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Torturing Palestinian Detainees

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    Torturing Palestinian Detainees By Stephen Lendman http://www.rense.com/general79/tort.htm B Tselem is the conservative Israeli Information Center for Human
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2008
      Torturing Palestinian Detainees
      By Stephen Lendman

      B'Tselem is the conservative Israeli Information Center for Human
      Rights in the Occupied Territories with a well-deserved reputation for
      accuracy. A group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists and
      Knesset members founded the organization in 1989 to "document and
      educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights
      violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of
      denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human
      rights culture in Israel" to convince government officials to respect
      human rights and comply with international law.

      Its work covers a wide range of human rights issues that include
      detentions and torture. In May, 2007, it prepared a detailed 100 page
      report titled "Absolute Prohibition: The Torture and Ill-treatment of
      Palestinian Detainees" that's now available in print for those who
      request it. This article summarizes its findings that represent a
      joint effort by B'Tselem and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the
      Individual that was founded in 1988 to support Palestinian rights
      during the first intifada in the late 1980s.

      Since the early 1990s, B'Tselem published more than ten reports on
      Israelis' use of torture and mistreatment of Palestinian detainees.
      This is the latest one in an effort to raise public awareness and help
      abolish these abhorrent practices. The findings are based on
      testimonies solicited from a small "unrepresentative" sample of 73
      Palestinian West Bank residents who were arrested between July, 2005
      and January, 2006, agreed to tell their stories, and who met
      predetermined criteria for the study.

      They were chosen from the names of 4460 Palestinian detainees whose
      relatives contacted HaMoked for help to locate their whereabouts.
      HaMoked provides this service because Israel violates international
      law and its own military regulations by denying family members any
      information about who was detained or where they're being held. From
      its many years investigating Israeli torture, B'Tselem believes the
      information in this report accurately reflects the types and extent of
      Israeli abusive practices.

      Torture, abuse or degrading treatment are abhorrent in any form for
      any reason, and long-standing international law forbids these
      practices under all circumstances. The four 1949 Geneva Conventions
      banned any form of "physical or mental coercion" and affirmed sick,
      wounded, war prisoners and civilians must be treated humanely. All
      four conventions have a common thread called Common Article Three that
      requires all non-combatants to be treated humanely at all times. There
      are no exceptions for any reasons, and violations are grave breaches
      of Geneva and other international law that constitute crimes of war
      and against humanity.

      Nonetheless, the 1987 Landau Commission (headed by retired Israeli
      Supreme Court Chief Justice Moshe Landau) cited the "necessary
      defense" provision in the Penal Law to recommend using "psychological
      and moderate physical pressure," to obtain evidence for convictions in
      criminal proceedings. Its justification was that coercive
      interrogation tactics were necessary against "hostile terrorist
      activity" it defined to include not just threats or acts of violence
      but all activities related to Palestinian nationalism.

      Later in September, 1999, Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ)
      responded to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel's petition
      (PCATI) and issued a landmark decision (reversing Landau
      recommendations) and barred the use of torture against detainees. It
      was, however, a hollow gesture as at the same time it ruled pressure
      and a measure of discomfort were legitimate interrogation side-effects
      but should not be used to break a detainee's spirit. It then added a
      giant loophole allowing interrogators to use physical force and avoid
      prosecutions in "ticking time bomb" cases even though international
      law allows no exceptions, and Israeli authorities could claim that
      excuse for anyone in custody.

      Since its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (the OPT) in 1967,
      Israel imprisoned over 650,000 Palestinians according to the
      Palestinian peace and justice group MIFTA. That's equivalent to about
      one-sixth of the OPT's population today. The security services
      currently hold around ten to twelve thousand Palestinian men, women
      and children in its prisons under deplorable conditions with many
      under administrative detention without charge. Based on earlier
      assessments by Hamoked, B'Tselem estimates as many as 85% of them are
      subjected to torture and mistreatment in custody even though most of
      them aren't accused of terrorism. These practices are routinely and
      systematically used against political activists, students accused of
      being pro-Islam, sheikhs and religious leaders, people in Islamic
      charitable organizations, relatives of wanted individuals or any man,
      woman or child Israel targets for any reason.

