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From the field

IDF uses torture in interrogation of 'Omar Ghaneimat, April-July 1997

'Omar Ghaneimat, age 45

Soldiers and GSS agents came to my house and detained me at 5:30 a.m. on 10 April 1997. They tied my hands, blindfolded me, and took me, together with seventeen others they had detained, to Kfar Etzion. They kept us there until Saturday [12 April] without questioning us.

On Sunday [13 April] night they took me, alone, to the Russian Compound [Jerusalem Police District headquarters]. They took my picture and gave me a physical examination. I don't know if it was a doctor or a medic who examined me. He asked me to undress, checked me, and asked me if I had any medical problems. I had undergone an ulcer operation, the sign of which he saw during the examination, and that was the only problem.

Then they put me in shabeh. That is, they had me sit on a chair about 25cm high that is chained to the floor. One leg of the chair is shorter than the others, so the chair is unstable. They shackled my hands behind the back of the chair, and my legs, and put a sack over my head. The shackles are metal. The first day they did this, I felt something drip on me, and the next day I saw that it had been the vomit of a previous detainee. They played music so loud that I couldn't figure out what it was. Sometimes the chair was really smooth, and I would slide downwards whenever I dozed off to sleep. Anyway, like I said, it wasn't straight. They kept me in shabeh for forty-eight hours, not counting interrogations and meals.

The meals are provided at 7:00 a.m., at noon, and at 5:00 p.m. A policeman comes in, removes the shackles and takes you to a cell with bathroom facilities. The cell is about 2.5X2.5 meters. The toilet is a hole in the middle of the floor. There is a shower and a chair, on which the detainee sits and places his serving tray on his knees. Breakfast is comprised of an egg, bread, and jam. That's it. Lunch is rice, maybe a bit of tuna or cold cuts, and a tomato. No fork, spoon or knife is provided. We eat with our hands. There is a faucet to wash our hands. For supper, we get a cucumber, a tomato, something like that. On Independence Day, they gave each of us a chicken wing, and did not interrogate us at all.

They give you three to five minutes to eat, after which the policeman bangs on the door and says, "On with it," and we have to go.

The first time they let me shower was after I had been there for five days. They gave me soap and a towel but not a change of clothes. They let me shower every five days, and they kept a record of it. They did not let me change clothes for the entire sixty-seven days I was there.

If you need to use the bathroom, they only grant permission after you have requested two or three times.

They employ shabeh in all types of places. There are chairs placed away from the wall, there is a "closet," which is about 80X80 cm, with a curtain in front and behind it a metal pipe to which they tie your hands. The "closet" is the best place for shabeh because you can lean on the walls and catch some sleep.

Sometimes shabeh is in the corridor, sometimes alongside the door of the interrogation room. You can hear people being tortured and shouting and crying, and you become frightened. At times they put you in shabeh inside the interrogation room. They finish the interrogation at night, and the interrogator wants to go home. If he leaves you in the office, he takes off the sack. But you remain tied to the chair, and the music in the corridor continues, though you don't hear it quite so loud. But there they also employ the "refrigerator" method. They sit you down in front of the air-conditioner and turn it on full blast. Once, I sat like that from Thursday evening until Tuesday, because Monday [12 May 1997] was Independence Day. I really froze. I requested the policeman to adjust the temperature, but he said that he couldn't because that was the interrogator's order.

After I hadn't slept for forty-eight hours, they let me sleep for two to three hours. It stayed that way throughout. On weekends too they kept me in shabeh, but did not interrogate me, except for one Saturday. Prior to my petition to the High Court, I slept only one full night in my cell, the night before they took me to take the lie-detector test. I was in the cell two other times, but not all night. The other times they put out a mattress and blanket for me in the interrogation room, undid the shackles from my hands, sometimes my feet, and let me sleep - for two to three hours, as I said.

You know it is morning when they give you the egg. You know it is evening because after five or six there is less commotion and people.

The police do what the GSS agents tell them to do. The interrogators complete the interrogation and then call the policeman and explain to him how and where to place me in shabeh.

The policemen's behavior varied. Sometimes the officer would treat me nicely, handle me gently, hold the sack, and lead me gently to eat, and then the next day, the same police officer would treat me lousy. I can't believe that the difference doesn't result from instructions they are given. But they did not beat me.

The first interrogation was, I think, on Monday [14 April] afternoon. They took me into a room and put me in shabeh. There was one interrogator - "Ami." The first interrogation was pleasant and gentle. He provided water if requested, and the like. "Ami" asked me what I know about 'Izz a-Din al-Qassam. He said that I was a member. I said that I wasn't. I was in the interrogation room from about 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. It was like that each day. The interrogator would come and go. Two, three weeks were like that, gentle. But there were threats that they would detain me for ninety days, and then for another sixty. But "Ami" did not curse at me, for example.

