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INSIDE ISRAEL'S SECRET PRISON

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  • ummyakoub
    INSIDE ISRAEL S SECRET PRISON Aviv Lavie, Haaretz, 8/26/03 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=331637 Detainees are blindfolded and kept in
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2003
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      INSIDE ISRAEL'S SECRET PRISON
      Aviv Lavie, Haaretz, 8/26/03
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=331637

      Detainees are blindfolded and kept in blackened cells, never told
      where they are, brutally interrogated and allowed no visitors of any
      kind. Dubbed 'the Israeli Guantanamo,' it's no wonder facility 1391
      officially does not exist.

      M, who serves in the Intelligence Corps reserves,
      remembers the first time he was sent to do guard
      duty at Camp 1391. Before climbing to the top of
      the observation tower he received an explicit
      order from the responsible officer: "When you're
      on the tower you look straight ahead only, outside
      the base, and to the sides. What happens behind
      you is none of your business. Do not turn
      around."

      M., of course, couldn't resist
      the temptation and occasionally
      snuck a look behind him. From
      atop the tower he saw the
      double fence surrounding the
      camp, enclosing a compound
      ruled by trained attack dogs;
      the jeep that patrols inside
      the two fences; the vehicles
      utilized by the members of the

      unit who man the base; and especially the large
      concrete structure, dating from the British
      Mandate period, when it was used by the British
      police, and which now bears a description that
      carries an aura of mystery: Israel's secret
      detention facility.

      Some of the people who were interviewed for this
      article dubbed the camp "the Israeli
      Guantanamo." There are in fact certain points
      of resemblance between the American detention
      camp in Cuba and the Israeli site, mainly in
      relation to the legal questions that hover over
      them and the gnawing doubt about whether they
      are consistent with the values of democracy. In
      terms of the exotic, though, we lag far behind.
      Whereas the watchtowers of the Guantanamo
      facility look out over the aquamarine waters of
      the Caribbean Sea, the secret prison in Israel
      is situated by the side of a completely
      ordinary road in the heart of a bustling region
      in the center of the country.

      A narrow, tree-lined road ascends to the camp,
      and inside it looks like any other army base:
      barracks, mess hall, workshop to repair
      vehicles. Even the guards are not the best the
      Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have available. The
      guard towers and the patrols are manned, for
      the most part, by graduates of the IDF's
      general basic training program, who "never
      carried out an assault against anything," as
      one of them put it. "As always with us, there's
      a lot of hoo-ha, but behind it is the usual
      army chaos," an officer who served at the base
      says ironically.

      What really surrounds Camp 1391, more than
      physical protection, is an entrenched wall of
      silence. Since the 1980s, when the facility was
      moved from a more southerly location to its
      present site, the Israeli authorities have made
      every effort to keep its very existence secret.
      And even now that its existence has been
      revealed, the state refuses to answer the many
      questions of the world and of the Israeli
      public: Where is the facility? Who is being
      held there, why, and for how long? Were they
      tried before being locked up in Camp 1391, or
      are they awaiting trial? What are their
      conditions of incarceration? In every other
      lockup in Israel the answers to these and many
      other questions are open and amenable to
      external, legal, public and international
      review.

      As far as is known, the 1391 site is the only
      detention facility whose detainees don't know
      where they are. If they ask, the warders may
      answer, "on the moon," or "in outer space," or
      "outside the borders of Israel." It is also the
      only detention facility that the state prevents
      the International Red Cross from visiting. Nor,
      as far as can be ascertained, have Knesset
      members ever visited the place, and many of the
      politicians who have been asked about it in the
      past few weeks said they had never heard of it
      - including some who have held senior positions
      in the government, such as Prof. David Libai,
      who was justice minister in the government of
      Yitzhak Rabin and a member of the ministerial
      committee that deals with the secret services:
      "I will not say a single word about the
      subject, for the simple reason that I am not
      familiar with it. This is the first time I have
      ever heard about such a thing."

      If a former justice minister doesn't know about
      it, a disturbing question arises: who does? Dan
      Meridor, another former justice minister and
      chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and
      Defense Committee, is aware of the facility's
      existence: "I'm not sure there's anything wrong
      here," he says. "I remember that as a minister
      and as one who dealt with intelligence matters,
      I visited every place I wanted to and
      everything was always open to me. I know about
      the existence of this facility, but I was never
      there - apparently because I never asked to
      visit it. I don't want to bandy words about,
      because I am not familiar with the subject in
      depth. There are many complex questions of
      human rights involved here."

      Do you think it's right that in the State of
      Israel there is a facility in which people
      don't know where they are, nor do their
      families or lawyers?

      "No. If there are people who are incarcerated
      incommunicado, that doesn't seem right to me."

