Have documents in the Duma arson case vanished in a cover-up?

Prosecution calls them ‘technical’ and unimportant.

A man looks out of a house badly damaged by a firebomb attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, July 31, 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A man looks out of a house badly damaged by a firebomb attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, July 31, 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Documents describing the treatment of an Israeli minor who was exposed to intense interrogation as part of the Shin Bet’s (Israel Security Agency) probe into the July 2015 firebombing attack against a Palestinian family in the West Bank village of Duma have disappeared in a cover-up, the right-wing Honenu NGO alleged on Wednesday.
Honenu said the documents were used by the state prosecution in 2015 to convince the district courts involved to permit the Shin Bet to continue intensive interrogation of the suspects in the case without granting them access to their lawyers.
The NGO claims that the interrogation tactics included harsh violence and physical shaking and that the prosecution admitted in court to losing some of the documents that indicated that the harsh tactics were justified.
Furthermore, even as the minor ultimately was indicted on lesser charges of physically injuring a Palestinian two years before Duma, and not as part of the murder trial involving Amiram Ben Uliel, Honenu said the prosecution’s “loss” of documents could happen again in Uliel’s case.
The NGO claimed that the loss was a cover- up for allegations it has made since the summer of 2015 that the Shin Bet tortured or otherwise violated the rights of the suspects, including the minor, and for the state’s misleading the courts overseeing their treatment.
The Jerusalem District Court, it said, is due to give a key decision in the coming days on the minor’s case in response to requests made by the minor’s defense lawyer for additional documents from the prosecution.
In addition to the lost documents, Honenu said the prosecution also is refusing to turn over other documents relating to the minor’s treatment.
The NGO made it clear that its focus is to invalidate all confessions made by Duma suspects, including the minor, where it contends the confessions were coerced.
“All of the evidentiary documents in the case of the minor were provided to the minor’s lawyer as is standard, other than two documents...whose character were completely technical, as was also stated in court,” the Justice Ministry responded.
It added that: “In contrast to what has been claimed... there is no document in the case file that recorded an approval for using exceptional measures during interrogation.”
The Justice Ministry did confirm in summer 2015 that enhanced interrogation techniques were used in the case with approval by the Attorney General’s Office, but its position is that the techniques fell short of the High Court of Justice’s 1999 torture ban.
Furthermore, according to past procedures published by law enforcement, even as the Shin Bet keeps the Attorney-General informed of exceptional interrogations and the Attorney-General could order them stopped, that office also does not formally pre-approve the techniques that are used.
According to the High Court, the model is that of a “ticking bomb,” or a need to gain information from a detainee to prevent an impending attack. In this case, Shin Bet agents who use enhanced interrogation will not be prosecuted after-the-fact, even though they did not have formal pre-approval.
There is an ongoing debate as to how specific and how impending a ticking-bomb case must be to justify enhanced interrogation, with the Shin Bet making it clear that it believes the Duma suspects and their associates could have carried out additional terrorist attacks like Duma.
Honenu, in contrast, has said the Shin Bet never caught the true perpetrators and arbitrarily picked out some right-wing activists to abuse to satisfy political anger and criticism of the government over the attack.