001 the Knesset substantially revised the Extradition Law, 1954, yet the revised grounds for refusing extradition do not include a provision in conformity with article 3, forbidding the extradition of a requested person to a requesting state where the person may be at risk of torture.

15. The provisions in the Law of Entry to Israel, 1952, regarding the deportation of illegal immigrants were also substantially and repeatedly revised during the past seven years, yet contain no provision the risk of torture or the principle of non-refoulement beyond a discretionary authority to release an illegal immigrant on “special humanitarian grounds.”

16. The principle of non-refoulement is considered by the Supreme Court to be a rule of Israeli law, but this is a rule without expression in statute and it relates generally to endangering the life or freedom of the deportee, not to a specific risk of torture or other ill-treatment. In 2002 the Justice and Interior Ministries introduced Regulations Regarding the Treatment of Asylum Seekers in Israel, which establish a procedure for examining the claims of asylum seekers, yet here too no mention is made of the risk of torture as grounds for refraining from refoulement; furthermore the regulations
allow the government to deny without any consideration claims by inhabitants of “enemy states”.

Thus the decision-makers’ attention is not directed by either Israeli law or jurisprudence to examine whether the person to be expelled stands at risk of being tortured in the receiving country.

17. The issue has become acute due to an influx of East African asylum seekers claiming to be entitled to refugee status. The government has responded with proposed legislation, not yet adopted by the Knesset, which would make it possible to repulse or immediately return “infiltrators” across the Egyptian border, without affording them an opportunity to raise a claim to refugee status and without
examination of whether they may be in danger of torture or other ill-treatment if returned to Egypt, or from Egypt to their home country.

The Israeli government already applied a policy of instant deportation of Sudanese asylum seekers who cross the Egyptian border, regardless of their claims or status, in August 2007.

Article 11 – Rules, instructions and practices to prevent torture
18. Safeguards protecting regular criminal suspects from torture and other ill-treatment under Israeli law have significantly improved during the seven-year period under consideration. However, these advances have not been extended, and do not apply, to security interrogations or to the interrogation of suspects arrested under military law in the West Bank.

19. The Issaskarov judgment. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that failure of the police to inform suspects prior to questioning of their right to consult a defence lawyer, as well as other substantial violations of a suspect’s right to fair procedures, gives rise to a discretionary judicial authority to hold inadmissible any confession (or other evidence) obtained in violation of these rights. However, this judicial rule, meant to force the police to comply with legal guarantees of fair procedures, does
not apply when the suspect has been prevented from seeing a lawyer on the basis of an order issued in a security case. The exclusionary rule applies only when the violation of a right to fair procedures was not authorized by law.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that the severity of the offence and the importance of the evidence are factors in favour of admitting the evidence, even when the suspect’s rights were violated. Applying this proviso to the interrogation of suspected terrorists is likely to lead trial courts to admit confessions and other evidence even where the accused was not informed of the right to meet counsel.

20. Minors: Under a comprehensive amendment to the Youth (Judging, Punishment and Treatment Methods) Law, a minor’s parent or another adult relative must be informed that the minor will be questioned as a suspect and must be informed without delay of the minor’s arrest. The parent or relative must be given an opportunity to be present during any questioning of the minor.

However, the right to be present during the interrogation may be suspended for a number of reasons, among them that the minor is suspected of committing a security offence and the authorised officer believes that the presence of the parent or adult relative will harm state security. Furthermore, these provisions concerning the interrogation of a minor suspect apply only to the police, whereas the GSS/ISA is exempt from them. The provisions do not apply to minors arrested under West Bank
military orders, which lacks special procedures for the arrest of minors and where a child of 16 is considered an adult.

21. Video recording: An important advance in the protection of suspects from ill-treatment during police interrogations was set by the Criminal Procedure (Interrogating Suspects) Law, 2002. This Law requires that all stages of a suspect’s interrogation be recorded by video. The recording requirement applies to all investigations of felonies in which the maximum penalty is ten years imprisonment or
more. (The requirement is coming into force incrementally, beginning with murder investigations in 2006, and will apply to all investigations of felonies of 10 years maximum imprisonment or more in 2010). Video recordings of police interrogations should contribute substantially to deterring police from violence, intimidation and humiliating treatment while questioning persons suspected of serious criminal offences. The recordings should also assure that an accused who claims that his
confessions were obtained through the use of torture or other ill-treatment will have the means to prove his or her claim and prevent the admissibility of such confessions.

