Knesset to discuss Shin Bet methods

Panel to focus on new report claiming agency exploits terror suspects' families to get information.

Palestinian prisoner  22 (photo credit: AP)
Palestinian prisoner 22
(photo credit: AP)
The Knesset Law Committee is due to meet on Sunday to discuss a new report published by the Public Committee against Torture in Israel accusing the state of violating international human rights law by exploiting the families of suspected terrorists to manipulate them into providing information. The report itself was released for publication on Sunday morning. According to it, there is "widespread use of an interrogation technique whereby family members are used and detainees are subjected to psychological torture by exploiting the families." The report provided six case studies of incidents that occurred in 2007 or the beginning of 2008 in which detainees were either told members of their families had been arrested or they actually were arrested and treated harshly [the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCTI) describes the treatment as "torture"] even though they had done nothing to warrant their arrest. In one of the cases, soldiers arrested Mahmoud Sueti on February 1, 2007. Less than three weeks later, soldiers picked up his father, Elaziz, and his wife, Maison, and ordered them to show up at Etzion station the following day. When they arrived, both were questioned and the father was ordered to put a filthy and tattered coat over his regular clothes. Each of them was then taken down to the courtyard and told to look up at a window in the building where Mahmoud Sueit was standing. Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) interrogators told Sueti that the two had been arrested and were being incarcerated in the same detention center. In the meantime, the father and wife were sent home. Sueit, who believed the story, tried to commit suicide twice. In another case study, the mother and brother of Said Diab were actually arrested and subjected to harsh treatment even though the authorities had no suspicions against them. Said Diab and his brother, Amar, were arrested on March 28, 2007. The description of Said Diab's arrest and detention are given in great length and include descriptions of harsh interrogation techniques in violation of the High Court of Justice decision outlawing these types of interrogation. After Diab refused to divulge information or confess to suspicions against him, security forces arrested his mother and took her to the same detention center as her two sons were being held. After examining her, they put her in an isolation cell and then questioned her for three hours. During her interrogation, they brought her son, Diab, into the room so that he would see that they had arrested her. They also used his brother, Amar, in the same fashion. According to PCTI, international human rights law prevents states from using family members to pressure suspects. "Regarding this kind of behavior to be psychological torture does not need explanation," wrote the authors of the study. "The interrogator tramples on the most sensitive nerves of the detainee, that is, is the deep concern for his closest family and his readiness to sacrifice a great deal for them, sometimes even his life. The fear that his family might suffer as a result of his behavior can create as deep distress as that caused by painful handcuffing, sleep deprivation or harsh physical violence. "The state and its representatives exploit this deep emotional bond among family members to destroy the will of the individual and his family. The cruel choice between confession, truth and self-interest on the one hand, and damage to the family on the other, is exploited in the most severe way, in total contradiction to the intention of the legislator and the basic values of the Israeli and international legal systems, which are committed to the protection of the family unit.