December 4, 2005
From the first moment of arrest the physical torture
begins with the placement of handcuffs and the covering of the head
with a bag effecting the breathing of the prisoner. This is often
accompanied by beatings and cursing by the interrogators. In more then
90% of torture methods utilize "shabh". The prisoner legs are tied to a
small stool and his hands are tied behind his back with a bag covering
his head sometimes for more then 48 hours continuously in which he is
given only 5 minute breaks between each sitting. During interrogation
periods the prisoner is usually not allowed to sit in a normal sitting
position but is forced to crouch down.
(6) of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under
Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by UN General Assembly
resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988, stipulates that:
person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected
to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
circumstance whatever may be invoked as a justification for torture or
other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment, adopted and opened for signature, ratification
and accession by General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984,
goes on to define torture explicitly in its first article:
the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by
which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is
intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from
him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an
act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having
committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for
any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or
suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent
or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an
official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only
from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."
and psychological torture against Palestinian and Arab prisoners has
been a distinguishing factor of Israeli occupation since 1967. Torture
has taken different shapes throughout the period of occupation, thus,
the Israeli security services have succeeded in achieving great
experience in developing new methods of torture, finding loopholes and
deceiving the world. Israel has always denied its involvement in using
torture as a method of interrogation, despite all tangible evidence, in
particular the death of tens of detainees in interrogation rooms and
the deformation of others. Israel has used conventional methods of
torture. But recently it has been using psychologically, mental and
physical painful means of torture that leave fewer physical evidence,
such as forcing prisoners to sit on a tiny chair with hands and feet
tied, standing up in a closet, depriving detainees from sleep and using
violent shaking, etc.
Each State Party shall take effective
legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts
of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a
threat of war, internal political instability or any other public
emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
2, UN Convention Against Torture. Article 4 Convention against Torture
Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences
under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit
torture and to an act by any person which consitutes complicity or
participation in torture. Each State Party shall make these offences
punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave
On the other hand, opposing torture has not stopped.
Palestinian, International and Israeli institutions and individuals
have opposed torture in the past years through different means, mainly
the Israeli jurisdiction that has previously allowed moderate physical
pressure, which opened the way for torturing at least thirty thousand
Palestinian detainees since 1987.
These practices led to
embarrassing the so-called Israeli democracy and forced the Israeli
High Court of Justice to enact a law that prohibits the use of certain
types of torture, which are the types described in the petitions made
before the Court. The Israeli High Court of Justice's decision is in
response to seven petitions produced before the Israeli High Court by
Israeli human rights institutions during 1994-99 regarding the methods
of torture used by the Israeli intelligence services against
Palestinian prisoners. The Court delayed hearing and ruling on the
petitions, while at the same time it required the Israeli government to
enact a law that organizes the work of the intelligence services so as
to avoid a court ruling against them. The Israeli government did not
enact such a law, and on 6 September 1996 the High Court made its
ruling after being criticized by local and international human rights
The policies of Palestinian and Israeli
institutions in the past years has focused on producing as many
petitions as possible before the Israeli High Court of Justice against
torture, with these petitions pressuring the Court to make its ruling.
Court's decision dealt only with part of the Israeli practices, which
were never called torture as described in international laws and
conventions signed by Israel; instead they were called "physical means".
Israeli intelligence services relied on the Landau Ministerial
Committee's license of 1987 which gave them the power to use moderate
physical pressure--as it was called by the Committee--and psychological
pressure in interrogation before this decision was taken. The Committee
did not explain the meaning of the so-called moderate physical pressure
in its published report and the cases in which it is allowed to be
used. Instead, it kept the details of its report confidential, and it
was never published. The Ministerial Committee extended the time period
of the license every three months; henceforth, the intelligence
officials used the license to apply all types of torture methods
against Palestinian detainees whom they considered as time bombs.
prisoners have experienced at least one method of torture. According to
the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, statistics show that
more than 85% of Palestinian detainees are subjected to torture.