      According to attorney Dan Yakir, the legal
      adviser of the Association of Civil Rights in
      Israel (ACRI), "A secret detention facility
      contradicts basic principles of every democracy
      - transparency and public supervision over the
      governmental authorities. And those principles
      are especially important in relation to the
      deprivation of freedom - which is one of the
      most severe infringements of human rights. The
      existence of a lockup like this gives rise to a
      double concern: first, of secret arrests and
      `disappearances' of people; and second, an
      abuse of power, unfair treatment, violence and
      torture."

      As will be seen, attorney Yakir's concerns are
      well founded.

      Stepson of army intelligence

      Camp 1391 is an Israel Defense Forces facility.
      Agents of the Shin Bet security service and
      other security branches visit the site and
      since the start of the intifada have apparently
      made greater use of it than in the past, but
      the facility belongs to the IDF. One of the
      reasons for the wall of secrecy that surrounds
      it is the fact that it is located in the center
      of a military base that belongs to one of the
      secret units of the Intelligence Corps - Unit
      504 (according to foreign sources the unit's
      name has recently been changed). Unit 504
      gathers intelligence by means of the human
      factor - "humint." Most of its work is done by
      using agents outside Israel.

      The officers in the unit, which is not large,
      are known as katamim (acronym for "officers for
      special tasks") and undergo two-track training.
      Some of them handle agents and the others -
      former members of the unit say they are those
      whose skills the system isn't wild about - are
      directed to the hakshabim track (interrogators
      of prisoners). The unit commander is an officer
      with the rank of colonel. The attitude toward
      the unit is characterized by duality: on the
      one hand, this is a small, seemingly elitist
      unit, which carries out sensitive missions; on
      the other hand, as one of the unit's members
      says, "We are the stepson of army intelligence.
      Sometimes you look at some of the officers and
      you ask yourself whether these are the
      standards the IDF assigns to these posts."

      The same individual adds, "There is also a
      problem about the impact of long-term service
      on their mental state. To be an interrogator
      you have to start out with some kind of scratch
      on the brain. But the handlers, too - after a
      time they also start to be handlers in their
      private life. You see it in their attitude
      toward women, with the family, even in the
      interaction between the people in the unit."

      Along with operational successes, which have
      naturally remained far from the public eye, the
      names of some of the unit's members have been
      linked to dubious affairs in recent years. One
      of the unit's commanders became criminally
      entangled because of a romantic affair. Another
      accidentally discharged his pistol during a
      meeting with the command personnel.
      Jean-Pierre Elraz, who last year was accused of
      murdering Yitzhak Kvartatz, the security
      coordinator of Kibbutz Manara, is a former
      member of the unit (and afterward served in the
      Shin Bet); so is Major Yosef Amit, who was
      convicted of aggravated espionage and contact
      with a foreign agent.

      During the IDF's 18-year presence in Lebanon,
      the members of Unit 504 were especially active
      across Israel's northern border. To this day
      the Lebanese press occasionally runs stories
      about the arrest and trial of local agents who
      operated in the service of Unit 504. In
      November 1998, a Lebanese court convicted no
      fewer than 57 citizens of collaborating with
      Israel via the unit. The penalty for this
      offense: death.

      The unit's extensive activity in Lebanon placed
      Camp 1391 at the center of affairs. It became
      the entry gate to Israel for Lebanese,
      especially those who were suspected of
      membership in Hezbollah, who were transferred
      to the southern side of the border. Some of
      them were captured in battle, others were
      abducted at Israel's initiative. The most
      famous of the abductees are Sheikh Abd al Karim
      Obeid, who was seized in 1989, and Mustafa
      Dirani, who was brought by force to Israel in
      1994. The helicopter in which members of
      Sayeret Matkal, the ultra-elite reconnaissance
      unit, took Obeid from his home in the town of
      Jibsheet, took him directly to the gates of
      Camp 1391. The next time Obeid left the camp -
      apart from medical checks and to appear in
      court when his detention was extended - was 13
      years later. Last summer Obeid and Dirani were
      moved to Ashmoret prison, near Kfar Yona in the
      Netanya area.

      However, well-known anti-Israel activists such
      as Obeid and Dirani are not the only abductees
      who have been thrown into Camp 1391. When the
      soldiers of Sayeret Matkal entered Obeid's
      house in the dead of night they encountered a
      few other people, too, among them some of
      Obeid's relatives and his bodyguard. Hashem
      Fahaf, then about 20, who happened to visit the
      sheikh that day to receive his blessing and
      decided to stay overnight, was especially
      unlucky. The soldiers bundled him into the
      helicopter, too. He spent the next 11 years
      incarcerated in Israel, initially in Camp 1391
      and afterward in Ayalon Prison in Ramle. During
      this entire period he was not tried or accused
      of any crime. In the first years of his
      incarceration, Israel denied he was in the
      country and refused him any contact with the
      outside world.

