Saturday, August 11, 2012

Israeli high court decision enables widespread torture of Palestinian detainees

When human rights workers, lawyers and doctors get a chance to speak with Palestinian detainees about their treatment in Israeli prisons, the standard response is‘ādi, meaning “as usual.” After a little prodding, sometimes they will get the details of what exactly is “usual.” (See Bana Shoughry-Badarne’s “Torture in Israel – A Question of Getting Away With It.”)

One man tells of being violently beaten for 80 hours while being told his mother was dying.

Another man was allowed to sleep for two hours every three days for a total of 40 days, while interrogators shouted directly into his ears. (Examples from Shoughry-Badarne’s article.)

When the brutal “interrogation” is exhausted, officers may send the prisoners to a foul-smelling cell, where mold lines the walls and there is a hole in the floor to use as a toilet.

Usually — that is 70-90 percent of the time — the detained men, women and children are not allowed to speak to anyone, including a lawyer, until they have “confessed.”

And once the Shin Bet (also known as the General Security Services, GSS, or Shabak) have a confession — no matter what induced it — there is no chance for a lawyer to help the prisoner regain his freedom.

Torture, or “moderate physical pressure” was supposed to be made illegal by a 1999 Israeli high court decision. However, in the decision, the court made the exception to the rule for those Palestinians deemed to be a “ticking bomb;” in other words, they withheld information that could help save lives.

Shin Bet impunity “absolute”

But since 2000, 700 complaints of torture at the hands of the Shin Bet have been submitted to the state prosecutors’ office and not a single case has been criminally charged, prosecuted or convicted. When turning back each unresolved complaint, the state prosecutor’s office either denies the factuality of the allegations of physical abuse or invokes the “necessity defense” — that is, the detainee fell under the “ticking bomb” scenario. More