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Top: Jewish Atrocities: Israeli Torture

Torture reconsidered: Israel

top of page (proposal for law against torture of political prisoners by Shin Bet)

The Economist; October 1,1994

SOME Palestinians may be the surprise beneficiaries of complaints from a group of Jewish right-wing extremists that they have been mistreated by the Shin Bet security service. Suddenly, there is a brighter prospect of eliminating the use of torture against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The Israeli-PLO peace deal had already brought some improvement, says Hannah Friedman, director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. The blanket of denial and indifference that stifled protests and reform efforts had begun to fray. A committee, appointed by the minister of justice, has been considering whether Israel should sign the international convention against torture; its report is due in October. Ms Friedman's committee and others are lobbying for a law on Shin Bet, defining clearly the powers of this shadowy agency. They have also asked the High Court to order the full publication--and repudiation- -of controversial regulations dating from 1977 that permit "moderate physical pressure" in the interrogation of terrorist suspects. They now find their ranks swollen with right- wing politicians and Greater Israel activists, up in arms over the arrest in September of 11 members of an alleged Jewish terror cell and what followed: according to some of the 11, physical or mental violence while they were under interrogation. Most of the suspects live in Kiryat Arba, a settlement near Hebron that is a hotbed of Jewish fanaticism. Seven have been released on bail. Still in custody are two brothers, both soldiers, said to have been arrested just as they were about to shoot a Palestinian; another soldier, Lieutenant Oren Edri, charged with stealing army weapons and explosives for the group; and a rabbi, described as the group' s spiritual mentor. The men were not allowed to see their lawyers or families for days, in some cases weeks. Mr Edri claims he was deprived of sleep, denied decent food and religious requirements, left for long periods with a sack over his head, cursed and kicked, had his head banged against a wall and a finger broken; and his cell teemed with rats. Hundreds of Palestinians, in cases documented over the years by human-rights bodies, have said much the same. For many, the result was permanent injury; for a few, death. A handful of those complaints led to prosecutions against Shin Bet agents and policemen. Most led nowhere. But Mr Edri is Jewish, and his charges brought an outcry, in which left and right joined voice. Any confessions extracted from the men, say supporters, would be worthless. Some protesters still distinguish between torturing Jews and torturing Arabs. But others--even fierce right- wingers--now concede that confessions forced out of Arab suspects by such means are equally dubious. A preliminary inquiry by a justice ministry official concluded that Mr Edri's claims were mostly imaginary. Some of the 11 men have told reporters they were not physically mistreated. But the Shin Bet has come badly out of the affair anyway. Its leaks to the media appear to have exaggerated the weight of its catch: the group hardly seems to have merited the "Jewish underground" headlines at first accorded to it by the popular press. And, whether or not Mr Edri in turn exaggerated his sufferings, his charges and the reaction to them have strengthened the hand of those who think that torturing any suspect is wrong. top of page

Group says Arabs tortured Arabs in Israel jail Reuters top of page

Colleen Siegel

December 28, 1995

JERUSALEM (Reuter) - An Israeli human rights group said Thursday prisoners at an Israeli military jail tortured fellow Arab inmates suspected of collaborating with Israel and apparently killed two of them this year.

"Among the methods of torture ...(were) extinguishing cigarettes on bodies, laying them on a board with nails while interrogators sat on them, cutting them with knives and pouring salt on the wounds, dripping molten plastic on their bodies, and inserting electric wires and other objects into their penises," the group, Btselem, said.

It said Israeli authorities did not intervene to stop the alleged torturers led by a man who was given a senior post in the security forces of the Palestinian self-rule authority on his release from Ketziot prison.

Two men apparently died of the torture at the desert prison between August and October, it said.

Reacting to the report, the Israeli army said one prisoner died in the jail in September.

"In the months September-October this year violence increased in the jail ... during internal interrogations by certain prisoners against others suspected of collaborating," the army said.

It said a number of measures including body searches and surprise checks were instituted to control the situation.

The measures were stepped up and police opened an investigation after the September death, the army said.