      In April 2000, Fahaf, by now 31, was released by
      order of the Supreme Court. Together with him
      another 18 Lebanese, who according to the
      official version were being held as "bargaining
      chips" for the missing air force navigator Ron
      Arad, were also released. The group included
      two men who had been kidnapped and brought to
      Israel when they were teenagers aged 16 and 17,
      as well as Ghasan Dirani, a relative of Mustafa
      Dirani, who developed catatonic schizophrenia
      during his incarceration in Israel. At one
      stage or another, all of them were held in
      Camp 1391.

      Inside the facility

      In aerial photographs of the area in which Camp
      1391 is located - as is the case with aerial
      photos of other security-sensitive sites in the
      country - the facility and the large building
      in its center are nonexistent. Most maps of
      Israel also do not cite the facility, though on
      a few maps of the Nature and National Parks
      Protection Authority, it is marked by means of
      a letter, with no further explanation. There is
      no sign on the main road directing the curious
      to the camp. After we drove around the base a
      couple of times and stopped a bit to take
      pictures, a security vehicle was sent out to
      follow us for a few kilometers. At the first
      opportunity, two armed and surly security men
      got out of the vehicle and barraged us with
      questions.

      Anyone entering the camp has to negotiate two
      iron gates draped with barbed wire. The first
      gate closes after the visitor enters and only
      then does the second gate open. The detention
      and interrogation section is located not far
      from the mess hall. A person who served on the
      base recalls with a smile that a poster
      spelling out the main points of the Geneva
      Convention hung on one of the walls of the
      dining hall. The cells proceed along a
      corridor; they abut one another but are
      separated by thick concrete walls. The
      detainees can communicate by knocking on the
      walls, "and they often shout to one another,"
      relates an officer who served in the facility.
      "That is forbidden, but we didn't always have
      the energy to deal with it."

      The detainees are led into the facility
      blindfolded, to prevent them from knowing where
      they are. Their personal effects are taken
      from them, as are their clothes and they are
      given blue pants and a blue shirt. The cells
      are pretty much identical, though there are two
      levels of detainees: those who are in the
      middle of being interrogated, who get the worst
      cells and worst conditions; and those whose
      interrogation has been completed.

      Two of the cells are relatively large (2.5 x 4
      meters), have reasonable lighting and running
      water, and are therefore called the "villas" by
      the prisoners. Sheikh Obeid shared one of the
      "villas" with two Lebanese detainees. Two of
      the solitary confinement cells are considered
      the worst of the lot. They are 1.25 x 1.25
      meters in size, almost completely dark, and the
      walls are painted black or red. The differences
      between the other cells are largely
      insignificant, expressed mainly in the form of
      a few basic rights that are accorded to those
      whom the system no longer has any reason to
      subject to psychological pressure.

      The doors of the cells are made of heavy steel,
      with a small crack - which can be opened only
      from the outside - being the only opening to
      the outside world. The cells measure about 2 x
      2 meters and are made entirely of concrete on
      the inside. There are no windows or any source
      of external light. Abutting one of the walls is
      a concrete platform that serves as a bed, with
      a mattress and a blanket on it. On the wall
      opposite is an orifice, a kind of pipe through
      which water flows, but the tap is controlled by
      soldiers outside the cell. Below the water
      source is a hole in the floor that the
      detainees use to relieve themselves. That, it
      turns out, is a privilege. In some of the
      cells, apparently those used for detainees
      under interrogation, there is no place at all
      to go to the toilet: the prisoners have to use
      a large plastic bucket, which is emptied only
      once every few days.

      There are ventilation openings in the upper part
      of the cells, but the main testimony to their
      existence is the noise they make when they are
      turned on. A lamp protected by heavy glass
      casts a dim light 24 hours a day. The detainees
      have no way to tell night from day. Most of the
      cells are also under supervision by means of
      cameras that send the images via closed-circuit
      television. The majority of the prisoners are
      incarcerated alone, though some of the cells
      have two concrete platforms and in some cases
      hold two prisoners.

      The detainees receive the same food the soldiers
      get. Three times a day, soldiers open the door,
      bring in a dish and then close the door. The
      procedure is that before the soldier enters he
      knocks at the door, at which point the detainee
      must place a black sack on his head and turn
      around with his hands raised. The warders,
      members of the Military Police who are seconded
      to the facility, are not armed. Weapons may not
      be introduced into the facility, to prevent a
      situation in which one of the prisoners might
      seize a warder's weapon. The warders are only
      allowed to open the cell doors in pairs.

