[Ppnews] Children not exempt from widespread torture in Israeli detention
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 6 17:17:43 EDT 2011
Children not exempt from widespread torture in Israeli detention
6 July 2011
Sleep-deprived and suffering from a broken leg,
16-year-old Muhammad Halabiyeh endured days of
torture at the hands of Israeli soldiers and
police officers, who punched him repeatedly in
the face and abdomen, shoved needles into his
hand and leg and threatened the Palestinian teenager with sexual abuse.
Arrested near his home in the East Jerusalem
neighborhood of Abu Dis in February 2010,
Halabiyeh confessed after days of abuse and
torture to the charge that he threw a Molotov
cocktail at an Israeli army base. More than one
year after his arrest, which was spent in Israeli
custody, Halabiyeh was found guilty in an Israeli military court.
His conviction came despite the fact that the
Israeli military judge in his case stated that
she believed the teenager was tortured. However,
the judge argued that there was no evidence that
his confession was the direct result of the
torture he endured. Halabiyehs sentencing
hearing has now been postponed until 19 July.
[The judge] said theres no direct connection
that he confessed later on in the police station
because of this torture,
Francis, the director of
the Prisoners Support and Human Rights
Association, told The Electronic Intifada.
Addameer represented Halabiyeh in his trial at the Ofer military court.
She didnt believe that he was threatened the
whole way [to the police station]. He said in the
court that he was [afraid of more torture], but
she decided not to give much weight [to this], Francis added.
Since Israel began occupying the Gaza Strip and
the West Bank including East Jerusalem in 1967,
it is estimated that approximately 700,000
Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This
amounts to approximately 20 percent of the total
Palestinian population, and 40 percent of the
male Palestinian population, in the occupied
Palestinian territories, according to Addameer.
Today, more than 5,600 Palestinian prisoners
remain in Israeli jails, and more than 1,500
Israeli military orders continue to govern all
aspects of life in the West Bank. In fact, the
Israeli military courts system controls the
trial, sentencing and imprisonment of Palestinian
detainees. Notably, the principal court officials
including the prosecutor and the judge are
Israeli army officers which means that the
Israeli occupation army is both accuser and judge
of Palestinians living under its control.
Moreover, this system is reserved only for
living in the West Bank are subject to Israeli civil law and civil courts.
According to a 2007 report issued by Israeli
human rights group
Din, of 9,123 cases concluded in the [Israeli]
military courts in the year 2006, only in 23
cases - which constitute 0.29 percent of the
rulings - was the defendant found to be entirely not guilty.
While no specific figures are available, Francis
explained that the use of torture against
Palestinian detainees and prisoners is widespread
and that often, Israeli soldiers use torture
during an arrest - before the detainees are
brought into the interrogation center - as a way
to intimidate the detainees and coerce confessions from them later on.
Especially in the case of juveniles, its
threatening them before even coming to the
interrogation so it will make it easier to
collect their confessions. They will be really
terrified. They humiliate them. They start to
beat them and kick them and abuse them all the
way to the detention center. It affects [the
detainees] confidence and the way they will
treat the whole process of the interrogation later on, Francis said.
Sleep deprivation, threats of sexual abuse and
physical violence, prolonged periods spent in
complete isolation, and the arrests of family
members are some of the methods used to coerce
confessions from Palestinian detainees, Francis
explained. While most of the torture the Israeli
authorities use is psychological in nature, she
added that physical torture does take place as well.
In some cases, they use electric shock. In some
other cases, they close [their] eyes and tie
[them] to the chair. They push back [their] head
and then they bring a cup of water and they start
to drop water on [their] face, giving a feeling
like [they] cant breathe, she said. [Torture
is] very common. Its very common.
Israels ticking time bomb loophole
The UN Convention Against Torture defines torture
as any act by which severe pain or suffering,
whether physical or mental, is intentionally
inflicted on a person for purposes that include
obtaining information or a confession, punishing
the detainee or a third person for something, and
for the purpose of intimidation or coercion, among others.
Article 2 of the Convention states that a state
must take the necessary measures to ensure that
torture does not occur in any territory under its
controls, and that the use of torture may not be
justified under any circumstances, whether a
state of war or a threat or war, internal
political instability or any other public emergency.