Btselem quoted former prisoners as saying dozens of Arabs suspected of aiding Israel were tortured by a group of inmates who were among men freed under an agreement on prisoners contained in the September PLO-Israel deal to expand Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank.

It said Munjad Kaza headed the torture group and was given a senior position in the Preventive Security Service in the Jericho Palestinian self-rule enclave after he was released.

The group demanded that Israel and the PLO investigate the alleged torture.

Palestinian officials were not immediately available to comment.

Btselem said the fact that Israeli authorities did not intervene "raises grave concern in light of the large number of prisoners tortured ... and the prolonged period."

The Palestinian Authority running autonomous enclaves set up since 1994 has been criticized by Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights activists for its forces' treatment of some prisoners. Several have died in custody.

Israel, during 28 years of occupation of Arab lands, has also been criticized for permitting interrogators to use force. Palestinians have died in Israeli custody.

In October, Israel authorized its Shin Bet secret police to continue using physical force during interrogations.

Security sources said among other things the special powers allow interrogators to shake suspects violently, a method which an independent pathologist said led to the death of a Palestinian prisoner earlier this year. REUTER top of page

Suspicion Arab killed in Israeli hospital

Reuters, May 23, 1997 top of page

JERUSALEM (Reuter) - A Palestinian prisoner whose family said he was tortured to death by Israeli police this week may have been fatally beaten by guards at an Israeli hospital, Israel's Haaretz newspaper said Friday.

The head of Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital said police, not hospital guards, were "dominant" in the beating of Khaled Abu Daiyeh at the hospital when he became violent after refusing treatment.

Police were not available to comment.

Palestinian Authority official Ahmed Abdel-Rahman told Reuters: "Killing prisoner Abu Daiyeh is but one in a chain of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people and we hope that the U.S. administration would protest against this killing."

The Palestinian Authority's chief pathologist, who examined Abu Daiyeh's body before burial Thursday, ruled he died of "neurological shock caused by severe pain resulting from external violence."

A Reuters cameraman who filmed the body Thursday after it was handed to the family for burial said the skull was crushed, the chest caved in, and the hands and legs appeared broken.

Haaretz said Abu Daiyeh was brought to Shaare Zedek and "there, according to the suspicion, he was killed."

It said Abu Daiyeh refused treatment and first struggled with one policeman, slightly injuring him. Then, "according to the suspicion, hospital guards began beating the prisoner."

Thursday, Israeli police told Reuters Abu Daiyeh, arrested last week for trying to take a policeman's gun in Jerusalem's Old City, Tuesday felt unwell and was taken to Shaare Zedek.

At the hospital, Abu Daiyeh refused treatment and "went crazy, " attacking anyone who came near him, police said. He was brought under control and put to bed. He was found dead in his bed Wednesday, they said, adding that the Justice Ministry was investigating the incident.

A spokeswoman for the hospital gave a similar account Thursday. She refused to detail Abu Daiyeh's condition on entering the hospital.

Asked Friday to comment on the Haaretz report, she referred Reuters to comments by hospital head Yonatan Halevy on Israel Radio.

Halevy told the radio: "The two policemen, in attempts to overpower him, beat him, as I said, in front of everyone. The (hospital) guards acted according to their orders to help and without any doubt they were not the dominant or meaningful element in this violence."

"The violence used, justly or unjustly, to prevent danger to the public was used by police," Halevy added.

Shawqi Issa, executive director of the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Thursday supported the family's accusation of torture: "We believe that he died as a direct result of an Israeli high court decision allowing torture."

Israel's High Court in November 1996 rejected a Palestinian detainee' s petition to bar Israel's Shin Bet secret service from using "physical force" while interrogating him. REUTER top of page

U.N. investigator says Israel tortures Palestinian prisoners

Reuters, March 23, 1997 top of page

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuter) - The U.N. special investigator on torture Wednesday likened Israel to South Africa under apartheid and accused the Jewish state of institutionalizing the use of torture in interrogating Palestinian detainees.

