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From the field

No abuse or torture under interrogation - no matter what

Over the past few weeks, right wing circles have been protesting the use of “special measures” by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) in its interrogation of the Jewish suspects in the arson in the Palestinian village of Duma. They are suspected of torching the Dawaabsheh home while the family was at home, killing three: a one-and-a-half year old toddler and both his parents. Over the years, dozens of testimonies and affidavits given by Palestinians to B’Tselem and human rights organization HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual indicate that abuse and even torture are used routinely in ISA interrogations of Palestinians.

Below are excerpts illustrating this state of affairs. These measures have been used in the interrogation of thousands of Palestinians, including methods much harsher than those reportedly undergone by the Jewish suspects. The interrogation system that relies on the use of such methods, in direct interrogation and in the conditions of incarceration, was formulated by Israel’s law enforcement authorities. It is not the initiative of an individual interrogator or prison guard. The use of these measures in interrogation is wrong. People under interrogation – be they Palestinian or Jewish – must not be subjected to abuse and torture, no matter what.

The long interrogation and the lack of sleep really crush you. Your hands are handcuffed behind you to the back of the chair. it hurts your back, legs, neck.

Mazen Abu ‘Arish, 22, a surveyor from Beit Ula:

I spent 20 days in total solitary confinement. Psychologically, being alone is like living in a toilet. If something happens to you, no one will notice. You could die and be discovered days later. You could die in a toilet and no one would notice. You’re dumped in a corner and forgotten, you can bang on the door for all the good it’ll do you – you won’t get any help.

L.H., a 20-year-old florist from Hebron, was interrogated most of the day and night for 22 days running:

The chair is small and low, with a low backrest. Three of the legs are the same length and the fourth is shorter. It’s tough, because if you nod off or grow tired and fall over to the short side, the handcuffs tying you to the chair behind your back pull at you and it hurts your bound arms and hands terribly. There was another chair, the same size and height but with two shorter back legs instead. When you sit on it, it makes you lean back but the interrogator yells at you to stay straight. To do that, you have to lean forward. It hurts your hands and back. The pain in my arms and hands, and especially in my left arm, became unbearable.

‘Imad Abu Khalaf, 21, a bakery employee from Hebron:

I felt completely and utterly humiliated. They shouted that I was a donkey, a beast. They said: “You’re trash, a cheap person, you have no value.” They used swear words about my little sister, who has cerebral palsy, and hurt her dignity. They knew my sister is paralyzed. They swore about her. They said she was crap. That lasted for the whole nine days of interrogation.

Husni Najar, 24, of Hebron:

I was interrogated nonstop for three or four days with no break and without even being put into a cell. My hands were tied behind me the whole time, except for when I ate or went to the bathroom. The hard part was that I couldn’t sleep. Whenever I nodded off, the interrogator shouted loudly in my ear and woke me. It was terrible. I was practically out cold from lack of sleep and they kept interrogating me.

Nur al-Atrash, a 25-year-old from Hebron who washes cars for a living:

A solitary confinement cell: it’s like a grave, with yellow light and no window. They pump really cold air in, you feel helpless. There were times when I started banging my head against the wall, I didn’t know what else to do.

Amir a-Shamas, a 23-year-old laborer from Hebron:

Being in the cell gave me a headache. It felt hard to breathe. Sometimes I felt I had a fever, but no one cared. Everyone suffers like that. When they put me in a cell with four other people, and then they added another two – most of them were sick, had infections, and suffered various aches and pains. Everything was filthy, everything stank. That went on for five days, sitting with the other detainees in a dirty, dusty cell. The level of filth is hard to describe.

D.S., a 24-year-old construction worker from al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp:

On the third day, after I asked them to, they let me take a shower. They gave me a towel, but any rag you find on the street would be cleaner than that. I used my clothes to dry off. I was given soap for my first three showers, but from the fourth on I got something that seemed like oil. You never feel clean.

Radwan a-Titi from al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, who was 18 and a half at the time of his arrest, recounted in his affidavit:

I was forbidden to meet with a lawyer and wasn’t told until when. I was remanded twice in Ashkelon with no lawyer. I got no legal counsel. I didn’t have a chance to tell the judge that I was being deprived of sleep and couldn’t shower. You go in to see the judge and you’re out a minute later. I started meeting with a lawyer only later.

Mahmoud Barakat, 25, a construction worker from Bani Nai’m:

I got only two meals a day: breakfast before I was taken into interrogation and lunch on the interrogation chair. The portions were very small and the food stank and was cold. I lost about nine kilos in 22 days. I was hungry all the time. Sometimes I asked the guards to bring me food, but they refused. I was so hungry all the time.

T.A., 19, a farmer from Beit Ummar:

They gave me inedible food that wasn’t fit for human consumption. For example, the chicken wasn’t cooked nor were the eggs. I couldn’t eat anything except the piece of fruit I got once every three days, and the bread. I lost about 15 kilos in 40 days.

M.A., 21, a student from Hebron:

My cell was very close to doors that kept being slammed. I hardly slept. Doors were slammed and banged. I think it was on purpose, to stop me from sleeping. The long interrogation and the lack of sleep really crush you. Your hands are handcuffed behind you to the back of the chair. it hurts your back, legs, neck.