[News] Israel dismisses 1,000 complaints of torture

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 13 10:18:17 EST 2016


  Israel dismisses 1,000 complaints of torture

Ali Abunimah <https://electronicintifada.net/people/ali-abunimah> - 12 
December 2016

Israel has failed to launch a single criminal investigation for torture 
despite more than 1,000 complaints by victims since 2001.

Last week, the Tel Aviv newspaper /Haaretz/ revealed 
<http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.757404> that the justice 
ministry unit responsible for investigating torture complaints, known by 
its Hebrew acronym Mivtan, employs only one investigator.

Mivtan “has never launched a single criminal investigation against a 
Shin Bet agent, even though it has examined many hundreds of 
complaints,” /Haaretz/ reports, referring to the Israeli secret police 
agency also commonly known as Shabak, the Israel Security Agency or the 
General Security Service.

The fact that there is only a single investigator means “it’s unlikely 
that complaints can be thoroughly examined,” /Haaretz/ states. “In 
practice, then, the unit does not interfere with the Shin Bet’s work, 
even though complainants have reported harsh and prohibited forms of 
torture – including severe beatings and extensive sleep deprivation.”

 From 2001 to 2008, nearly 600 complaints were submitted to Mivtan, but 
every single one was dismissed. During that period, the investigations 
were carried out by a Shin Bet employee, meaning in effect that the 
agency that was accused of torture was in charge of investigating itself.

In 2013, the justice ministry named an ostensibly more independent 
person to head the unit, but with no impact: none of the approximately 
300 inquiries conducted since the appointment resulted in a single 
criminal investigation either, according to /Haaretz/.

The impunity extends to circumstances where there is strong evidence 
that torture led to the death of a detainee, such as Arafat Jaradat, a 
33-year-old father of two who died after an Israeli interrogation 
in Megiddo prison in 2013.

Mivtan only reports the numbers of inquiries it conducts, not the total 
number of complaints received. However Efrat Bergman-Sapir, an attorney 
with the nonprofit group Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, 
told /Haaretz/ her organization has submitted more than 1,000 complaints 
since 2001.

    No exception for torture

In several cases cited by /Haaretz/, Mivtan ruled that the interrogation 
techniques used against Palestinians and in at least one instance 
against a Jewish Israeli were “necessary” – making such methods as sleep 
deprivation, beatings or tying a prisoner in painful positions legal 
under Israeli law.

In May, Israel sent a 13-member delegation to the 57th session of the 
Convention Against Torture 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/un-committee-against-torture> at 
the United Nations to respond to questions about its record on human rights.

In his introductory remarks, Eviatar Manor, Israel’s ambassador to the 
UN, stated 
that “the composition of our delegation here today, reflects the 
importance we attribute to the UN HR [human rights] conventions.”

“They did all their efforts to come out as perfect as possible. They 
didn’t dismiss the questions, they were polite,” Andrea Barsony from 
Physicians for Human Rights–Israel 
told The Electronic Intifada at the time 

But after studying Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian prisoners, 
the UN Committee Against Torture issued an unsparing report 

The body recommended that Israel must “ensure that all instances and 
allegations of torture and ill-treatment are investigated promptly, 
effectively and impartially and that alleged perpetrators are duly 
prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished with sentences that are 
commensurate with the gravity of their acts.”

Noting that the international prohibition on torture “is absolute and 
non-derogable and that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be 
invoked by a State party to justify acts of torture,” the UN committee 
called on Israel to “completely remove necessity as a possible 
justification for torture.”

The facts and figures revealed by /Haaretz/ indicate that Israel is 
making no serious effort to investigate and punish torture by its 
personnel, let alone to end it, while it undertakes an elaborate 
international campaign to burnish its human rights image.

Notably, Israel’s efforts to carve out a legal exception for torture, 
despite the absolute international prohibition, have been cited by the 
United States 
to justify its own use of torture.

    Torture tolerance

The revelations about the scale of impunity Israeli interrogators enjoy 
come as a new survey <https://www.icrc.org/en/document/people-on-war> 
from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has found that 
world opinion is becoming more tolerant of torture.

In September, the ICRC surveyed 17,000 people in the five nations that 
are members of the UN Security Council, as well as in Switzerland and in 
10 countries “affected by war” – including Israel and Palestine (the 
occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip).

Overall, 66 percent of those surveyed said that torture is “wrong,” 
while 27 percent said that it was “part of war.”

In Israel, just 44 percent said torture is wrong and 38 percent accepted 
it as part of war.

Perhaps reflecting the fact that they have lived under Israeli military 
occupation for decades, Palestinians were the most inured to torture, 
according to the survey: just 35 percent – the lowest for any country – 
said it was wrong, while 52 percent said it is part of war.

But when it came to specific circumstances for using torture, Israelis 
are among the most enthusiastic. When asked if a captured enemy 
combatant could be tortured to obtain important military information, 
just 25 percent of Israelis answered “no” while half said this would be 

By contrast, 53 percent of Palestinians rejected torturing an enemy 
combatant, while a third said it would be acceptable. According to the 
survey, Palestinians are more opposed to torture of an enemy combatant 
than the publics in the UK, US, Nigeria and Ukraine.

The ICRC found that internationally, tolerance for torture is rising. In 
a similar survey in 1999, 66 percent rejected torture of enemy 
combatants, compared with just 48 percent today.

But it is the public in Yemen – who for two years have been subjected to 
a catastrophic Saudi-led starvation siege 
and bloody 
bombing campaign directly assisted 
and armed 
by the United States – who today express the strongest rejection of 
torture: 100 percent oppose it in any circumstances.

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