Nigel Rodley, a British lawyer who serves as U.N. special rapporteur on torture, issued his annual report listing 29 countries where torture was a fairly extensive problem.

They included Algeria, Bahrain, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkey.

Responding to a challenge by Saudi Arabia, Rodley also said his mandate from the U.N. Commission on Human Rights included investigating corporal punishment -- whipping, amputation and stoning -- in Muslim countries which observe Sharia law.

In his 50-page report, he said Israel told him last November that its law forbade all forms of torture or maltreatment and it was in full conformity with the 1987 Convention against Torture which it has ratified.

But Rodley wrote that sleep deprivation, hooding and violent shaking were often used in combination in what he assumed to be Israeli methods "sanctioned under the approved but secret interrogation practices" defined by the 1987 Landau Commission. Used together, the techniques amounted to inhumane treatment.

"The Special Rapporteur appreciates the responses of the Government and is aware of the grave challenges posed by politically motivated terrorist activities, but as the Government itself acknowledges, these cannot justify torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," Rodley wrote.

Later, he told a news briefing: "Israel, in a way, is looking in respect of torture as going down the route that South Africa under apartheid went -- that is actually institutionalizing it, juridicizing it..."

"One could say that there is a certain honesty involved there, " he added. "It is not sufficient, it seems to me, to excuse what is an extremely serious development."

"Therefore they have been invoking...the doctrine of necessity to justify the use of these techniques.

"But their international position is that none of the techniques violates either the prohibition of torture under international definitions of torture or the prohibition of cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. There one simply has to disagree with them in the sense that it is very rare that the techniques are used singly, they are normally used together. And together, they at least amount to inhuman treatment..."

"And when done on a sufficiently sustained basis as sometimes happens it can properly be called torture," he added

Prisoners in Israel Morning Edition (NPR)

December 1, 1997 top of page

By Linda Gradstein, Bob Edwards

BOB EDWARDS, HOST: For years, the Israeli security services have been accused of using torture in the interrogation of Palestinian prisoners. Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency, has admitted using certain measures that human rights groups describe as torture. Shin Bet says the practices are intended to protect the interrogators. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports from Jerusalem.

LINDA GRADSTEIN, NPR REPORTER: Shin Bet laid out the methods in a report ordered by Israel's supreme court after an appeal by Israel' s public committee against torture. The committee told the court it's concerned for the safety of an alleged Hamas activist arrested last month, Fuwad Koran (ph), who has not been allowed to met with his lawyer. Koran's brother-in-law is believed to have masterminded two suicide bombings in Jerusalem last summer that killed 21 Israelis and five suicide bombers. Israeli human rights organizations and Palestinians have long accused the secretive Shin Bet of routinely torturing Palestinian prisoners under interrogation. Aton Felner (ph), the executive director of the Israeli human rights group Betselam (ph), says practices such as sleep deprivation, covering prisoners' heads with a hood or sack, and blasting loud music are defined as torture by United Nations commission.

ATON FELNER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BETSELAM: They determined that the methods used by Israel -- and they say which methods specifically, such as restraining in very painful conditions, hooding under special conditions, sounding of loud music for long periods -- they constitute torture.

GRADSTEIN: In its report to the supreme court, Shin Bet said the methods were not used while questioning prisoners. It said detainees' hands were bound to prevent them from attacking interrogators. And they were covered with sacks to prevent them from identifying their interrogators. Shin Bet claimed the loud music is to stop prisoners from communicating while waiting for questioning. There was no reason given for sleep deprivation. Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel (ph) says Israel does not define these practices as torture. He says the supreme court allows what it calls "moderate physical pressure" in cases where the prisoner is believed to have information about planned terrorist attacks.

MOSHE FOGEL, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT: In extreme circumstances, where the life of men, women, and children are under danger or are being threatened, and we know almost for sure that people will be blown to bits, we have a right to use moderate pressure -- I repeat, moderate pressure -- in order to get to those terrorists before they ignite the bomb, before innocent people are murdered.

GRADSTEIN: Human rights groups counter that the practices Shin Bet admitted to are the norm, not the exception. Aton Felner of Betselam says the Israeli supreme court has rarely defended Palestinian rights.

