The right of every person not to be subjected to ill-treatment or torture (whether physical or mental) is one of the few human rights that are considered absolute. As an absolute right, it may never be "balanced" against other rights and values, nor suspended or limited, even in difficult circumstances such as war or fighting terrorism. This right now holds the highest and most binding status in international law.
Until the end of the 1990s, the Israel Security Agency [ISA, formerly the General Security Service] routinely used methods that constituted ill-treatment and even torture in interrogating Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories. The government allowed use of these methods, based on the recommendations of a state commission headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau. The Commission had held that, in order to prevent terrorism, ISA agents were permitted to use "psychological pressure" and a "moderate degree of physical pressure". This permission was grounded, in the Commission's opinion, in the "necessity defense" in the Penal Law.
In a precedential decision given in September 1999, the High Court of Justice ruled, contrary to the opinion of the Landau Commission, that Israeli law does not empower ISA interrogators to use physical means in interrogation, and that the specific methods discussed in the petition filed were illegal. However, the court also held that ISA agents who exceed their authority and use forbidden "physical pressure" may bear criminal responsibility for their actions, if it is subsequently found that the methods were used in a "ticking-bomb" case.