22. However, the recording requirement does not apply to the GSS/ISA: its interrogators may continue to conduct interrogations without any visual or audio recordings. (In fact many of these interrogations are recorded at least in part, but these are secret recordings for the purposes of the interrogators, and are not usually made available in criminal trials). Moreover, the recording requirements were supposed to come into effect with respect to police interrogations of suspects in security cases in 2008, but the Knesset amended the Law by exempting police from recording the interrogation of suspects charged with security offences until 2012 – nine years after the law came into force (and ten years after it was adopted). This means that even the relatively minor part of the interrogators of security suspects conducted by police, usually consisting of taking one or more statements from the suspect in the course of the GSS/ISA interrogation and after its conclusion, will not be recorded in either video or audio form. Thus there will be no direct evidence of the suspect’s
physical and mental state as a result of his or her treatment at the hands of the GSS/ISA.

Articles 12 & 13 – right to complain, duty to conduct prompt and impartial investigation by competent authorities
23. GSS/ISA impunity: The only authority authorised by law to investigate complaints against GSS/ISA personnel is the Department of Investigations of Police Officers (DIP) in the Justice Ministry. However the 1994 amendment empowering the State Attorney General to direct the DIP to conduct criminal investigations into complaints against GSS/ISA has become a dead letter – in recent years it has not been used even once. Instead, complaints concerning the conduct of GSS/ISA personnel
during interrogations are referred to the GSS/ISA’s “Inspector of Interrogees’ Complaints”. This position is held by a salaried, high-ranking employee of the GSS/ISA with previous experience serving in the GSS/ISA. Thus complaints of torture by GSS/ISA agents are investigated in-house, by a GSS/ISA agent, who can be neither independent nor impartial. His report is then studied by the State Attorney’s Office. All complaints of torture are then either denied factually or else justified as
“ticking bomb” cases, and torturers are exempted from criminal liability by the Attorney-General under the “defence of necessity”. In both these cases the files are invariably closed. Not a single case has been criminally investigated, let alone prosecuted. Setting aside very limited disciplinary measures in a handful of cases (which have never included fines, dismissal or demotion), there is total impunity for such torturers.
24. In addition, the General Security Service Law, 2000, grants GSS/ISA personnel de jure immunity for acts in the course of service as long as they acted reasonably and in good faith.

Unfortunately, the possibility of Israel’s State Attorney’s Office, its Attorney-General or indeed its courts finding torture in certain circumstances to have been a reasonable act performed in good faith cannot be ruled out. The Law also requires that all regulations pertaining to the conduct of GSS/ISA interrogations and the names of all GSS/ISA personnel be kept classified, making it impossible for a complainant to know if the actions of which he or she complains were authorised under cover of law.

25. Complaints against police: The Department for Investigation of Police Officers in the Ministry of Justice often fails to properly investigate incidents of torture or other ill-treatment by police officers. Its impartiality and independence are seriously hampered by the fact that most of its investigators are former police officers who tend to side with their former colleagues when having to choose between a complainant’s version of events and that of the police. The vast majority of complaints, including
complaints of detainees concerning ill-treatment in custody, are closed without any investigation being conducted at all or without serious investigation.

26. Complaints against soldiers: IDF regulations require that a criminal investigation be opened for any complaint of violence or cruelty to a person in custody. However, if the detainee – that is, in most cases, a Palestinian – does not lodge a complaint, acts of torture or other ill-treatment are seldom, if ever, reported to the military police or military prosecutor. Even when timely complaints of torture or other ill-treatment by soldiers are submitted, they are seldom seriously investigated. Such investigations often commence late, are inefficient and rarely end in prosecutions.