FELNER: We're talking about what you could call nearly an industry of torture. We're talking about thousands of people that are being subjected to this inhuman treatment that in a democratic state there is no room for.

GRADSTEIN: Shin Bet's disclosures come as Israel's once-vaunted secret services have come under increasing criticism here. A few months ago an embarrassed Israel was caught in an assassination attempt on a senior Hamas official in Jordan. Last month, a senior operative was accused of fabricating reports about Syrian intentions to Israel that could have led to a war. Israeli analysts say these new admissions by Shin Bet could tarnish the security service's reputation even further.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem. top of page

International Red Cross visits south Lebanon jail

Reuters top of page

By Karamallah Daher; October 9, 1995

MARJAYOUN, Lebanon (Reuter) - The Red Cross inspected a jail run by Israel's South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia allies Monday for the first time since the prison was established in 1985.

Seven delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross entered hilltop Khiam jail in Israel's border occupation zone where some 200 Lebanese and other Arabs are held without trial, the SLA sources said.

Following reports of torture and deaths at Khiam, Israel and the SLA have been under pressure to improve conditions and allow inspections by humanitarian organizations.

"This is the first time the International Committee of the Red Cross receives approval to enter this jail since it was opened more than 10 years ago," the ICRC team said in a statement to reporters in the occupation zone after the visit.

The team, which includes a doctor, will inspect the conditions and treatment of prisoners over the next week and file a secret report to Lebanese authorities with recommendations.

The SLA command said Sunday it decided to allow the ICRC delegates to make periodic inspections in Khiam and to talk to prisoners freely and privately whenever they wish.

Some 200 prisoners, mostly guerrillas of Muslim and leftist groups fighting to force Israel out of south Lebanon, are held without trial at Khiam, some for as long as 10 years.

They include villagers who refused to pay taxes or allow their sons to be conscripted into the SLA. About a dozen prisoners are women.

The SLA has released 75 prisoners from Khiam this year and allowed ICRC-coordinated family visits.

Former prisoners allege torture by Israeli and SLA interrogators. A Beirut-based prisoners' support group has said 14 prisoners have died as a result of mistreatment since 1985.

The SLA denies there is torture at Khiam or that Israel, which has ultimate control of the zone, runs the prison.

The Lebanese government has complained to the United Nations and appealed to the United States, France, Britain and other countries over the issue of the Khiam captives and other Lebanese imprisoned inside Israel. Israeli Interrogations Los Angeles Times Sunday September 3, 1995 Home Edition Opinion, Page 4 Type of Material: Letter to the Editor * Re "Rabin Seeks OK for More Force in Grilling Suspects" and "Palestinian Security Unit Accused of Torture," Aug. 25:

According to two Israeli civil rights organizations--B'tselem and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel--both Israeli and the Palestinian authorities use the same techniques, which include beating suspects, depriving them of sleep, isolating them in cramped quarters, shaking them violently and "prolonged binding of [their] arms and legs." As your reporter points out, the Palestinian police learned these procedures from the Israelis when many of those same Palestinian policemen were captives of the Israelis and had that "force" applied to them.

B'tselem and PCATI (also Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) use the word torture in both cases. The euphemistic term force is not a natural language choice for anyone attempting to report these stories objectively. In the piece on torture by the Israelis, The Times abandoned its usual objectivity. top of page

Fullerton Israel's High Court upholds Shin Bet interrogation

Reuters--GEORGE LIPPMAN--top of page

January 11, 1998

JERUSALEM, Jan 11 (Reuters) - A panel of Israel's High Court of Justice narrowly cleared the way on Sunday for the Shin Bet security service to go on using interrogation methods that Palestinian prisoners complain are torture, Israel Radio said.

By a vote of 5-4, the court ruled the Shin Bet could use physical pressure in its interrogation of Abdul Rahman Ismail Ghneimat, a Palestinian suspected of leading a group of militants that carried out attacks in Israel, the radio said.

