Report On Jewish Torture : 1999

Report On Jewish Torture : 1999
Thu Aug 19, 2004 19:01

Torture and Widespread Arrest Campaigns


Principle (6) of the Principles of protection of people in detention stipulates that:

"no person detained or held in custody should be subjected to torture or otherwise harsh or insulting or inhumane treatment. No conditions should be used as an excuse for torturing or otherwise harsh or insulting or inhumane treatment."

ADDAMEER has given the issue of torture great attention in 1999. This can be seen in the legal program of the Association in its follow up 115 legal cases related to interrogation and torture in 1999.

The following is an evaluation and remarks concerning the tasks of the Association:

Physical and psychological torture against Palestinian and Arab prisoners has not stopped since the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967. Torture has taken different shapes throughout the period of occupation, thus, the Israeli security services have succeeded in achieving great experience in developing new methods of torture, finding loopholes and deceiving the world. Israel has always denied its involvement in using torture as a method of interrogation, despite all tangible evidence, in particular the death of tens of detainees in interrogation rooms and the deformation of others. Israel has used conventional methods of torture. But recently it has been using psychologically, mental and physical painful means of torture that leave fewer physical evidence, such as forcing prisoners to sit on a tiny chair with hands and feet tied, standing up in a closet, depriving detainees from sleep and using violent shaking, etc.

On the other hand, opposing torture has not stopped. Palestinian, International and Israeli institutions and individuals have opposed torture in the past years through different means, mainly the Israeli jurisdiction that has previously allowed moderate physical pressure, which opened the way for torturing at least thirty thousand Palestinian detainees since 1987.

These practices led to embarrassing the so-called Israeli democracy and forced the Israeli High Court of Justice to enact a law that prohibits the use of certain types of torture, which are the types described in the petitions made before the Court. The Israeli High Court of Justice's decision is in response to seven petitions produced before the Israeli High Court by Israeli human rights institutions during 1994-99 regarding the methods of torture used by the Israeli intelligence services against Palestinian prisoners. The Court delayed hearing and ruling on the petitions, while at the same time it required the Israeli government to enact a law that organizes the work of the intelligence services so as to avoid a court ruling against them. The Israeli government did not enact such a law, and on 6 September 1996 the High Court made its ruling after being criticized by local and international human rights activists.

The policies of Palestinian and Israeli institutions in the past years has focused on producing as many petitions as possible before the Israeli High Court of Justice against torture, with these petitions pressuring the Court to make its ruling.

The Court's decision dealt only with part of the Israeli practices, which were never called torture as described in international laws and conventions signed by Israel; instead they were called "physical means".

The Israeli intelligence services relied on the Landau Ministerial Committee's license of 1987 which gave them the power to use moderate physical pressure--as it was called by the Committee--and psychological pressure in interrogation before this decision was taken. The Committee did not explain the meaning of the so-called moderate physical pressure in its published report and the cases in which it is allowed to be used. Instead, it kept the details of its report confidential, and it was never published. The Ministerial Committee extended the time period of the license every three months; henceforth, the intelligence officials used the license to apply all types of torture methods against Palestinian detainees whom they considered as time bombs.

All prisoners have experienced at least one method of torture. According to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, statistics show that more than 85% of Palestinian detainees are subjected to torture.

The methods of torture described before the High Court

From the first moment of arrest the physical torture begins with the placement of handcuffs and the covering of the head with a bag effecting the breathing of the prisoner. This is often accompanied by beatings and cursing by the interrogators. In more then 90% of torture methods utilize "shabh". The prisoner legs are tied to a small stool and his hands are tied behind his back with a bag covering his head sometimes for more then 48 hours continuously in which he is given only 5 minute breaks between each sitting. During interrogation periods the prisoner is usually not allowed to sit in a normal sitting position but is forced to crouch down. Also the prisoner is tied to a circle within the wall while standing or he is seated on a small stool and his hands are tied behind his back to a table which is higher thereby forcing his shoulders and arms to stay in a raised position. These types of tying methods became so familiar within the interrogation process they no longer are perceived as illegal or insulting to the individuals' rights and their dignity. One of the most difficult forms of physical torture is the "shaking". The interrogator takes hold of the prisoner by the collar and violently shakes him for over a minute. This torture method is very dangerous. You certainly remember the death of the Palestinian prisoner Abd al Summad Herisat in the April 1995 as a result of shaking. After that the forensic pathologist, Dr. Robert Kirschner, stated that the use of shaking is very dangerous and causes serious, and irreversible brain damage. There is much more which can be said about the dangers of physical torture but this is not the time for it.

Psychological War- This method of torture entails the interrogator threatened by and therefore utilizes the security of the state to justify the use of torture against Palestinians. It is known that from a legal stand point there is no way to charge a person with a crime without evidence or by his own confession to the crime. What would make a person confess to a crime when he knows that there is no evidence against him? To torture a person in order to get him to confess to a crime he did not commit or say something he does not wish to say shows that the person is not dealt with as a human being but rather as a means to arrive to an desired end. The question is how can a country that claims it is democratic and that it respects individuals as human beings legitimize this.

Preventing the detainees from sleeping for a period of 5-10 continuous days is another method of torture. In addition to the table squat, beating, cursing and depriving prisoners from the natural right of using toilets and changing their underwear in order to insult and degrade them.