      Once a day the detainees - those whose
      interrogation has ended - are allowed out for
      one hour in a small inner courtyard of sand and
      vegetation. The conditions of imprisonment,
      says a person who served in the facility, are
      relatively reasonable. Similarly, attorney Zvi
      Rish, the lawyer of Obeid, Dirani and many of
      the other Lebanese who were incarcerated in the
      facility in the 1990s, confirms that his
      clients had no special complaints about the
      conditions - referring only to the period after
      their interrogation had ended. What goes on
      during the interrogation process is another
      story altogether, one that sheds light on one
      of the darker corners of Israel.

      Let George do it

      On Friday evening, July 28, 1989, the
      adrenaline was coursing through Camp 1391. In a
      well-planned operation, Sayeret Matkal
      succeeded in grabbing Sheikh Obeid from his bed
      in the town of Jibsheet, about eight kilometers
      north of the Israeli border. Obeid was
      considered a spiritual authority in Hezbollah,
      but despite the high hopes, his abduction did
      not further the search for Ron Arad, who had
      been missing since his plane was downed over
      Lebanon three years earlier.

      Soldiers who served in the facility at the time
      say that in the course of time they developed
      good relations with prisoner no. 801260. They
      taught him Hebrew - he reached an impressive
      level of fluency in the language - and he
      taught them Arabic. Obeid is described as the
      spiritual mentor of the prisoners and even of
      the warders. "With him everything was done
      quietly and with restraint, with grace and
      decorum. Even the warders treated him almost
      like `your honor the rabbi,'" recalls an
      officer who served at the facility.

      In May 1994 an honorable guest joined the order
      of the Lebanese prisoners at Camp 1391: Mustafa
      Dirani. He was another bargaining chip from
      whom Israel hoped to extract information about
      Ron Arad, or even to exchange for Arad, but he,
      too, proved a disappointment. Many months of
      planning preceded the abduction of Dirani, who
      was head of the security division in the
      Shi'ite movement Amal, and as such had been
      responsible for holding Ron Arad for about two
      years.

      A few days before he was seized and brought to
      Israel, the interrogators of Unit 504 were
      given all the intelligence material that had
      been collected about him. When he arrived at
      the facility there was a feeling of an imminent
      breakthrough. In the first days of the
      interrogation all the ranking members of the
      defense establishment turned up at the facility
      - prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the chief of
      staff, the director of Military Intelligence
      and officials from the Mossad espionage agency
      and the Shin Bet.

      Dirani's interrogation began seconds after he
      was grabbed. In special cases interrogators
      from Unit 504 accompany a force that operates
      across the lines, with the aim of taking
      advantage of the abductee's initial shock. The
      interrogation continued in the vehicle that
      brought Dirani to his cell in Camp 1391 and
      then for the next five weeks continuously
      around the clock. The chief interrogators were
      the unit commander, career and reservist
      personnel - the latter were mobilized
      especially for the mission -and above all a
      major who introduced himself as George.

      George, who is now 43 and lives in a small
      community in the center of the country, is dark
      with cropped hair, brown eyes and a solid body.
      He is considered one of the unit's toughest
      interrogators. The relationship that developed
      between George and Dirani was the stuff of
      quite a few newspaper headlines. It will
      continue to engage the courts during the years
      to come.

      Still pending in Tel Aviv District Court is a
      suit filed by Dirani against the State of
      Israel and Major George concerning two
      incidents in which Dirani says he was subjected
      to sexual abuse. In the first case George
      called in four of the soldiers who were doing
      guard duty in the facility and one of them
      allegedly raped Dirani at George's orders. In
      another case, Dirani says in the suit, George
      himself inserted a wooden stick into his
      rectum.

      The court will have to decide whether these
      events occurred. A perusal of the affidavits
      that have been submitted to the court,
      testimonies of officers and soldiers who served
      in the facility and evidence given by other
      detainees who were there paints a picture of a
      horrific routine in the interrogation rooms of
      Camp 1391. Within the framework of that routine
      the interrogators of Unit 504 have no
      compunctions about making use of extreme
      measures in order to extract information -
      information that in a large percentage of the
      cases was not in their possession.

      "I know that it was customary to threaten to
      insert a stick," says T.N., an interrogator at
      the facility, in testimony he gave to Military
      Police investigators. "The intention was that
      the stick would be inserted if the subject did
      not talk ... I remember one case when something
      in that style was done ... George was
      interrogating one of the prisoners ... He
      called in S. and me. We came into the room and
      S. dropped his pants and remained in his
      underwear or he made clicking noises with his
      belt as though he was opening it ... S. did
      this during the interrogation, when George told
      [the prisoner] that he would be raped in the
      ass ... I remember for certain that the
      situation was threat of rape ...