Article 14 – right to redress, compensation and rehabilitation
27. A detainee who suffers injury due to torture or other ill-treatment while in custody has theoretically a right of action in tort to receive compensation for his injuries, but this right in practice is difficult to realise because of great difficulties in producing evidence. Neither the Israel Prison Service (IPS) nor any of the investigative bodies (GSS/ISA, Police, IDF) conduct forensic medical examinations of detainees following complaints. Records of medical examinations in the prison infirmary during GSS/ISA interrogations are seldom made available to plaintiffs. After the victim is released it is
often too late to obtain forensic medical proof of the cause of injury, and in addition, former “security” detainees are almost invariably labelled security risks, and consequently are not allowed to enter Israel, making it difficult to obtain the qualified expert medical opinion required for a compensation suit for bodily injury in Israeli courts.

28. Where the victim was not in custody at the time of ill-treatment and the actions took place in the West Bank or Gaza Strip – for example punitive destruction of property not justified by military necessity – the Civil Damages Law was amended to bar most such suits.

Article 15 – Use of evidence obtained by torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
29. The use in courts of confessions extracted from defendants or witnesses by interrogation methods amounting to torture or other ill-treatment is widespread due to weaknesses in the law of evidence and judicial precedents. These problems persist both in Israeli civil courts and in West Bank military courts.

30. Under Sec 10(a) of the Evidence Ordinance, an incriminating out-of-court statement by an accomplice may be admissible as evidence and form the sole substantial grounds for conviction. When obtained through torture or other ill-treatment, such evidence, rather than being barred in all cases, in accordance with the Convention, in Israeli law “the question of how the evidence was obtained affects its weight in the trial of the appellant [the defendant] but not its admissibility.”

Where an accomplice incriminated the defendant in a statement obtained by torture or other ill treatment in the course of a GSS/ISA interrogation, the accomplice’ statement will be admissible as evidence against the defendant even if it might be inadmissible as a confession in the accomplice’s own trial; such a statement on its own may be sufficient to convict the defendant. The result is that prosecutors bring cases based on evidence obtained by the GSS/ISA in “necessity interrogations”
because they know that even if a defendant’s own confession may be inadmissible as evidence against him, because it was obtained by torture, it would be admissible against his co-conspirators or collaborators, while the latter’s confessions, even if obtained in the same type of interrogation using same torturous means would in turn be admissible against the original defendant, and that such confessions may even suffice, in both cases, to ensure conviction.

31. The division of labour between the GSS/ISA and police has been considered by the courts as rendering admissible confessions which, while induced by torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of GSS/ISA interrogators, are delivered (often in the defendant’s own handwriting) to police officers who do not themselves employ methods prohibited by the Convention, and even warn suspect of their right to avoid self-incrimination.

The courts have discounted the probability that the defendant was still under the influence of torturous or cruel GSS/ISA interrogation and was confessing under the implied threat of their resumption should he not cooperate by confessing to the
police. The Head of the Investigations Division and the Chief Legal Advisor of the GSS/ISA have both publicly testified that there is in fact no distinction between the police and GSS/ISA aspects of a security investigation, the two being thoroughly inter-dependent and under GSS/ISA control, belying the claim that a suspect is free of the influence of the GSS/ISA interrogation when questioned by police.

32. Secondary evidence found as a result of information provided under torture or ill-treatment is admissible.

Article 16 – Preventing Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
33. Administrative detention: The administrative detention of civilians suspected of posing a future threat to security or public safety is practiced in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A recent law has extended administrative detention to “unlawful enemy combatants.” In both cases the detention is open-ended, may be (and usually is) ordered incrementally, for six month periods, and is based on minimally phrased, vaguely stated grounds of suspicion and on information and
evidence which the detainee is not allowed to examine. As the Committee has already observed, this type of indefinite administrative detention, in manifestly unfair proceedings, amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

In some cases, administrative detention has been imposed on a prisoner who had completed serving his or her sentence after conviction in a criminal trial: after
years of imprisonment, expecting to go home as a free person, the person is detained
administratively on the day of release from the criminal sentence, with no end in sight.