Serving bad and little food rations and serving the last meal at four o'clock in the afternoon in order to make prisoners starve. Preventing prisoners from meeting lawyers for thirty days, using security as an excuse for such actions. Solitary confinement in cold, rotting and narrow cells where prisoners spend 45-70 days in such conditions and sometimes 90 days, as in the case of the detainees Muhammad Salih and Ata Jafal.

The High Court ruling on 6 September 1999 dealt with the torture methods of violent shaking, tying against small chairs, handcuffing and preventing sleeping. The Court ruled that using violent shaking and painful tying against small chairs are prohibited. It also ruled that preventing sleeping and handcuffing were prohibited. Using a sack to cover the head and playing loud music during tying prisoners to little chairs was also prohibited.

The Court ruled that these methods are prohibited when used as a means during interrogation to put pressure on the detainees. Whereas; if they are used as necessary means of interrogation, then they are allowed. For instance, an interrogator can cuff the detainee to guarantee his (the interrogator's) safety during the interrogation for long hours, which can be 20 hours. This is exactly what the interrogators do now after the Court ruling: they tie a prisoner against a chair for long periods of time to replace the previous method of tying a prisoner against a tiny chair and placing a sack on top of his head.

The exceptional cases as claimed by the prosecution under "the necessary protection" where intelligence officers have the right to use the methods of torture whenever necessary, are known as the time bomb. The Court ruled that this protection given in compliance with the Israeli criminal law does not give the legal power to the intelligence officers to use physical force against detainees. The Court did not rule that the use of power in these cases is completely prohibited, as is the case in international conventions. On the contrary, it left it open for the Israeli Knesset (parliament) to enact laws that give the intelligence officers the authority to use such power. The judges declared in Article 39 of the ruling stated that at this stage they do not take a decision and possibly there is a view that says that the security problems Israel faces are too many, therefore, power should be given to interrogators to use physical methods during interrogation.

The Court has not ruled that if one intelligence officer uses torture he will be taken to court or not, because it left the use of "necessary protection" open to interpretation.

Henceforth, we realize that the Court ruling, though it was a first step towards prohibiting the use of torture, does not eliminate the legalization of the use of torture from Israeli law, especially as it allows the Knesset to enact a proper law if it deems necessary in the interrogation rooms. Many Knesset members, who opposed torture in the past, support the use of torture by intelligence officers since, in their opinion, it is necessary to protect the state security.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak issued a direct order of forming a committee, known as the Sokhar-Mizuz committee, to establish a draft law that gives the intelligence officers the authority to use torture. The majority of the members of the committee supported giving the intelligence officers the authority to use pressure in exceptional cases in order to force confessions from detainees during interrogation so as to save lives. The minority of the members of the committee, including Yossi Beilen, the Israeli Minister of Justice, opposed the draft law "that gives the authority to use physical means during interrogation by the intelligence officers".

Despite all the peace talks and agreements, the arrest campaigns, pursuing Palestinians, interrogating them and torturing them has not stop in 1999.

The Association faced many obstacles in its follow up of the detainees' cases during custody and interrogation because it was prevented from meeting them for security reasons. The Association has also noticed that the security services do not follow the law or the right of the clients to see their lawyers by using excuses such as the detainee is in the interrogation room or has been taken to another prison. These obstacles forced the Association to take its cases to the High Court many times. ADDAMEER has also identified that the Israeli security services use various kinds of torture against almost all prisoners, most noticeably, tying against a chair, violent shaking, preventing sleeping and beating.

To confirm our argument, these are some of the cases that ADDAMEER followed up in 1999:

Walid Musa Hamid Hussein

Bassam Abdulrahim Hamid

Fawzi Ayid Jabra

Three women were arrested and placed under interrogation in 1999 at Al Jalami prison. They were subjected to the most atrocious methods of torture. They were Asma Atatra, Wafa Hamarsha from Yabad and Muna Qa' dan from Araba.

The interrogation services began to change some of their methods of torture but keeping torturing anyway in the aftermath of the High Court ruling in September 1999 regarding prohibiting the use of some torture methods. These included replacing Jewish torturers with Arab torturers and sending detainees to the collaborators rooms known as "the shameful rooms' for a period of more than one month in some cases. During this period the detainees would be prevented from seeing their lawyers and the interrogation would be carried out in a systematic way agreed upon by the intelligence services' officers. Torture would be used in different ways such as beating, degradation, threatening, starving and cheating. The detainees who were victims of "the shameful rooms" emphasized that the conditions in these rooms are so harsh since torture and threatening and fear surround them.

The Israeli intelligence services still use torture and attempt to recruit more collaborators. It is evident that there is an increase in the campaigns of arresting young people who are still under eighteen years of age in order to recruit them as collaborators for the Israeli intelligence services.

ADDAMEER witnessed the extent of compliance of the Israeli intelligence services with the Court ruling. It identified a violation of the ruling since some methods of torture are still being used against the detainees such as tying them against a tiny chair, beating them and depriving them from sleeping. Detainees are still suffering from malnutrition and solitary confinement for long periods of time and preventing them from changing their underwear.

ADDAMEER followed up 32 cases in interrogation since the issuance of the Court ruling on September 6 1999 until the end of 1999, some of the cases include:

Yassin Bazar

Mansor Mahmoud Alshahatit

Rami Abu Hlal



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