      "I want to add about that prisoner that he
      arrived in the room naked, handcuffed and with
      his head covered. S. and I were in the room and
      one of us led him around the room and the other
      held the stick next to his rear end, with
      provocation and threat, that because he had
      been caught lying the stick would be shoved up
      his ass. When I say the stick was moved around
      next to his rear end, the idea was to touch his
      bottom with the stick and maybe even to shove
      it next to the rectum so he would think we were
      really going to stick it in."

      Dirani's complaint, along with other testimonies
      about what was going on in the interrogation
      rooms of Camp 1391, opened a Pandora's box in
      the army. George's line of defense was clear:
      The system, he said, abandoned me; everything I
      did was done with authority and authorization.
      Everyone knew, everyone gave their backing, and
      now everyone denies it all. To reinforce his
      case, George brandishes a petition that was
      signed by about 60 reserve officers and
      soldiers of the unit, in which they say it is
      wrong for George to have to pay a personal
      price for using working methods that were
      standard in the unit for many years.

      What, according to George, did he in fact do
      with authority and authorization? He denied the
      rape and the abuse with the stick, but
      confirmed many details that were reported by
      Dirani and other prisoners. For example, the
      fact that they often stood naked while being
      interrogated. The State of Israel also denied
      the rape charge in its response to Dirani's
      suit, though in the legal hearings the
      representative of the State Attorney's Office,
      Yael Tennenbaum, confirmed that "within the
      framework of a Military Police investigation
      the suspicion arose that an interrogator who
      questioned the complainant threatened to
      perform a sexual act on the complainant." The
      denial notwithstanding, George was dismissed
      from the career army, in which he had served
      for nearly 20 years, by order of the IDF's
      judge advocate general. He claimed the system
      was trying to silence him and the episode and
      filed a petition to the High Court of Justice
      to be reinstated into service. The petition was
      rejected.

      Today George sits at home, declining to talk
      about the case. But stains that will not soon
      be erased continue to hover in the skies above
      Camp 1391. Another example is the testimony of
      Ahmed Ali Banjek, a Lebanese citizen who was
      brought to Israel and interrogated in the
      facility on suspicion of smuggling an
      anti-helicopter missile into the former Israeli
      security zone in southern Lebanon. Banjek was
      convicted on the basis of his confession but
      afterward submitted an affidavit to the
      military court in Lod stating that the
      confession had been extracted under torture. He
      said he had been beaten with a wooden stick
      between the legs, forced to sit on a wooden
      stick until it penetrated into his body, made
      to drink coffee mixed with ashes from
      cigarettes and force-fed with large amounts of
      onions and water.

      In a rare judgment, the military court in Lod,
      under the president of the court, Lieutenant
      Colonel Elisha Caspi, found in April 1998 that
      "a certain doubt remains as to whether it can
      be asserted with the certainty required in a
      criminal trial that his statement was made by
      the defendant and signed by him." In other
      words, the court did not reject Banjek's
      account of the horrors that occurred in the
      interrogation rooms of Camp 1391, and he was
      released.

      A black hole

      The new population

      Since Israel's withdrawal from
      Lebanon more than three years
      ago, and certainly since the
      eruption of the intifada in
      September 2000, the unit has
      actively employed agents among
      the Palestinians in the
      territories, an area that until
      then was the almost exclusive
      preserve of the Shin Bet. Along

      with the change in the character of the unit's
      activity, the population that is now brought to
      the facility has also changed. As far as is
      known, in the past the main, though not the
      only, occupants of the facility were citizens
      of foreign countries - a term that does not
      include the inhabitants of the Palestinian
      Authority. They included Lebanese who were
      captured or abducted and brought to Israel,
      Iraqis who defected from Saddam's army and
      hoped to find political asylum in Israel, and
      there are also stories about an Iranian or two
      who were held at the facility in the past. In
      the past year, and perhaps in earlier stages of
      the intifada as well, Palestinians too were
      incarcerated there at times. The most senior of
      them, as far as is known, is Marwan Barghouti,
      who was interrogated at the facility for a few
      days.

      "Barghouti sat on the same chair you are now
      sitting on," the interrogators said to one of
      the Palestinian detainees and made fun of the
      modest dimensions of the famous prisoner - "his
      legs didn't even reach the floor."

      The fact that Palestinians were being held at
      the secret facility was revealed almost by
      chance in legal discussions between the state
      and Hamoked - Center for the Defense of the
      Individual, a Jerusalem-based human rights
      organization. Hamoked, which helps Palestinians
      locate relatives who have been arrested by
      Israel, wanted to know what happened to Muatez
      Shahin, who was arrested last October 5 at his
      home in the village of Salfit, near Nablus in
      the West Bank. The IDF control center replied
      that "he is not on any list."