      B'Tselem's May, 2007 report states that the Israeli Security Agency
      (ISA - formerly called the General Security Service or GSS) admits to
      using "exceptional" methods that include "physical pressure" of
      interrogation in "ticking bomb" cases that can be used as an excuse to
      abuse anyone. In addition, law enforcement officials openly admit
      harsh measures are approved retroactively so that Palestinian detainee
      rights can be freely violated without fear of recrimination. In other
      words, ISA interrogators know the rules - don't ask permission, use
      any methods you wish, and don't worry about the consequences after the
      fact. There won't be any, and it shows in what detainees told B'Tselem.

      They reported being "softened up" for interrogation from the moment of
      their arrest to when ISA agents took over. Abuses at the outset
      included beatings, painful binding, swearing, humiliation and denial
      of basic needs. The ISA procedure then included seven key forms of
      abuse that violated the detainees' dignity and bodily integrity. They
      were inflicted to break their spirit, but international law calls it
      torture when it includes verified intent, severe pain or suffering,
      improper motive, and involvement of the state. All those conditions
      apply to Israeli abusive practices that included:

      -- isolation that prohibited detainees from contact with family, an
      attorney or ICRC representatives; this exacerbated detainees' sense of
      powerlessness by creating a situation in which they're completely at
      the mercy of interrogators; it's also known to cause them serious
      psychological harm when continued for extended periods;
      -- psychological pressure from solitary confinement in "putrid,
      stifling cells three to six square meters in size" with no windows or
      access to daylight and fresh air; a fixed overhead light on 24 hours a
      day; walls made of rough plaster making them uncomfortable or
      impossible to lean against; a water faucet on one wall and some cells
      with sinks; a usually dirty and damp mattress and "filthy putrid"
      blankets on the floor; nothing else in cells; reading and writing
      materials not allowed; in many cells, toilets were holes in the floor;
      detainees denied all human contact except for guards and interrogators.
      -- physical conditions in solitary confinement cells are regulated in
      Criminal Procedure Regulations issued by Israel's Minister of Internal
      Security with the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Law and
      Justice Committee; they don't apply to "security detainees," however,
      so cells have no bed, chairs and most often no sink; nothing else
      provided including use of a telephone and right to have visitors
      provide items; cells were too small to walk around in, and no daily
      outside exercise was allowed;
      -- detainees weakened from lack of physical activity, sleep
      deprivation and inadequate food; they're denied basic needs like food
      and liquids, medicines or the right to relieve themselves; throughout
      long hours of interrogation, they're shackled to a chair unable to
      move hands or legs even minimally; they had nutritional deficiencies
      and food received was inadequate, cold, improperly cooked, flavorless
      and often repulsive in appearance; many detainees resisted eating as
      long as possible;
      -- shackling in the "shabah" position that's the prolonged and painful
      binding of detainees' hands and feet to a standard-sized
      unupholstered, metal frame, rigid plastic chair fixed to the floor
      with no armrests; hands tightly bound behind the back in adjustable
      plastic handcuffs and connected to a ring at the back of the seat to
      stretch them uncomfortably below the backrest; legs bound to the
      chair's front legs; detainees were unable to get up throughout
      interrogation that on average lasted eight consecutive hours without a
      break and on the first day ran 12 hours; later in the interrogation
      period, sessions shortened to four or five hours;
      -- interrogations only for a small portion of this time; for most if
      it, interrogators were out of the room; at those times air
      conditioning turned up to uncomfortably cold levels; most often only
      one meal served during a day's interrogation; very sparing toilet
      privileges allowed; nearly all detainees complained of severe back,
      neck, shoulder, arms and wrist pain during interrogation; numbness or
      loss of sensation in limbs also reported; the Israeli High Court of
      Justice (HCJ) ruled in 1999 that all "shabah" shackling procedures are
      unlawful since they violate rules for "reasonable and fair
      interrogation" and injure detainees' dignity and well-being; ISA
      interrogators ignore the ruling with impunity;
      -- cursing and humiliating strip searches of detainees as well as
      shouting, spitting in the face and other related abusive practices;
      detainees forced to strip naked and submit to body searches while
      being yelled at and mocked;
      -- intimidations made to include threats of physical torture (called
      "military interrogation"), arrest of family members and destruction of
      -- using informants ("asafirs") to get information that's not abusive
      as such but is a very questionable method following preparatory
      "softening up."