The methods of torture described before the High Court:
the first moment of arrest the physical torture begins with the
placement of handcuffs and the covering of the head with a bag
effecting the breathing of the prisoner. This is often accompanied by
beatings and cursing by the interrogators. In more then 90% of torture
methods utilize "shabh". The prisoner legs are tied to a small stool
and his hands are tied behind his back with a bag covering his head
sometimes for more then 48 hours continuously in which he is given only
5 minute breaks between each sitting. During interrogation periods the
prisoner is usually not allowed to sit in a normal sitting position but
is forced to crouch down.
Also the prisoner is tied to a circle within the wall while standing or
he is seated on a small stool and his hands are tied behind his back to
a table which is higher thereby forcing his shoulders and arms to stay
in a raised position. These types of tying methods became so familiar
within the interrogation process they no longer are perceived as
illegal or insulting to the individuals' rights and their dignity. One
of the most difficult forms of physical torture is the "shaking". The
interrogator takes hold of the prisoner by the collar and violently
shakes him for over a minute. This torture method is very dangerous.
You certainly remember the death of the Palestinian prisoner Abd al
Summad Herisat in the April 1995 as a result of shaking. After that the
forensic pathologist, Dr. Robert Kirschner, stated that the use of
shaking is very dangerous and causes serious, and irreversible brain
damage. There is much more which can be said about the dangers of
physical torture but this is not the time for it.
War- This method of torture entails the interrogator threatened by and
therefore utilizes the security of the state to justify the use of
torture against Palestinians. It is known that from a legal stand point
there is no way to charge a person with a crime without evidence or by
his own confession to the crime. What would make a person confess to a
crime when he knows that there is no evidence against him? To torture a
person in order to get him to confess to a crime he did not commit or
say something he does not wish to say shows that the person is not
dealt with as a human being but rather as a means to arrive to an
desired end. The question is how can a country that claims it is
democratic and that it respects individuals as human beings legitimize
Preventing the detainees from sleeping for a period of
5-10 continuous days is another method of torture. In addition to the
table squat, beating, cursing and depriving prisoners from the natural
right of using toilets and changing their underwear in order to insult
and degrade them.
Serving bad and little food rations and
serving the last meal at four o'clock in the afternoon in order to make
prisoners starve. Preventing prisoners from meeting lawyers for thirty
days, using security as an excuse for such actions. Solitary
confinement in cold, rotting and narrow cells where prisoners spend
45-70 days in such conditions and sometimes 90 days, as in the case of
the detainees Muhammad Salih and Ata Jafal.
The High Court
ruling on 6 September 1999 dealt with the torture methods of violent
shaking, tying against small chairs, handcuffing and preventing
sleeping. The Court ruled that using violent shaking and painful tying
against small chairs are prohibited. It also ruled that preventing
sleeping and handcuffing were prohibited. Using a sack to cover the
head and playing loud music during tying prisoners to little chairs was
The Court ruled that these methods are
prohibited when used as a means during interrogation to put pressure on
the detainees. Whereas; if they are used as necessary means of
interrogation, then they are allowed. For instance, an interrogator can
cuff the detainee to guarantee his (the interrogator's) safety during
the interrogation for long hours, which can be 20 hours. This is
exactly what the interrogators do now after the Court ruling: they tie
a prisoner against a chair for long periods of time to replace the
previous method of tying a prisoner against a tiny chair and placing a
sack on top of his head.
The exceptional cases as claimed by
the prosecution under "the necessary protection" where intelligence
officers have the right to use the methods of torture whenever
necessary, are known as the time bomb. The Court ruled that this
protection given in compliance with the Israeli criminal law does not
give the legal power to the intelligence officers to use physical force
against detainees. The Court did not rule that the use of power in
these cases is completely prohibited, as is the case in international
conventions. On the contrary, it left it open for the Israeli Knesset
(parliament) to enact laws that give the intelligence officers the
authority to use such power. The judges declared in Article 39 of the
ruling stated that at this stage they do not take a decision and
possibly there is a view that says that the security problems Israel
faces are too many, therefore, power should be given to interrogators
to use physical methods during interrogation.
