Torture & abuse under interrogation

The ISA interrogation regime: routine ill-treatment

Published: 
1 Jan 2011

The ISA's interrogation regime includes, according to the findings of the B'Tselem-HaMoked 2007 report, seven key elements, which harm the dignity and bodily integrity of the detainees. The harm is aggravated because these elements are used in combination during the interrogation, which lasts, based on the sample group, an average of thirty-five days. The seven elements are as follows:

1. Isolation from the outside world
Most of the members of the sample group reported they were isolated from the outside world during a large part of the interrogation period. Isolation included preventing the detainees from meeting with their attorneys, Red Cross representatives, and family members. This isolation increased the sense of helplessness among the detainees, who were unable to tell a friendly person about what was happening in the interrogation facility. The prevention of meetings between the interrogees and their attorneys is especially important in creating this sense of helplessness, since it denies the interrogees access to legal guidance regarding their rights during detention and interrogation.

2. The use of the conditions of confinement as a means of psychological pressure
The detainees spend most of their detention period in solitary confinement, in cells without windows and thus no natural light or fresh air. A light fixed to the ceiling of the cell provides dim light twenty-four hours a day. A hole in the floor is used as a toilet. A mattress and two blankets are placed on the floor. Other than these, no other items or furniture are provided for the cell, nor are any allowed in it, including reading material or writing implements. These conditions alone result in mental distress. Their use in combination creates the phenomenon referred to as "sensory deprivation" in the psychiatric literature.

The use of conditions of imprisonment as a means for weakening the body - preventing physical activity, sleep disturbance, inadequate food supply.
Sleep deprevation

3. The use of the conditions of confinement as a means for weakening the detainees' physical state
Three major features of imprisonment cumulatively and over time physically weaken the detainee. First, the denial of a daily walk, together with the protracted interrogation in which they sit constantly, gives them no opportunity to move about, weakening their muscles and decreasing their resistance to illness. Second, during the interrogation, the interrogees have difficulty sleeping because a light is kept burning in their cells, the jailers knock on the cell door, and so forth. Third, during interrogation, the detainees are provided with insufficient and poor-quality food.

4. Tying up in the “shabach” position  
In this method , the detainee is tied to a regular chair that is fastened to the floor, his hands bound behind his back with metal cuffs, with the cuffs attached to a loop on the backside of the seat, such that his hands are stretched and kept under the backrest. In most instances, the interrogee's legs are shackled and chained to the front legs of the chair. He remains bound like this all the time he is in the interrogation room. However, in most cases, the interrogators come and go, but the detainee remains bound, and waits. Almost the entire sample group mentioned that use of the shabach position caused them severe back pain.

5. Beating and degradation
At intake at the interrogation facility, the detainee undergoes a body search. In some instances, the jailers force the detainees to undress completely and to stand naked in front of them. During the interrogation itself, Shabak interrogators swear at and insult the interrogee's family and make sexual connotations. In addition, the interrogators humiliate the interrogees in other ways, by shouting into their ears and spitting in their face.

6. Threats and intimidation  
Two-thirds of the sample group reported that Shabak agents threatened them. One of the most common forms of threat: extreme physical torture will be used if the interrogee does not cooperate. Another common threat is that the interrogee's relatives will be arrested if the interrogee does not provide the requested information, and that the family's house will be demolished. To illustrate the seriousness of the threat, the interrogators invite the relatives against whom the threat has been directed to come to the facility and let the interrogee see them from a distance away. The more credible the threat, the greater the chance it will break the detainee's spirit.

7. Obtaining information through informers
This method uses false representation, whereby, after the interrogation has ended, the detainee is taken to a “regular cell.” The Shabak plants persons in the cell to get the detainee to talk. Unlike other methods, this method does not cause the detainee suffering or distress. However, its effectiveness depends largely on the traumatic experience that the detainee had undergone prior to being placed in the cell, which causes them to ignore actions that should raise suspicion.

These means are not an inevitable “side effect” of the detention and interrogation, but are aimed at breaking the detainee's spirit. As such, they violate the High Court's judgment and constitute, under international law, prohibited ill-treatment. In some cases, they amount to torture.