Further, Article 12 states that, each State
Party shall ensure that its competent authorities
proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation,
wherever there is reasonable ground to believe
that an act of torture has been committed in any
territory under its jurisdiction.
According to the Israeli human rights group
while more than seven hundred complaints alleging
abuse of detainees by Israeli General Security
Services (GSS) agents have been reported from
2001 to 2009, the State Attorneys Office did
not order a criminal investigation into any of
to investigate alleged cases of ill-treatment and torture).
The GSS, also known as the
Bet or Shabak, according to its Hebrew acronym,
conducts interrogations of Palestinian detainees.
In 1987, the
Commission an Israeli governmental commission
charged with examining the interrogation methods
used by the GSS found that the continued use of
physical force in interrogations was acceptable.
Twelve years later, in 1999, the
high court finally prohibited torture of any kind
in Israel, and outlawed certain interrogation
techniques. In ticking time bomb situations,
however, the court found that the use of physical force could be justified.
This caveat, otherwise known as the necessity
defense, has been used to justify the use of
physical force and torture by Israeli
interrogators since the high courts ruling. The
GSS argues that its agents should be exempt from
criminal prosecution during these types of
situations due to Article 34K of Israels Penal
Code, which states that no person shall bear
criminal responsibility for an act that was
immediately necessary in order to save his own or
another persons life, freedom, bodily welfare or
property from a real danger of severe injury, due
to the conditions prevalent when the act was
committed, there being no alternative but to commit the act.
Still, while it should only be employed in
extreme cases, human rights groups have
criticized the ticking time bomb defense for
its widespread and inappropriate use.
In the few cases in which the Complaints
Inspector found that [GSS] agents abused an
interrogee, the State Attorneys Office decided
to close the file without ordering a criminal
investigation, this on the tendentious grounds
that the high court established, whereby in
ticking bomb cases the [GSS] interrogator may
escape criminal responsibility under the
necessity defense, the BTselem report found.
According to a 2009 report released by the
Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
Denied: The Absence of Investigation and
Punishment of Torture in Israel, the State of
Israel is not meeting its responsibilities under
international law since it fails to hold
accountable those responsible for torture or abuse.
The mechanism for examining complaints does not
exist in a vacuum. It is maintained alongside the
systemic torture and abuse of Palestinian
detainees, and alongside the silence, if not the
actual support, of the legal system, the report states.
We believe that the State of Israel must meet
standards of human dignity, justice, and equality
of law and must respect its obligations under
international law. A criminal investigation, with
the attendant criminal and public ramifications,
conveys a strong and clear message that all forms
of torture and abuse are absolutely prohibited
since they fatally injure human dignity and the
human person. This is a message that must not be ambiguous, the report adds.
Ending Israeli impunity
According to Addameers Sahar Francis,
Palestinian detainees are hesitant to report
instances of torture due to the fact that these
claims are rarely investigated and virtually
never result in criminal convictions or justice,
and because they will be held in Israeli military
detention while their claim is investigated.
Its very hard to say that you can reach justice
in this [Israeli military court] system. And the
case of Muhammad Halabiyeh is a very good example
to see how the court always believes the soldiers
and the police officers who collect the
confessions and dont trust what the detainees
have to say, Francis told The Electronic Intifada.
Most of the cases, even if you exhaust the whole
procedures, wouldnt end up in favor of the
detainees, she added. We can say that theres
more than 95 percent of conviction at the end,
whether its through plea bargains or exhausting
the system. Most of the prisoners prefer plea
bargains because they dont trust the system. Why
waste the time and put all these efforts?
Francis said that the issue of torture of
Palestinians convicted in Israeli military courts
is closely connected to the Israeli occupation,
and can therefore only be solved by ending the Israeli occupation altogether.
The solution for this is ending the occupation,
putting an end to the occupation, which means
Israel is not allowed to arrest Palestinians and
prosecute them in their military courts. And they
are then supposed to release all the Palestinian
political prisoners from the Israeli prisons,
where they are held illegally, she said.
Whats very important is to put an end to this
impunity when it comes to torture of Palestinian
political prisoners. This is a big demand of the
Palestinian human rights NGOs [nongovernmental
organizations], [and] the international community
should find a way to put an end to the Israeli
immunity in torture and not just in torture but
all of the other violations of international law.
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