Shin Bet uses torture regularly, B'Tselem report says
Human rights organization publishes report saying almost all Palestinian detainees suffer physical, mental abuse during interrogations, despite High Court ruling that limits use of violence against prisoners. Group calls on government to ban torture immediately
The Israeli security forces regularly abuse and torture Palestinian detainees, despite a High Court of Justice ruling from 1999 limiting the use of force in investigations, the B'Tselem human rights group reported Sunday.
Based on the testimonies of 73 prisoners, gathered between July 2005 and January 2006, the report reveals that all detainees suffer different forms of abuse and violence against them while in custody.
Sixty-eight percent of the detainees interviewed for the report said that they were subjected to complete or almost complete detachment from the outside world throughout their interrogation; 64 percent reported that they were held in solitary confinement and experienced sensory deprivation; 54 percent complained of sleep deprivation; 73 percent said that they were withheld food or provided with poor quality food during their questioning.
Almost all detainees (96 percent) said that they were kept bound in painful positions; 73 percent complained of being subjected to verbal abuse and humiliation, and 64 percent said they suffered threats such as the arrest of close family members or the razing of their house.
The report also revealed that 49 percent of the detainees were beaten and 67 percent reported suffering at least one physical injury.
"It can be stated that the Shin Bet's routine interrogation policy mostly includes violating the prisoners' human rights and the use of measures aimed at breaking their spirit and obtaining information from them against their free will and contrary to what the High Court of Justice defined as fair and reasonable questioning," the report said.
In the report, B'Tselem reiterated the fact that torture is prohibited by international law and that a High Court ruling places severe restrictions on the use of violence and torture in interrogations.
Since there is no practical way to restrict the use of violence in interrogations to only extreme cases, the report said, "Any digression from total prohibition would lead to a slippery slope of expanding the use of torture," adding that this violation of the torture ban might also undermine Israel's international interests or standing abroad, and expose security forces officials to arrests in foreign countries.
The report also referred to the security forces' failure to properly address complaints against interrogators, pointing to cover-up mechanisms within the system. According to B'Tselem, none of the 500 complaints filed against Shin Bet interrogators in the last five years prompted an internal police probe.
In conclusion, the report urged the government to instruct the Shin Bet to immediately put an end to the use of interrogation methods that physically and mentally harm the detainees; initiate legislation that bans torture or cruel treatment of prisoners; and state that every complaint will be investigated by the police. The report also demanded that all Shin Bet interrogations will be recorded on video.
In response to the report, the Justice Ministry said: "The report is based on an unrepresentative sample, which appears to have been tendentiously selected in a way that distorts reality… The report fails to include the personal details of the witnesses, and therefore does not allow the Shin Bet and the IDF to examine these specific cases and the claims mentioned in the report.
"Except for isolated cases, and contrary to what the report states, the detainees are not stripped of their clothes. Incidents in which signs of physical abuse are found on a detainee's body are transferred to a police investigation. Any case of violation of the rules of conduct, including the uncommon cases of cursing and beating, is examined and addressed."
Regarding the Shin Bet, the Ministry said in its response, "The Shin Bet is entrusted with state security and is responsible for foiling and preventing illegal activity. In order to fulfill its objectives, the Shin Bet conducts investigations against terror suspects. Over the years, the lives of numerous civilians were saved thanks to information gathered in interrogations.
"The report is full of mistakes, unfounded claims and inaccuracies. The Shin Bet's detainees are handed at the beginning of their interrogation a document that stipulates their rights, including the right to avoid self-incrimination and the right to meet with an attorney… the interrogations are conducted according to law, rules and regulations."