      B'Tselem then discussed "special" interrogation methods that mostly
      involve physical violence:

      -- sleep deprivation for 30 to 40 hours during which detainees left
      painfully shackled in interrogation rooms; guards frequently awakened
      detainees between midnight and 5AM; various type oppressive noises
      used at night to interfere with sleep;
      -- use of "dry" beatings that included punching, kicking all parts of
      the body, striking with rifle butts and face slapping; detainees hit
      with clubs, helmets and other objects; heads slammed against a wall,
      floor or hard surface; beatings inflicted when detainees' hands were
      bound behind their back, and they were blindfolded; additional
      beatings during physical inspections with their hands cuffed;
      -- painful binding with handcuffs or other devices tight enough to cut
      off blood flow circulation and cause swelling;
      -- sharp twisting of the head forcefully and suddenly sideways or
      -- forced "frog" crouching on tiptoes with cuffed hands behind the
      back accompanied by shoving or beating until detainees lost their
      balance and fell forward or backward; this method inflicts pain by
      increasing pressure on leg muscles and also hurts wrists after falling;
      -- use of forced "banana" position that involves bending the back in a
      painful arch while the body is extended horizontally to the floor on a
      backless chair with arms and feet bound beneath it.
      Prison killings also occur like the October 22 one at the notorious
      Ketziot Detention Center in the Negev desert where 2300 Palestinians
      are held under very harsh conditions. It happened at 2AM when prison
      guards began searching tents and strip-searching inmates in a
      deliberate middle of the night provocation. Prisoners resisted and
      about 550 members of the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) Metsada riot
      dispersal unit responded with excessive force by beating them with
      plastic clubs and rifle butts as well as firing rubber-coated bullets,
      live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades that set tents ablaze and
      caused as many as 250 inmate injuries and at least nine serious ones.
      During the assault, Mohammed Al Ashqar was killed after being shot in
      the head.

      The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) maintains that prisoner
      abuse, repressive tactics and killing Palestinians is official Israeli
      policy that's become even worse under current IPS director, Beni
      Kaniak. PCHR reports he instituted these punitive measures:

      -- reductions in food and cleaning materials rations;
      -- additional items prisoners forbidden to have;
      -- confiscated prisoners' money and prevented none sent from families
      to reach them;
      -- widespread use of solitary confinement;
      -- periodic movement of prisoners to new facilities to prevent any
      sense of stability;
      -- repeated unannounced harsh late night raids like the October 22 one
      at Ketziot.

      These tactics and Palestinian detainee torture and abuse are condoned
      "under the auspices of the Israeli law enforcement system." B'Tselem
      reported since 2001, Israel's State Attorney's Office got over 500
      complaints of these practices but investigated none of them. Overall,
      instances of detainee mistreatment are rarely looked into and even
      fewer ever result in indictments. Further, despite its 1999 ruling,
      Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ) aids ISA interrogations by
      refusing to accept even one of hundreds of petitions brought before it
      for redress. HCJ also lets ISA conceal information from detainees that
      abusive orders were issued against them or that legal petitions were
      filed on their behalf. It further allows evidence obtained under
      torture to be used in criminal proceedings.

      B'Tselem and HaMoked are committed to ending Israel's use of torture
      against Palestinian detainees. They cite the example of the US Army's
      September, 2006 Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector
      Operations as a proper guide to conducting interrogations even though
      authorized physical and psychological brutality became official
      administration policy under George Bush post-9/11. Nonetheless, this
      manual covers 18 interrogation methods experience showed work under
      varying situations and conditions. They range from establishing trust
      between interrogator and detainee to the use of ruses and
      psychological manipulation. In all cases, they don't involve torture
      or other unlawful practices.

      It's one thing to have rules and laws and another to abide by them.
      The US under George Bush condones and practices "the harshest
      interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency"
      according to once secret Department of Justice (DOJ) legal opinions.

      It's no different in Israel where the ISA systematically and routinely
      uses banned interrogation measures with impunity. B'Tselem and HaMoked
      want these practices ended and urge the Israeli government to halt
      them by enacting enforceable laws "strictly prohibiting torture and
      cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" in accordance with
      international law.

      They further recommend every complaint of abuse and torture be
      investigated by an independent body, persons found to have broken the
      law to be prosecuted, and that "every detainee receives minimum humane
      conditions." Israel claims to be a civilized state. It's about time it
      acted like one.

      Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
      lendmanstephen @ sbcglobal.net.

      Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The
      Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMIcroEffect.com Mondays
      at noon US central time.



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