Video of Shin Bet interrogations leading to disciplinary measures

The Justice Ministry did not provide statistics on the number of disciplinary proceedings.

Ofer Prison (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Ofer Prison
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The relatively new institution of live video supervision of Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) interrogations has led to both disciplinary measures and reforms to the interrogation process, Deputy State Attorney Nurit Litman said Wednesday.
Litman’s statement at a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center was the first public statement by a government official about the impact of live video oversight.
The conference was an unusual gathering of leaders on both the Right and the Left to critique the Shin Bet’s use of enhanced interrogation, with Litman responding to many aspects of the criticism.
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel CEO Moria Shlomot questioned Litman about there being only one criminal probe into Shin Bet conduct out of more than 1,000 complaints during the past 15 years.
This made it seem like there was “blanket immunity for the Shin Bet” to do whatever it wanted to Palestinians during interrogations, she said.
At this point Litman responded the Justice Ministry czar for probing complaints against the Shin Bet should be judged not based on how many criminal probes she has opened, but based on how many disciplinary charges were brought against Shin Bet agents, and on broad reforms to the interrogation process.
Relating to those two issues, she said that the institution of live video oversight of the Shin Bet interrogations had helped advance things.
The Justice Ministry did not provide statistics on the number of disciplinary proceedings.
In December 2016, after two quasi-government reports – both the 2013 Turkel Report and the September 2015 Ciechanover Report – recommended varying oversight of Shin Bet interrogations by video, the Knesset approved the reform regarding oversight by live video feed.
Litman described the procedure as including a live video feed with a supervisor watching and with intermittent unannounced spot checks by those investigating the Shin Bet.
She said this unpredictability forced even interrogators who might consider crossing the line to stay within the law as they never knew when they might be being observed by an investigator.
Litman said having supervisors watching and investigators spot-checking file written reports on any anomalies had led to disciplinary charges. These reforms keep Shin Bet agents from crossing the line into illegal behavior, she said.
PCATI views the live video as an improvement, but as insufficient since it is not recorded and neither they nor the court can watch the video to reach their own conclusions.
Besides the video issue, Litman said that the lack of criminal investigations stemmed from the fact that Shin Bet officials are usually more credible than complaining Palestinian prisoners, who are generally accused of security crimes.
She added that many Palestinians make-up accusations that they were tortured so that when they are released, they will not be labeled collaborators by the general public for ratting out other prisoners.
Regarding PCATI criticism that the Justice Ministry czar took far too long to review complaints, Litman admitted that she was unsatisfied with the backlog of cases, but that the investigations department was too small to get through the backlog quickly and that many torture complaint cases were on hold until the main security crime case against the Palestinian was finished.