      After Hamoked and Shahin's relatives petitioned
      the High Court of Justice, the state referred
      them in its response to a policeman at the
      Kishon detention facility. However, when they
      contacted the policemen they were told that
      "Shahin is being held in a secret facility that
      is annexed to the Kishon facility." With that
      response they went back to the court and argued
      that the law and a series of legal precedents
      oblige the state to inform a detainee and his
      family of his exact place of incarceration.

      The case of Shahin was the first in a growing
      list of Palestinians who "disappeared" as
      though they had been swallowed up by the earth.
      Through the veteran attorney Lea Tsemel,
      Hamoked continued to press the state for
      answers - which arrived in bits and pieces.
      Yes, the representatives of the State
      Prosecutor's Office finally told the court, the
      state operates a facility whose name and
      location are security secrets. The state
      attorneys went on to say that even though the
      facility belonged to the army, the Palestinians
      had been interrogated there by the Shin Bet.
      However, the facility "served the Shin Bet only
      temporarily, this being due to a shortfall in
      places of detention ... Recently, though, the
      situation changed and it was decided that the
      Shin Bet no longer needs to make use of the
      facility in which the petitioners were held as
      a detention facility, and accordingly [the Shin
      Bet] removed from the facility the detainees it
      was holding there."

      However, within weeks of this statement to the
      court, Odit Corinaldi-Sirkis, a senior deputy
      to the state prosecutor, stated that the
      facility had been revived: "I wish to inform
      you," she wrote on June 4 to attorney Lea
      Tsemel, "that since our responses were
      submitted the circumstances have changed, and
      the security people have informed us that
      detainees are currently being held at facility
      1391."

      A few days later, in her response to the court,
      the representative of the State Prosecutor's
      Office added more details: In the past five
      years "only a few detainees" were held at the
      facility, but because of the shortfall in
      places of detention in the wake of Operation
      Defensive Shield, in April 2002, the Shin Bet
      had made use of the facility, holding residents
      of the territories there for brief periods
      during their interrogation. Now [two months
      ago] a few detainees were being held there. The
      court was also told that the facility had been
      subjected to a review to ascertain the
      conditions in it, and according to the State
      Prosecutor's Office it met the accepted
      criteria in the facilities of the Prisons
      Service.

      Hamoked was not satisfied with this response.
      What began as an attempt to locate a few
      detainees soon became a matter of legal and
      democratic principle: What is the legal
      authority for operating the facility? Is the
      fact that its location and name are secret, and
      that it is not open to external, public and
      international review consistent with the letter
      of the law? The state, by the way, submitted to
      the court an interesting document, according to
      which then defense minister Benjamin
      Ben-Eliezer on April 16, 2002, signed an order
      declaring facility 1391 to be a military
      prison. Even if this document makes it legal to
      imprison people at the site, what does it say
      about the legality of the activity that was
      carried out there in all the years that
      preceded Ben-Eliezer's action? The answers to
      all these questions will have to be provided by
      the High Court of Justice, which is scheduled
      to take up the issue next month.

      It's very difficult to get substantive comments
      about facility 1391 from officials in the
      political, security or even legal spheres. A
      great many politicians, some of them with a
      rich security background, refused to say
      anything. Amnon Shahak, who was the director of
      Military Intelligence at the time of Sheikh
      Obeid's abduction, and later chief of staff,
      and was at one point briefly a candidate for
      prime minister, says he is "not interested in
      commenting on the subject." Oren Shahor, the
      chief intelligence officer at the beginning of
      the 1990s and today a program presenter on
      radio and television, says, "I can't help you
      with that."

      MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), who has put in a
      request to visit the site but has yet to
      receive a reply, says, "The fact that such a
      facility exists, whose location no one knows
      formally, is one of the signs of totalitarian
      regimes and of the Third World. It is
      inconceivable that detainees do not know where
      they are and that their relatives and lawyers
      don't know, either; that under the auspices of
      the army, the State of Israel is violating
      elementary rights of detainees. Even prisoners
      have rights. There are international
      conventions. It is inconceivable that the state
      abducts people and that there is no review or
      supervision. I visited all the interrogation
      facilities of the Shin Bet and there was no
      problem. So what's the problem here?"

