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From the field

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

Allegra Pacheco, attorney

I saw him [Ghaneimat] on 27 May 1997 for the first time. It was two days after I had returned from abroad. Apparently he had told the Red Cross to tell his family not to visit. Another lawyer, from Surif, contacted me.

I visited him at the Russian Compound. His arms, hands, and feet were extremely swollen. He had open wounds with pus discharge on his arms and legs, and cuts from the tightly-bound shackles. The cuts were deep, and along his arms the cuts were larger, round cuts of 3X5 cm reaching up to his elbows. The shackles on his legs had also cut him. He had open wounds and red marks on his back. On his right forearm, he had an open wound from which blood and pus flowed.

On 28 May, I petitioned the High Court of Justice. In addition to the claim against the General Security Service, I also included a claim against the Police Force for matters related to medical care. I requested an urgent hearing and that the petitioner be brought to the hearing.

The petition was heard on 29 May. 'Omar testified. We requested that the GSS agents leave the courtroom. Barak [Chief Justice A. Barak] told 'Omar not to be afraid, but he responded, "You don't have to go back to the interrogation rooms." They left and 'Omar testified. The High Court refused to hear the matter in camera at this stage, but when the GSS agents returned, after a lengthy discussion, the hearing was held behind closed doors, with 'Omar and me present. The GSS agents' version differed from 'Omar's. I am not permitted to say what happened, but 'Omar's description of what the GSS agents demonstrated in court is accurate. The justices wanted to know how 'Omar had received marks on his back.

The day after the hearing, officials from DIP photographed 'Omar and said they would send a physician. They hardly interrogated him after that. On 5 June, his detention was extended. The indictment was filed on 9 June. We plea-bargained, and he was released after three weeks.

The comments of attorney Allegra Pacheco, who was present when Ghaneimat gave his testimony, were given to B'Tselem on 14 September 1997.