Report: Israel tortures 850 Palestinians a year
Tuesday May 19, 1998
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel tortures at least 850 Palestinian detainees a year, a leading Israeli human rights group said Tuesday ahead of a court hearing on petitions to ban violent interrogations.
The B'Tselem group, the Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories, presented estimates at a news conference that Israel's General Security Service interrogates between 1,000 and 1,500 Palestinians a year.
"Some 85 percent of them -- at least 850 persons a year -- are subjected to methods which constitute torture," it said in a report on GSS interrogation. Its estimates were based on official sources, human rights organizations and attorneys.
Urging Israel to come out of the "dark ages," the B'Tselem group demonstrated the physical pressure which Israeli authorities admit is used against suspected guerrillas.
The interrogation methods, detailed in court documents and in testimony by Palestinian detainees, include placing hoods and shackles on prisoners, putting them in painful positions, depriving them of sleep and sometimes shaking them violently.
In 1987, an official commission chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau allowed the GSS, also known as the Shin Bet, to apply "moderate physical pressure" to suspects under certain circumstances.
International human rights groups have long condemned the decision, saying it gave the go-ahead for state-sanctioned torture.
Nine Israeli Supreme Court justices are to hear Wednesday six petitions, filed by Israeli human rights groups and Palestinians undergoing Shin Bet questioning, to ban violent interrogation.
In an affidavit made public Monday, Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon said the shaking of suspects and other physical pressure were "absolutely essential in the struggle to eradicate terrorism" and "thwart terrorist attacks."
"It will be up to the court to decide whether Israel will join other democratic nations and fight terrorism without resorting to inhumane methods of interrogation," said Yuval Ginbar,
author of the B'Tselem report.