Report: Israel has no barrier to torture

Loopholes in "time bomb" ruling allow almost any prisoner to be tortured.

Prisoners 298.88 AP good (photo credit: AP)
Prisoners 298.88 AP good
(photo credit: AP)
A new report published Wednesday by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel reported that their findings show there is no effective barrier to torture in the state. The report, entitled A Time Bomb, describes nine cases of Palestinian security prisoners being tortured in the past year. According to the report, the High Court of Justice's ruling on the interrogation of suspects defined as "time bombs" allows for "almost any Palestinian prisoner to be tortured," Israel Radio reported. According to the committee, Israel has no efficient channel that operates against prisoner torture. The report also alleged that prison wardens, policemen and even doctors take part in torture, as well as lawyers, military judges and senior officials in the Justice Ministry. The committee's report follows a May 6th report by the B'Tselem and Hamoked NGOs that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) continues to torture security detainees in violation of a 1999 High Court landmark ruling and international law which outlaws 'special' methods of torture. The report is based on testimony from 73 Palestinians who were interrogated by Shin Bet agents at several facilities inside Israel. The sample included 34 'regular' detainees and 39 'senior detainees' who were transferred from their detention cell to an interrogation facility within 48 hours. According to the B'Tselem report, seven interrogation methods used by the Shin Bet 'fall mainly and clearly under the definition of torture, well beyond the gray zone between ill-treatment and torture. This conclusion is supported mainly by the descriptions contained in the testimonies, in accordance with which the suffering caused to the interrogees by the application of these methods cannot be considered anything other than 'severe' as this term is qualified in the definition of torture in international law,' according to the report. The B'Tselem report, however, was strongly criticized by Boaz Oren, deputy director of the Justice Ministry's Department for International Agreements and International Litigation. Oren wrote to Yehezkel Lein, the report's author, that 'the report was based upon a non-representative sample that seems to have been deliberately chosen, which distorts the reality prevailing in the course of arrest and interrogation of security prisoners.' Also, representatives of B'Tselem and Hamoked did not identify any of the alleged victims making it impossible for the Justice Ministry to investigate any of their claims. In response, the Justice Ministry said Wednesday: "We do not know anything about this report and were not asked to respond before it was published." The ministry did emphasize, however, that the Shin Bet interrogations were all carried out according to law and were constantly monitored by the Shin Bet Supervision Council, the Ministers' Commiteee for Shin Bet Issues, the Intelligence Subcommittee for Secret Service, the Justice Ministry, the State Comptroller's office and various courts. Dan Izenberg contributed to this report