After about two weeks, "Jan" started to interrogate me. He questioned me for about two weeks, maybe more. Not one clean word left his mouth. He cursed at me, using every curse known. He forced me to do qambaz.

In qambaz, the interrogator places me facing him and compels me to kneel on my toes. Each time I fell over, he would kick me in the thigh, and sometimes grab my cheeks or ears and tell me to get up. Each qambaz lasted about an hour, and each time he would mark it down on paper. Each day I was interrogated, I would have to do qambaz from three to five times. Sometimes he would lean over the table and grab me by the ears.

All the questions dealt with 'Izz a-Din al-Qassam - whom I met, whom I contacted. At the end of the two weeks, "Jan" told me they were going to give me a lie-detector test. They put me in a cell, and I slept like a prince. The next day, they gave me the test. I did not want to take the test, but the interrogation officer compelled me, and that is what I wrote on the document. They asked me four questions, including a question about my nephew 'Abd, who had been detained by the Palestinian Authority. The examiner said that I had lied in response to two of the questions.

Then the military interrogation began. An interrogator named "Tareq" told me that I would undergo military interrogation, and that was about five weeks into the detention.

Military interrogation means non-stop interrogation. "Jan," Tarek," "Marco," "Adnan," and "Mufaz" were the interrogators. Sometimes they interrogated me all at once, and at times one would enter as another left. The interrogation sometimes lasted until just before 3:00 a.m. They fed me during the interrogation. As for sleep, it was the same - three hours every forty-eight hours.

The interrogation included several types of torture. Qambaz in military interrogation is when they make you stand alongside the wall, legs tied and hands tied behind your back, and force you to bend your knees while keeping your body straight, and to stay in that position for about thirty minutes. If you fall, they force you to get up, kicking and beating your legs.

They would put handcuffs on my forearm, about fifteen centimeters from the palm of my hand, my hands behind my back. The interrogator would fasten them so tight that the blood wouldn't flow. I was standing all the time, my legs shackled. He would push and pull the handcuffs. My hands swelled up terribly. "Marco" was the one who mostly did this.

"Jan" told me, "I am going to see to it that you leave here either crazy or paralyzed." "Tareq" told me, "I was the one who killed 'Abd a-Samad Harizat [detainee who died as a result of being shaken by the GSS in April 1995]. He showed me a news article about Khalid Abu Diyah [who died from a beating at Sharei Zedek Hospital] and said, "I interrogated him, and when he was in poor shape, they took him to the hospital."

They had me lie down on my back, my hands cuffed behind me. They put the shabeh chair above me. One interrogator would hold down my shoulders with his feet. Another would sit on the chair, press my arms down with his feet, grab my shirt and pull me towards him. They wrote down everything, each interrogator writing what he did and signing it. They did this each day three, four times, each time for about an hour. Blood and pus would flow as a result of the interrogator scraping his shoe along my arm.

"Marco" showed the High Court how the interrogators laid me down on the ground. He used a GSS agent for the demonstration and mentioned that they placed cuffs on the forearms and later removed them.

On three occasions, while I was on the ground like that, "Marco" grabbed the shackles on my legs and dragged me along the floor. "Tareq" once kneed me, breaking one of my ribs. When I complained about the pain, they let me talk by phone with a doctor from Hadassah Hospital. She spoke to me in Arabic and said that it sounded as if I had a broken rib.

Everything was planned and methodical. The military interrogation lasted for about ten days. Then attorney Allegra Pacheco came to visit me. She asked me about the cause of the swelling, and I told her.

The next day, the interrogation changed. They let me shower and shave. The interrogation went on, but it was nonviolent. They took me, that same day, to the Supreme Court. That day, someone from the Justice Ministry came and took pictures of my hands and legs and asked me about the interrogation.

Ten days of interrogation followed. They put me in shabeh, but less than previously. They had me stand a bit with my hands tied to a pole. At night, I was in a cell, the interrogations were very short and nonviolent, and I sat on a regular chair.

Then they put me in a cell and did not question me. They tried me and I was sentenced to three weeks' imprisonment (in addition to the period of interrogation) for possessing a weapon in 1993. I was not accused of being a member [of an illegal organization.] After the trial, they kept me three days in a cell in Jalameh [Kishon Prison], and then at Megiddo. They released me on 8 July.

When first detained, I weighed eighty-seven kilograms. When I was released, I weighed no more than seventy, and that even after my condition had improved during my stay in Megiddo.

My chest still hurts a bit, I am unable to sit on a chair, and I lost sensation in my forearms. Were I to meet "Marco," I would invite him for a cup of coffee. I wouldn't beat him. Two wrongs don't make a right.

'Omar 'Abd al-Rahman Ahmad Ghaneimat, 45 year-old. The testimony was given to Yuval Ginbar on 29 August 1997 at Ghaneimat's home.