      One big garbage pail

      Raab Bader, a 38-year-old accountant who is
      married and the father of two, was arrested
      last December at his work place - an
      engineering consultancy firm in Nablus. At 9:30
      A.M. soldiers arrived at his office, but he
      wasn't there at the time. When he got back, he
      decided to wait for the soldiers, and they
      returned in the afternoon and took him away.
      His wife says he waited for them because he was
      convinced he had done nothing wrong and wasn't
      worried. She adds that he was asked by his
      interrogators about his ties with wanted
      individuals. Today he is in administrative
      detention - arrest without trial - at Ofer Camp
      near Ramallah. As he has not been brought to
      trial, it is very difficult to know what he is
      suspected of. What follows are extensive
      excerpts from his testimony about the 42 days
      he spent at facility 1391. He have the
      testimony to attorney Lea Tsemel on June 12 at
      Ofer Camp: "I was arrested on December 10,
      2002. After being interrogated by the Shin Bet
      for 31 days in Petah Tikva, I was taken to a
      secret military facility. Those who took me
      there wore army uniforms.

      "I was blindfolded and black glasses were placed
      on top of the blindfold to prevent me from
      seeing anything. I was handcuffed and shackled.
      Soldiers sat me down on the floor of the car
      and the soldiers then covered me with a black
      cloth. I couldn't see a thing the whole time
      and I was kept on the floor of the car for the
      entire long trip.

      "I spent about 40 days at that place according
      to my count. I was never told the name of the
      place or where I was. I received different
      replies to my many questions. Sometimes I was
      told or they hinted that we were in Atlit,
      someone said Acre Prison, one interrogator said
      a 'submarine,' and many times the answer was
      that we were in 'space' or 'outside the borders
      of Israel.'

      " .... There are two types of solitary
      confinement cells that I got to know. At first,
      for the first 11 days - according to the count
      I tried to keep - I was held in the worst of
      the solitary confinement cells. By my
      measurement, the cell is 120 centimeters wide
      (a bit wider than a mattress) and about 2.5
      meters long. There is a damp mattress (all the
      mattresses are always damp) on a platform about
      30 centimeters high and there are damp
      blankets. The blankets have a terrible smell;
      the mattress, too. There is a large black
      plastic garbage pail in the room, a small
      pitcher for water, and a rag.

      "The room is completely black. All the walls are
      painted black, and I never saw the ceiling.
      When I looked up, I saw only darkness. Light of
      candle brightness penetrates weirdly from one
      side of the room, from a device that seems to
      be almost above the ceiling, and the light is
      filtered through three thick pieces of glass.
      The light in the room is so faint and
      illuminates such a small part of the room that
      if I had had a book it would have been totally
      impossible to read it. You can hardly see a
      thing.

      "Of course the room has no windows. You can't
      tell whether it is day or night or when day
      becomes night. I had no way to know when it was
      time for prayers, I could only guess.

      "There are one or two pipes in the ceiling,
      which are apparently for ventilation. I say
      apparently, because I could never ascertain
      where there was ventilation. Most of the time
      and in all the solitary confinement cells I
      felt I didn't have enough oxygen, and sometimes
      I thought I was about to pass out.

      "I spent many days in that solitary confinement
      cell and in others like it, and hour after hour
      I would talk to myself and feel that I was
      going crazy, or find myself laughing to myself.
      I would sit on the mattress, get up and walk
      around in a circle, and sit down again. The
      only thing that kept me sane was thinking about
      my wife and children.

      "What sets this solitary confinement cell apart
      from the others is the fact that it has no
      toilet facilities and no source of water ... I
      remember the first time I had to relieve
      myself. I thought about what to do, and in the
      end I removed my underpants, placed them on the
      floor, relieved myself into them, tied them up
      and threw them into the garbage pail. The pail
      remained with me in the cell as it was. On
      other occasions I had to stand on my toes so I
      could aim my droppings into it and not tip it
      over onto myself.

      "I myself did not wash during all these days and
      no one offered me a chance to wash. Of course I
      did not brush my teeth or wash my face. Three
      times a day they brought a little water in a
      pitcher into the cell.

      "On my ninth day in this stinking cell, when one
      of the soldiers had to come in or take me out,
      he almost threw up and rushed out of the cell.
      As usual, I stood against the wall with my head
      covered by a black cloth. He called another
      soldier and they made arrangements and plans
      for removing the garbage pail. They told me
      drag it. I told them I couldn't do that while
      blindfolded, and I dragged it but it was too
      heavy and I couldn't get it out of its niche.
      So they agreed to remove the blindfold and let
      me drag the garbage pail out the door, and then
      they blindfolded me again and one of the
      soldiers grabbed my shirt and pulled me while I
      was still dragging the stinking pail.

      "They led me to another solitary confinement
      cell, made me enter it with the pail and told
      me to empty it into the hole of the 'Turkish
      toilet' [a hole in the floor] in that cell. The
      soldiers were in control of water outside the
      cell, and as I emptied the pail they turned on
      a powerful jet of water and I and my clothes
      were dirtied.

