The Interrogation of Palestinians During the Intifada: Ill-Treatment, "Moderate Physical Pressure" or Torture?, March 1991

March 1991, Summary

The report includes the following sections:

  1. Introduction: defining torture, international prohibitions, Israeli legal position, 1987 Landau Report on General Security Services, previous allegations and reports;



  2. Research findings: methods, description of sample, overall patterns, seven individual cases, legal controls and restrictions, complaints;



  3. Conclusions: summary and recommendations;



  4. Appendices: Amnesty International 12 Point Program for the Prevention of Torture, extracts from "Yossi's testimony," "We are the Shin Bet," Ha'aretz, January 1, 1990, and complaints to the Attorney General.

This report deals with the subject of ill-treatment, violence and torture against Palestinians detained for interrogation during the first three years of the Intifada. We cover allegations about interrogations carried out primarily by agents of General Security Services (Shin Bet or Shabak) in installations (in the West Bank and Gaza) which were controlled either by the police, the Israeli Prison Service or the Army.

In Part A of the Report, we review definitions of torture, and cruel and inhuman treatment. We review the consequences of the 1987 Report of the Landau Commission which established that G.S.S. agents had systematically lied to the court about using force to extract confessions. Though condemning this practice, the Commission went on to permit the use of "moderate physical force" as a method of interrogation. We criticize the legal and moral basis of the Commission's reasoning and point at the grave implications of removing the sanction against force. We summarize previous allegations about the use of torture and ill-treatment. Although methods of collecting information are not always reliable, these reports show beyond reasonable doubt that practices definable as ill-treatment or torture had been used against Palestinian detainees.

In Part B, we set out the findings of our own research into interrogation methods used by the G.S.S. between 1988 and 1990. We interviewed 41 detainees: 29 from the West Bank and 12 from Gaza; these include 26 who had recently been released and 15 who were still under detention. A number of interrogation methods appear to have been common, even routine in the group we interviewed.

Virtually all our sample were subject to: verbal abuse, humiliation and threats of injury; sleep and food deprivation; hooding for prolonged periods; enforced standing for long periods, sometimes in an enclosed space; prolonged periods of confinement in small, specially constructed cells and severe and prolonged beating on all parts of the body.

How representative is the experience of the 41 detainees? According to the I.D.F. (February 1991), some 75,000 Palestinians had been arrested during the first three years of the Intifada, of whom a yearly average of 15,000 were actually charged each year. We estimate that the majority of these were not interrogated intensely or over long periods, and were released within the first 18-day phase. Others were tried in "quick trials" on the basis of evidence by the arresting soldier alone. Our estimate is that some 1,600 detainees per year would undergo interrogation, including some combination of the practices we describe.