The Shin Bet for the first time last month admitted to using methods that included denying a prisoner sleep for long periods, covering his head with a sack and forcing him to listen to loud music while waiting to be interrogated.

Human rights groups have complained that a 1987 Israeli commission ruling, which allowed the Shin Bet to use "moderate physical pressure, " authorised torture. The Shin Bet says its methods help extract information necessary to prevent attacks on Israel.

The radio said the court ruled against issuing an interim order to stop the interrogation. But it said Court President Aharon Barak had joined the minority in the ruling. A final ruling would be issued later.

Palestinian prisoners complain they have been violently shaken by Shin Bet interrogators, forced to sit with sacks on their heads while listening to loud music and denied sleep for hours while being questioned.

Human rights groups say prisoners undergoing interrogation have died from Israeli torture.

Former Shin Bet officials insist the organisation's methods are the only way to elicit information on planned attacks and save Israeli lives. Islamic militant suicide attacks claimed the lives of 24 Israelis last year. REUTER top of page

Lawyer criticizes Israel court on use of force Reuters top of page Glenn Somerville November 29, 1996

JERUSALEM (Reuter) - A human rights lawyer Friday criticized Israel's High Court for accepting secret police interrogation methods that include using force on Arab detainees.

At Friday's hearing, the state denied the detainee was being shaken in interrogation, a method independent pathologists have said caused the death of at least one Palestinian prisoner in the past.

But the state did not deny secret police used physical pressure on the Arab East Jerusalem man -- including sleep deprivation and covering his head with a sack.

The court ruled in two other cases this month that "physical pressure" could be used on Palestinian suspects to extract information police said could prevent suicide attacks.

A United Nations source described the decisions as "institutionalizing torture."

"When they take a man and isolate him completely and use means that in essence the High Court by its silence approves -- for instance holding a man without sleep, holding him bound for long hours in known painful positions, playing loud disco music," lawyer Lea Tsemel told Israel Radio.

Tsemel made her comment after Israel's High Court postponed until next week a hearing on her client's demand that he be allowed to meet with her. The suspected Islamic Jihad activist has been under interrogation for nine days.

She said the law allowed the Shin Bet to prevent detainees held in Israel on "security suspicions" from seeing their lawyers for up to 30 days, with that period extendable.

Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have long said a 1987 Israeli state commission's ruling that the Shin Bet could use "moderate physical pressure" in interrogations and "increased physical pressure" when an attack was imminent sanctioned torture.

Israel has been on alert against Islamic Jihad suicide attacks since late October. It feared the group would attempt to mark the year anniversary of its leader Fathi Shqaqi's assassination with a bombing.

Shqaqi was gunned down in Malta. His assassins escaped. Islamic Jihad, whose militants have committed suicide bombings in Israel in recent years, blamed Israel for the killing. REUTER top of page

Arab Woman Stabs Jewish Teen in Jerusalem From Reuters top of page Los Angeles Times Sunday February 1, 1998 Home Edition Part A, Page 9 Type of Material: Wire

JERUSALEM, Jan 31 (Reuters) - An Arab woman stabbed a Jewish seminary student in the back at an entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday as he headed towards the Wailing Wall for Sabbath prayers, police said.

"He was wounded by a kitchen knife that was plunged into the upper part of his back near his spine. He sustained moderate injuries," said a doctor at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital.

A police spokeswoman said the youth, aged 15, was on his way to the Wailing Wall, Judaism's holiest shrine, when he was attacked by an Arab woman at Damascus Gate.

The woman fled and police later said they arrested a suspect matching her description.

After the incident, a small group of Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli police in Arab East Jerusalem and several arrests were made.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, about 50 Arabs hurled rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing rubber- coated metal bullets and teargas. Palestinian health officials said seven youths were slightly wounded.

It was the second day of violence in Bethlehem following the death in an Israeli hospital of an 18-year-old Palestinian held by police on suspicion of car theft.

The youth died on Thursday of injuries which Israeli authorities said he sustained in a jail cell suicide attempt two weeks ago. Palestinians accuse Israel of torturing him to death. REUTER top of page

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