A new report published today by human rights NGOs HaMoked and B’Tselem reveals broad, systemic abuse by Israeli authorities of the human rights of hundreds of Palestinian teenagers arrested every year in East Jerusalem. Affidavits were collected from 60 such boys: they described being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night, handcuffed, interrogated in violation of their rights, then kept in custody under harsh conditions, sometimes for extended periods of time. These practices are part of Israeli policy, which considers the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem unwanted residents.
Sleep deprivation; prolonged binding; verbal and sometimes physical abuse; exposure to heat and cold; poor, meager food; small, foul-smelling cells; solitary confinement; unhygienic conditions. A new report by HaMoked and B’Tselem shows these to be standard in interrogations at Israel Security Agency’s (ISA) facility at Shikma Prison. The report is based on affidavits and testimonials by 116 Palestinians interrogated there from Aug. 2013 to March 2014, including at least 14 who had been interrogated under torture by the Palestinian Authority shortly before. The ISA’s interrogation system is run with the approval of Israeli authorities, including the High Court of Justice.
Op-ed by Yael Stein, Director of B'Tselem’s Research Dept., first published in Ynetnews. In response to allegations that torture was used in interrogating the suspects in the torching of the Dawabsheh family home that killed three people, PM Netanyahu was quick to reassure: “All the investigations are being conducted in accordance with the law”. The question is not whether a given act is in accordance with a specially tailored law. The fact that something is legal does not make it justifiable. Sometimes the fact that something is legal serves only to illustrate the bankruptcy of legislative mechanisms.
Israel’s law enforcement authorities have formulated an interrogation system that relies on abuse and even torture. It is not the private initiative of any individual interrogator or prison guard. The use of these measures in interrogation is wrong. People under interrogation – be they Palestinian or Jewish – must not be subjected to abuse and torture, no matter what.
Recent reports state the ISA may use “special measures” against the suspects in the Duma torching which killed three members of the Dawabsheh family. These measures are a code name for abuse used in the interrogation system developed since the 1999 court ruling banning torture. Authorities must fully investigate and prosecute this heinous crime, one of the worst perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians, but it must do so without resorting to prohibited measures or violating suspects’ rights. The same must apply to all Palestinian detainees, who are routinely abused and at times tortured.
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem welcomes the recommendations of the Turkel Commission concerning investigations of violations of the laws of armed conflict and calls for full and prompt implementation. Implementation of the commission’s recommendations will lead to a substantive change in the Israeli military’s investigatory apparatus. In its recommendations, the commission adopted several fundamental principles presented to it by representatives of B’Tselem, other human rights organizations and senior jurists.
On 9 Jan. '12, an Israeli Military Youth Court judge held that a confession given to the police by a 14-year-old Palestinian boy suspected of stone-throwing was admissible, although the minor's rights had clearly been breached under Israel’s Youth Law. In doing so, Judge Rivlin-Ahai forwent an important opportunity to set a standard for protecting the rights of Palestinian minors interrogated by police.
On 30 Nov. '11, the military court in Ofer ruled that a confession given by Ayman Hamidah during an ISA (Shabak) interrogation was inadmissible, since it had not been given willingly. In an unusual step, the court acquitted Hamidah of the charges that were based solely on the confession. In fact, the interrogation methods that Hamidah described have been used against hundreds of Palestinians, and are classified in international law as torture or maltreatment, which are absolutely prohibited.
Mustafa al-Hindi was tortured in an ISA interrogation, as detailed in B’Tselem's 1999 report Cooperating against Justice, on human-rights violations by Israel and the PA following the murder of two Israelis in Wadi Qelt. Al-Hindi sued Israel for psychological damage and was, this week, awarded compensation in settlement of the suit.
HaMoked and B'Tselem's new joint report exposes routine ill-treatment of Palestinians in interrogations. The findings, based on testimonies of 121 Palestinians, show they were subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and in some cases, also to torture. The report calls on Israel to cease the illegal practices, punish the offenders, and compensate the victims.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.