The Court has
not ruled that if one intelligence officer uses torture he will be
taken to court or not, because it left the use of "necessary
protection" open to interpretation.
Henceforth, we realize
that the Court ruling, though it was a first step towards prohibiting
the use of torture, does not eliminate the legalization of the use of
torture from Israeli law, especially as it allows the Knesset to enact
a proper law if it deems necessary in the interrogation rooms. Many
Knesset members, who opposed torture in the past, support the use of
torture by intelligence officers since, in their opinion, it is
necessary to protect the state security.
The Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak issued a direct order of forming a committee, known
as the Sokhar-Mizuz committee, to establish a draft law that gives the
intelligence officers the authority to use torture. The majority of the
members of the committee supported giving the intelligence officers the
authority to use pressure in exceptional cases in order to force
confessions from detainees during interrogation so as to save lives.
The minority of the members of the committee, including Yossi Beilen,
the Israeli Minister of Justice, opposed the draft law "that gives the
authority to use physical means during interrogation by the
Despite all the peace talks and
agreements, the arrest campaigns, pursuing Palestinians, interrogating
them and torturing them has not stop in 1999.
faced many obstacles in its follow up of the detainees' cases during
custody and interrogation because it was prevented from meeting them
for security reasons. The Association has also noticed that the
security services do not follow the law or the right of the clients to
see their lawyers by using excuses such as the detainee is in the
interrogation room or has been taken to another prison. These obstacles
forced the Association to take its cases to the High Court many times.
ADDAMEER has also identified that the Israeli security services use
various kinds of torture against almost all prisoners, most noticeably,
tying against a chair, violent shaking, preventing sleeping and beating.
To confirm our argument, these are some of the cases that ADDAMEER followed up in 1999:
Walid Musa Hamid Hussein
Bassam Abdulrahim Hamid
Fawzi Ayid Jabra
women were arrested and placed under interrogation in 1999 at Al Jalami
prison. They were subjected to the most atrocious methods of torture.
They were Asma Atatra, Wafa Hamarsha from Yabad and Muna Qa' dan from
The interrogation services began to change some of
their methods of torture but keeping torturing anyway in the aftermath
of the High Court ruling in September 1999 regarding prohibiting the
use of some torture methods. These included replacing Jewish torturers
with Arab torturers and sending detainees to the collaborators rooms
known as "the shameful rooms' for a period of more than one month in
some cases. During this period the detainees would be prevented from
seeing their lawyers and the interrogation would be carried out in a
systematic way agreed upon by the intelligence services' officers.
Torture would be used in different ways such as beating, degradation,
threatening, starving and cheating. The detainees who were victims of
"the shameful rooms" emphasized that the conditions in these rooms are
so harsh since torture and threatening and fear surround them.
Israeli intelligence services still use torture and attempt to recruit
more collaborators. It is evident that there is an increase in the
campaigns of arresting young people who are still under eighteen years
of age in order to recruit them as collaborators for the Israeli
ADDAMEER witnessed the extent of
compliance of the Israeli intelligence services with the Court ruling.
It identified a violation of the ruling since some methods of torture
are still being used against the detainees such as tying them against a
tiny chair, beating them and depriving them from sleeping. Detainees
are still suffering from malnutrition and solitary confinement for long
periods of time and preventing them from changing their underwear.
followed up 32 cases in interrogation since the issuance of the Court
ruling on September 6 1999 until the end of 1999, some of the cases
Mansor Mahmoud Alshahatit
Rami Abu Hlal
Addameer Report (.pdf): Torture of Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli Prisons
Addameer Article: Torture in Israeli Prisons