645 complaints against ISA interrogators – not one criminal investigation
The secrecy surrounding Israel Security Agency's detention facility in Petach-Tikva means that even officials from the State Attorney's Office do not have free access to visit it. In a new report, Kept in the Dark, published today (2 November), HaMoked and B'Tselem expose the treatment of Palestinians who are held in the facility.
The research is based on the testimonies of 121 Palestinians who were held in the facility in 2009. The testimonies, which the detainees gave personally to attorneys and researchers from HaMoked and B'Tselem, indicate a clear pattern of activity by the authorities. Although the witnesses do not comprise a statistically representative sample, their testimonies shed much light on the practices carried out in the facility.
The findings reveal severe human rights violations of the detainees. The violations begin from the moment of their arrest and continue until the detainee's transfer from the facility. The violations include cruel detention conditions in sealed cells, in isolation and disgraceful hygienic conditions, continuous cuffing of detainees' hands in the interrogation room in a way that makes it impossible for them to move, sleep deprivation, and other methods that harm the detainees physically and mentally. Nine percent of the witnesses related that the interrogators used physical violence against them in the interrogation room. The use of any one of these means, certainly their combined use, constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and in some instances, torture. All are strictly forbidden under international law and Israeli law.
The treatment of the Palestinian detainees, as described in the report, receives that backing of the state. Since 2001, Palestinians interrogated by ISA agents have filed 645 complaints to the Ministry of Justice regarding the manner in which they were interrogated. Not one of the complaints led to a criminal investigation against the interrogator.
In 1999, the High Court of Justice held that the ISA [then termed the General Security Service] is not authorized to exceed the means allowed in ordinary police interrogations, which must be reasonable and fair and not harm the dignity of the interrogee. The court invalidated a number of interrogation methods the GSS was using. The findings of the current research show that, since 1999, the ISA has changed its interrogation methods significantly. However, it appears that the ISA has not accepted the conception, in principle and substance, that arises from the court's landmark judgment, that the ISA is subject to the same rules of interrogation as the Israel Police. ISA interrogators continue to use harmful and cruel means – in breach of the High Court's judgment and of international law – and clearly deviates from the rules applying to ordinary interrogations, as carried out in acceptable police interrogations in Israel.
The State of Israel attempts to justify the severe infringement of the detainee's rights by claiming the actions are necessary to thwart serious acts of terrorism. This claim does not warrant violation of the absolute prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Furthermore, Israel's attempts to divert the public debate to what it refers to as the “ticking-bomb dilemma” is artificial, as clearly appears from the new report: most of the Palestinians who gave testimonies for the purpose of the report were not suspected of serious offenses, in comparison to the scale of offences allegedly committed by Palestinians who are brought before military courts in the Occupied Territories. Some of the witnesses were accused of acts that are political or religious in nature. Many of the witnesses who suffered grievous ill-treatment in the Petach-Tikva facility treatment were interviewed after their release or after they had served prison sentences of a few months, or of one or two years.
The ill-treatment of the detainees continued after their interrogation ended, refuting the claim that the means of interrogation chosen were intended to thwart acts of terrorism. In an appreciable number of the cases, the state continued to hold the detainees in the Petach-Tikva facility, in the disgraceful conditions and even in isolation, for a long time after their interrogation had been completed, sometimes for a month or more.
Two extreme right-wing activists who were recently interrogated by the ISA at Petach-Tikva claim that they too have experienced some of the measures detailed in the report. Haim Perlman, interrogated by the ISA for the suspected ideologically-motivated murder of Arabs, claimed in his court hearings that that he is being held in harsh conditions and is experiencing ill-treatment that includes prolonged chaining to a chair. These claims were made also in the court hearings in the case of David Sitbon, who was suspected of aiding Perlman.
The State of Israel has the obligation to put an end to the use of the means described in the report. Toward this objective, action must be taken to achieve three results: cessation of the breaches of the inmates' rights, punishment of the offending officials, and payment of compensation to the victims. In addition, it is important to conduct a thorough, independent, and transparent investigation of the ostensible breaches and to publish the findings in full.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of B'Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and HaMoked - Center for the Defence of the Individual, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. />