      "They made me wash the pail. I demanded to wash
      myself and I told them I was a worshiper but I
      would not be able to pray while I was dirtied
      with excrement. That was the first time I saw
      running water there. I spoke so angrily that
      they agreed to let me wash myself. I asked for
      a towel and one of the soldiers went to my cell
      and brought the rag, which had an unbearable
      stench.

      "I asked for a new set of clothes and for a real
      towel but I didn't get them. All the behavior
      of the soldiers was coarse and filled with
      threats, and this time again they threatened
      that if I didn't use the opportunity I was
      being given I would not get another. I
      undressed as they watched through the opening
      and made insulting comments. I stood naked
      under a hole in the concrete from which water
      emerged. The soldiers turned on the water but
      didn't let me enjoy it for even five minutes
      and then shut it off from the outside.

      "It was winter and cold, but I had no choice
      other than to put the soiled clothes on my wet
      body, and I was taken back with the sack on my
      head and an empty pail into the stinking cell.
      I stayed there for another two days.

      "After spending 11 days there I was upgraded to
      a cell with a Turkish lavatory. That isn't
      really a higher level, because the soldiers
      control the water no matter what and they
      decide when to supply it ... After I got to
      this cell I was given the chance to shower once
      a day. The way the shower works: a soldier
      declares the possibility of showering. I have
      to undress as the soldier watches through the
      crack in the door. When I am naked I have to
      stand above the toilet hole and pin myself
      against the wall so that the soldier will turn
      on the water of the 'shower.' The water comes
      from one hole in a concrete protrusion that is
      about 15 to 20 centimeters from the wall and
      about 1.5 meters from the floor. To get flowing
      water you have to stand right against the wall
      and wait for the water.

      "I declare that the soldiers never turned on the
      water for more than five minutes. They can
      control whether the water is hot or cold and
      they make use of that as they please ... To
      illustrate the soldiers' control of the water,
      I will tell you that one time I had soaped
      myself and the soldiers decided to shut off the
      water. I yelled, I pounded on the door and
      after my shouts and demands the soldier acceded
      and turned on freezing water.

      "Everyone knew about these conditions. Obviously
      the soldiers who did guard duty at the cell
      knew. So did the paramedic who saw me every day
      and the doctors who saw me once or twice a
      week. Of course all the interrogators, to the
      last of them, knew about it and apparently gave
      the orders for it. The paramedic and the
      doctors, who I would have expected would be
      compassionate men of medicine, saw me day after
      day in the same clothes, without underpants,
      smelled the stench that came off me day after
      day and said nothing, as though this is the way
      of the world.

      "The interrogators truly suffered from the way I
      smelled. The interrogator Yoni had to suffer my
      stench day after day. I remember that one day
      Yoni approached me and looked as though he was
      about to pass out. He said 'Rihtak hara' [You
      smell like shit] and told me I had to finish
      the interrogation. Many times, when the
      questioning was over, he and the other
      interrogators would say, 'Arja listal al hara'
      [Go back to the shit pail].

      "When I was in Yoni's interrogation room he
      would turn on the air conditioner right over
      me. It was winter and cold, and many times I
      told him I was cold, but he went on doing it. I
      understand why, because my smell was
      intolerable.

      "It's also clear that the judges could know,
      too, if they bothered to ask why people who are
      filthy and stinking are brought before them.
      For my two remands in custody I was brought
      from that facility to the Kishon Prison
      (Jalama). When I was brought before a judge
      after 22 days in the facility I complained to
      him, I showed him my undershirt and I told him
      that when I was arrested it was white and now
      it was yellow, and I told him I had no
      underpants. I asked him to smell me and told
      him that I couldn't wash without a towel and
      clean clothes. The lawyer who was there told me
      that the judge told the soldiers to give me
      clothes.

      "That night, at about 11 P.M., in the facility,
      they brought me clothes that were used but
      clean. They didn't bring a towel. When I asked
      for a towel in the days that followed I always
      got the same answer: 'Quiet.'

      "During the whole period I was given food in the
      cell and made to eat sitting down. The food
      arrives on a fairly small dish. Three meals a
      day. The food was tastier than in the Shin Bet
      interrogation division in Petah Tikva. The
      problem was with the cleanliness. In the filthy
      solitary cell the soldiers would place the
      portion of food on the garbage pail, and in the
      second cell they put the food right on the
      toilet. Once I went on a hunger strike because
      of that and I refused to eat the food and
      complained to the Shin Bet agent, but no one
      was the least impressed. I did not get any hot
      drinks other than once in a while insipid tea
      that I had to spill out. I lost 14 kilograms
      during my stay there.

      "There is no opening to the light or the sun and
      no daily walk. There is no possibility of
      getting a prayer book."

      *********************************************************************

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