'Soldiers routinely abuse detainees'

Anti-torture group cites 90 testimonies by soldiers, Palestinians who speak of beatings, degradation.

"IDF soldiers routinely abuse bound and defenseless Palestinian detainees," a new report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) asserted on Sunday. The abuse alleged in the report - which was written based on 90 testimonies of Palestinians and IDF soldiers and covered arrests made between 2006 and 2007- included beatings, degradation and other acts of violence, as well as acts directed at minors and some which resulted in serious injury. The group stressed that such ill treatment of the detainees was carried out after they had been bound and no longer presented a danger to the soldiers. "Abuse occurs at various junctions - immediately following arrest, in the vehicle transporting the detainees, and during the time they are held in IDF military camps prior to their transfer to interrogation and detention facilities," the PCATI stated. One detainee attested: "...inside the jeep I was attacked by soldiers who kicked me and hit my shoulders with the butts of their rifles after I complained that the handcuffs were causing me pain." Another man, arrested at a cemetery, said he was thrown onto his stomach and kicked, then hit in the back. When the soldiers' jeep was delayed, he said, "they took me away from the road to a deserted area parallel to the road with my back to them. They threw stones at me and competed to see who could hit me on the head... Each of them threw several stones at me." But such stories were also told by soldiers. One said that, after arresting a teenage boy who had thrown a rock at soldiers, a group of soldiers began "hitting his face, throwing [military field phones] at him, just taking them and throwing them at him, and he was this 15-year old kid who had been throwing stones... everyone knew, the deputy company sergeant and the commanders - they all knew and some of them had no problem joining in..." Another soldier, who served in Hebron, recalled: "Two brothers went through the 'pharmacy checkpoint,' which is a kind of scanning machine. They went through and simply passed on. The machine beeped so they shouted at them to stop and come back, but they didn't hear it or didn't want to hear it. One of the guys there ran after him, grabbed him... there is this kind of metal pole there at the side... he pushed him in, beat him for about five minutes, and left. The [ten-year-old] boy... walked out of there after about fifteen minutes, unsteady on his feet." The report accused the IDF of indifference towards the phenomenon, but added that the Defense Ministry, the Knesset and the State Comptroller were also to blame for their inaction. The army's legal system, it said, was "weak" - conducting only a small number of investigations on such cases. "Unfortunately I want to admit something that we are not fully aware of," the PCATI quoted former Paratroopers commander Brig.-Gen Yossi Bachar as saying in one trial. "These cases are not all that exceptional in their quantity. It is simply that some of them remain shrouded in silence."