Israeli NGOs say security agency has tortured Palestinians

Two Israeli NGOs say Israel Security Agency interrogates Palestinians with inhuman and degrading methods amounting to torture

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Chief of Israel's Shin Bet internal security service Yoram Cohen walks out of his house in Jerusalem, Tuesday, March 29, 2011.

Updated Feb 25, 2016

The Israel Security Agency (ISA) has interrogated Palestinians with inhuman and degrading methods which amount to torture, two Israeli NGOs said in a joint report published Wednesday.

The 70 page joint report by rights groups B’Tselem and Hamoked is based on a study of accounts by 116 suspects interrogated at the Shikma prison in the Israeli city of Ashkelon between August 2013 and March 2014. The exact number of inmates to have been interrogated during that period is expected to be higher.

The report - a third in a series of reports on interrogations of Palestinians - said there are marked similarities with behaviour at other Israeli facilities.

"The combination of conditions both in and outside the interrogation room constitutes abuse and inhuman, degrading treatment, at times even amounting to torture. It has been used systematically against Palestinians interrogated at Shikma," said the report, entitled "Backed by the System."

The descriptions bear a striking resemblance to accounts previously provided by detainees held at other interrogation facilities. Taken together, it would seem that this conduct constitutes official interrogation policy, according to the report.

The ISA denied the claims in the report and said in a statement that all its interrogations were carried out to prevent activities aimed at harming the security of the state.

Practices in the ISA's detention block at Shikma included sleep deprivation for long periods, being hand and feet-tied to a chair for hours on end and exposure to extreme cold and heat.

"Being subjected to shouting, swearing, threats, spitting, and indignities; being denied the possibility to shower or change clothes for days and even weeks; incarceration in a small, foul-smelling cell, usually in solitary confinement, for many days are some of the standard features," it added.

"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. The interrogators did shifts. It went on and on," a 24 year old from Hebron said.

A 1999 ruling by Israel's High Court of Justice forbade interrogators fron using violence during interrogations except in the case of a "ticking bomb" when measured physical pressure could be used, but ISA is reported to have regulated many forms of torture.

"The combination of conditions both in and outside the interrogation room constitutes abuse and inhuman, degrading treatment, at times even amounting to torture," it read.

Fifty-nine detainees reported being forbidden to meet a lawyer for all or part of their time at the Shikma facility. Another 18 were not explicitly told such meetings were being denied, but in practice could not meet with their lawyer for the entire time.

Daniel Shenhar, who was part of the team that compiled the report, lamented the lack of response of Israeli legal authorities to the allegations arising from the testimonies.

"No investigations lead to no accountability, and de facto immunity to investigators and human rights breachers," he told reporters.

TRTWorld and agencies