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New report uncovers routine ill-treatment of Palestinians in Israel Security Agency interrogations

Today, (6 May 6 2007) HaMoked - Center for the Defense of the Individual and B'Tselem, held a press conference in Jerusalem to present the findings of a new report concerning the methods of interrogation employed by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and based on the testimonies of 73 Palestinians who were interrogated between July 2005 and March 2006.

The report reveals the routine isolation of interrogees from the outside world by the ISA over the course of the interrogation; the appalling conditions in which they are held, which include separation and sensory deprivation and are used in order to exert psychological pressure and reduce the body's resistance; during the interrogation, the interrogees are shackled to a chair in a painful position for protracted periods of time and they are subjected to humiliation, swearing and threats by ISA interrogators. None of these methods can be considered a side-effect of the necessities of the interrogation and detention. Their purpose is to break the interrogees' spirit and as such, they contradict the HCJ ruling and constitute prohibited ill-treatment under international law.

In some cases, the interrogators employ methods which involve direct physical violence including beating, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation. These methods all come within the definition of torture under international law. All signs point to the fact that these methods are employed according to set regulations and receive prior authorization.

The report emphasizes that acts of ill-treatment and torture perpetrated by ISA agents are carried out under the auspices of the law enforcement system. Thus, for example, while 500 complaints against the ISA have been filed since the beginning of 2001, not a single criminal investigation was instigated. The responsibility for examining these complaints rests with an ISA agent, who, in most cases, finds that the complaints "are not credible." Even in those few cases where the examination yielded that the ISA interrogators did indeed abuse the interogee, the State Attorney's Office ordered the file closed without a criminal investigation, relying on a biased interpretation of the HCJ ruling.

B'Tselem and HaMoked demand the Israeli government conform with the provisions of international law, by, inter alia, completely prohibiting, both in legislation and in practice, the use of harmful interrogation methods and blocking the possibility that ISA agents who abused or tortured interogees will be exempted from criminal liability.