B’Tselem report: Shin Bet questioning violates int’ law

Report based on testimonies of 121 Palestinians who were held in Shin Bet’s main detention facility in Petah Tikva throughout 2009.

idf arrest311 (photo credit: ap)
idf arrest311
(photo credit: ap)
Palestinians detained for questioning by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) face cruel conditions, disgraceful hygienic conditions, sleep deprivation and physical abuse, according to a new report released Tuesday by B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and HaMoked – Center of the Defense of the Individual.
The report is based on the testimonies of 121 Palestinians who were held in the Shin Bet’s main detention facility in Petah Tikva throughout 2009.
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Fifty-one percent of the witnesses were held in the facility for a week or more, and some for a month.
Of those questioned, 9% claimed they had been physically abused by interrogators during their interrogation. The report said that since 2001, Palestinians had filed 645 complaints with the Justice Ministry and against the Shin Bet, but not a single complaint had led to a criminal investigation.
According to the testimonies revealed in the report, the arrests were mostly carried out at night. In 30% of the cases, physical violence was used during the arrest or during the transportation of the detainee to the detention facility, witnesses said. A third of the Palestinians said they had been forced to crouch or lie on the floor of the vehicle rather than sit on a seat or bench.
During their detention, the detainees said they had spent their time either in the interrogation room or in their cells.
The cells, they said, were only slightly larger than the mattress on the floor. Most of the oneperson cells were windowless, so the detainees were not able to tell if it was day or night.
Twenty-six percent of the witnesses reported that cold or hot air flowed into the cells, and almost all said that a light bulb had been kept on in the cells at all hours of the day, making it extremely difficult to sleep.
According to the report, 35% of the detainees were not provided a change of clothing for long periods and, in some cases, even during their entire stay in the facility. Twentyseven percent of the witnesses were not allowed to shower, and several claimed to have suffered skin problems following their stay in the facility.
In addition, 36% of the detainees claimed that interrogators had used family members as a means of pressure.
In one case, a 63-yearold widow was allegedly held in the facility so that members of her family could see her suffering while under detention. The woman was released two days later.
“The means described in the report constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and, in some cases, torture,” the report stated. “All such acts are strictly prohibited, without exception. International law unequivocally states that no emergency situation may be invoked to justify these acts.”
In its response to the report, the Justice Ministry claimed that all of the interrogations had been carried out in accordance with Israeli law, “with the aim of thwarting illegal activity with the purpose of harming the security of the State of Israel.”
It added that “Shin Bet interrogations are carried out under the supervision of Israel’s independent legal authorities – the attorney-general, the state attorney, the Justice Ministry and the various court systems.”
The Justice Ministry noted that two petitions filed by Palestinians to the High Court of Justice in recent years had been rejected.
The ministry also rejected the report’s claim that complaints were not investigated. According to the ministry, from 2000 until 2007, 427 investigations were launched by the Military Police into allegations regarding IDF abuse of Palestinian detainees. In 2008, 211 criminal investigations were opened, and there were 140 in 2009.