VIDEO: ISRAELI TORTURE OF PALESTINIAN CHILDREN ‘INSTITUTIONAL’

Confessions by Palestinians who have been tortured are regularly accepted by Israeli judges, rights groups say.

Methods of torture reportedly include slapping the head and forcing a handcuffed individual to squat against a wall for long periods of time

By Ben White

A recent article published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has confirmed the extent to which Shin Bet interrogators subject their prisoners to torture.

Methods include slapping the head “to hurt sensitive organs like the nose, ears, brow and lips”, forcing a handcuffed individual to squat against a wall for long periods of time, and placing the suspect bent backwards over a chair with his arms and legs cuffed.

The interrogators’ accounts echo what Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups have long documented. Prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer said that such practices “are known to be routinely and systematically used against Palestinian detainees”. Other torture methods used against Palestinians include sleep deprivation and threats against family members, an Addameer spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

READ MORE: Palestinians forever changed by Israeli torture

Rachel Stroumsa, the executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), said that her NGO was aware of hundreds of complaints and allegations along these lines.

In addition to interrogation being used to gain information about future acts, “our experience is that torture is also used to obtain confessions regarding past acts”, Stroumsa told Al Jazeera.

In its annual report last year, Amnesty International found that Israeli forces and Shin Bet personnel had “tortured and otherwise ill-treated Palestinian detainees, including children, particularly during arrest and interrogation”, with methods including “beating with batons, slapping, throttling, prolonged shackling, stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats”.

A representative of Defence for Children International – Palestine told Al Jazeera that the group’s research had shown that almost two-thirds of Palestinian children detained in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces had endured physical violence after their arrest.

Interrogators use position abuse, threats and isolation to coerce confessions from some children, and Israeli military court judges seldom exclude these confessions.

Ayed Abu Qtaish, accountability programme director at Defence for Children International – Palestine

“Palestinian children are regularly subjected to coercive and violent interrogation techniques intended to extract confessions,” said Ayed Abu Qtaish, the group’s accountability programme director. “Interrogators use position abuse, threats and isolation to coerce confessions from some children, and Israeli military court judges seldom exclude these confessions.”

Torture and ill-treatment are so rife, human rights campaigners say, that convictions of Palestinians for “security offences” are fundamentally unreliable, not least because the abuse is part of a wider lack of due process.

According to one study, as many as 91 percent of Palestinian detainees interrogated by the Shin Bet in the occupied West Bank are held incommunicado for either part or all of their interrogation. Stroumsa says this practice is “an enabling element for torture”.

In the military court system, which has a 99 percent conviction rate, Palestinians can be held for 60 days without access to a lawyer – compared with the United States, where the average length of interrogations producing false confessions is 16 hours.

“As Palestinian children continue to experience systematic ill-treatment and denial of due process rights, it becomes evident that military courts have no interest in justice,” Abu Qtaish said.

WATCH: Sick Palestinians neglected in Israeli jails (2:19)

In addition to the torture and lack of access to counsel, Palestinians are asked to sign confession sheets in Hebrew, which they often do not understand. All of this “creates a coercive environment which results in confessions made under duress”, Addameer noted.

A recent example is the case of Mohammad el-Halabi, a Gaza-based employee of World Vision who was charged by Israel with funnelling money to Hamas. Halabi, who is being tried in a Beer Sheva civilian court, has protested his innocence, saying that he was tortured by his interrogators. These claims were also made by his lawyers, who Halabi was prevented from seeing for three weeks after his arrest.

The new Haaretz report draws attention to a topic that is not often in the limelight. In November 2015, a video of the interrogation of 13-year-old Ahmad Manasra sparkedoutrage, while Israel’s appearance at the United Nations Committee Against Torture last May – which referred to “coerced evidence” being used in courts – also gained coverage.

But many other events fly under the radar. An academic study published in November 2015 in a peer-reviewed medical journal revealed dozens of cases of sexual torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel.

READ MORE: Report details ‘inhuman’ treatment in Israeli jail

Activists on the ground say that an international spotlight on Israel’s torture practices is urgently needed, not least because of the institutionalised nature of the problem.

Although an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 1999 prohibited “physical means” of interrogation, Shin Bet agents were effectively given impunity for torture and ill-treatment by the so-called “necessity defence” or ” ticking bomb” exemption.

According to anti-torture campaigners, this exemption has served as a green light for torture ever since. Since 2001, hundreds of formal complaints have been made against Shin Bet interrogators, but not a single criminal investigation has been opened.

“I think international pressure is essential, and has on some issues proven its efficacy,” Stroumsa said.

“It is also the duty of the international community to speak out on abuses, given the massive economic and political support for the State of Israel from abroad.”

(Source / 10.02.2017)

Tags: #ICC4Israel

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police




The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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