34. The Unlawful Combatants Law, 2002 (as amended in July 2008) provides for holding an “unlawful enemy combatant” in administrative detention, subject to judicial review once every six months, until the “unlawful combatant’s” release will no longer endanger state security (sec. 5(c)) – a condition which might not be met until the end of the armed conflict. Although the Supreme Court held that there must be a showing of danger emanating from the particular the “unlawful combatant”, and the burden of demonstrating that danger must be greater the longer the detention, in fact such detention could be extremely lengthy in an armed conflict that has already lasted two generations.

35. Shackling – GSS/ISA: Detainees being interrogated by GSS/ISA agents are handcuffed behind the back in an initially uncomfortable and, with time, increasingly painful position. This practice continues despite written assurances to the contrary given to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. It is justified as a means of protecting interrogators from attack, but the fact that police have stated that they do not shackle detainees under GSS/ISA interrogations whilst taking their statements, and that interrogees are left shackled in GSS/ISA interrogation rooms on their own, sometimes for hours, belie this claim. As noted above, prolonged and painful shackling methods used by GSS/ISA interrogators may form part of torturous interrogation methods or even constitute torture on their own.

36. Shackling – other detainees: Shackling of minors to their prison beds as a disciplinary punishment or in response to attempted suicide, disproportionate or punitive shackling of other detainees and convicted prisoners in prison facilities, degrading and inhuman shackling of hospitalized prisoners to their hospital beds, and degrading exposure of handcuffed suspects to their family, the press and public in court remand hearings – all these phenomena have been frequently documented and
criticized by prison monitors from the Public Defenders Office, by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Israel) and by Members of the Knesset in committee hearings, yet they continue unabated.

37. GSS/ISA holding cells: while undergoing GSS/ISA interrogation, security suspects are held (between interrogation sessions) in cells in a separate wing of the prison facility where deliberately degrading conditions prevail, serving as an adjunct to torturous and cruel, inhuman or degrading interrogation methods. There are no beds, no natural light, and electric light is on constantly for 24 hours. In some cases detainees complain of cold, dampness and vermin. Usually the suspect is held in these cells in isolation at least during a portion of the interrogation period, and often during of it. Independent prison monitors on behalf of the Public Defender’s Office and the Bar Association prison monitors are not allowed into these cells.

The GSS/ISA interrogation wings have all come under the authority of the Israel Prison Service (IPS), yet the IPS denies responsibility for conditions in the GSS/ISA wards while the GSS/ISA claims that it is not responsible for conditions of detention.

38. IPS facilities: All prisons and jails (including former military prisons) have come under the authority of the IPS. While the transfer of authority is intended to bring about an improvement of prison conditions, the Public Defender’s Office prison monitor reports for 2006 and 2007 continue to describe numerous cases of over-crowding, poor ventilation, prison guard violence and lack of sufficient social and educational support. Security prisoners – almost entirely Palestinian, including minors – suffer discrimination: they are denied the right to study for matriculation exams and do not receive the welfare services to which other prisoners are entitled. They are denied telephone communications with family and friends, physical contact with family members including children during visits, and private conjugal visits with spouses.

The IPS does not employ a single Arab psychiatrist – one who is capable of speaking to Palestinians in their own language, which in the case of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories is often the only one they speak.

Articles 20, 21 and 22 and the Optional Protocol
39. Israel has not withdrawn its reservation to Article 20 of the Convention. In view of the systematic nature of torture in Israel, approved a priori through “consultations with high ranking [GSS/ISA] officers” and allowed a posteriori through impunity granted routinely to GSS/ISA torturers by the Attorney-General, this reservation is a serious impediment to the Committee’s monitoring of Israel’s implementation of the Convention.

40. Israel has refrained from declaring that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State Party claims that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under this Convention, (under Article 21), or to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by State Party of the provisions of the Convention (under Article 22).

41. Israel has not acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, despite the dire need, in Israel, for access to places of detention and detainees, monitoring and reporting by national and international preventive mechanisms as envisaged by the Protocol.

© Copyright JFJFP 2022