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From the field

The "New Procedure" in GSS Interrogation: The Case of 'Abd A-Nasser 'Ubeid

November 1993, Summary

On April 25, 1992, in an affidavit to the High Court of Justice, the head of the General Security Service (GSS; Hebrew: "Shin Bet" or "shabak") described the changes that had been introduced in the procedure for interrogating security detainees. The details of the "new procedure" were contained in a second, classified affidavit.

The "new procedure" is meant to revise the interrogation methods laid down by a state commission of inquiry headed by Justice Moshe Landau in 1987, which permitted, among other methods, the use of "psychological pressure" and "a moderate measure of physical pressure."

In the open part of his affidavit, the head of the GSS informed the High Court that a "new procedure" had been introduced on April 22, 1993 in accordance with the recommendations of a ministerial committee set up to consider the subject. Underlying the "new procedure" are the principles "already set forth by the Landau Commission" (par. 15).

Even according to the head of the GSS himself, the new procedure continues to incorporate, "within the limits of the law," the "special interrogation procedures which were recommended by the Landau Commission" (par. 7).

The principal changes in the "new procedure" are that it makes the use of certain methods of interrogation conditional on the existence of particular suspicions, and requires the approval at higher echelons of the GSS. Nevertheless, it is GSS personnel who determine the essence of the suspicion and also approve the use of the various methods.

Through a police officer in charge of investigation who serves as the official cover before whom the confession is signed, the GSS personnel, without intervention, without supervision, and indeed without the knowledge of any external authority, determine that the suspicions are sufficiently grave to warrant holding the detainee in total isolation from the outside world for fourteen days and to subject him to the harsh interrogation methods approved by the Landau Commission.

The "new procedure" gives the GSS exclusive power to determine the severity of the means which it may employ, as well as deciding when outside elements may supervise its actions.

GSS members make these decisions based on suspicion alone, and are not obligated to substantiate them, unlike, for example, an ordinary request for extension of detention. There is thus no possibility, even after the fact, of accusing the interrogators of unnecessarily extending the period of detention in isolation or of using severe methods not in accordance with the regulations.

The report gives the testimony of 'Abd a-Nasser 'Ubeid, taken on September 17, 1993. 'Ubeid was detained on August 30, 1993 and held for seventeen days. He was subjected to an interrogation which was conducted under the "new procedure" in which GSS interrogators and Palestinian collaborators working in complete collusion with the GSS made use of the following methods:

  1. Making the detainee stand with hands tied, often blindfolded and in painful positions, for hours on end.
  2. Sleep deprivation.
  3. Deprivation of food and drink.
  4. Threats to his and his family's life.
  5. Threats and sexual harassment.
  6. Holding the detainee in extreme conditions of filth (no changes of clothing and denial of a shower for ten days).
  7. Slaps, kicks, blows and burning of the arm with a lit cigarette.

'Ubeid's testimony as well as other testimonies cited in this report and testimonies in the possession of other human-rights groups, indicate that the "new procedure" has not fundamentally altered the behavior of the interrogators toward Palestinian detainees.

The report concludes with a series of concrete recommendations to prevent torture in interrogations.

Annexes to the report include: an excerpt from testimony taken from a reserve soldier in the Military Police, who served in the spring of 1993 in the interrogation wing of the military prison at Far'ah, in the northern sector of the West Bank. The excerpt focuses on the role of collaborators in interrogations. excepts from testimony of a Palestinian interrogated in the Military Prison at Dhahriyya.

As with all B'Tselem reports, a response from the IDF spokesperson's office is appended to the report.