EXTERNAL AI Index: MDE 15/43/95
UA 276/95 Fear of torture 21 December 1995
ISRAEL/OCCUPIED TERRITORIES15 Palestinians
Amnesty International fears that 15 Palestinians arrested on or around 20
December 1995 are at risk of being tortured during interrogation by the General
Security Service (GSS).
A military spokesman said that the 15 people, reportedly members of the Islamic
opposition group Hamas, were arrested near the northern West Bank town of
Tulkarim on suspicion of planning attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Amnesty International has previously condemned arbitrary and deliberate
killings of civilians and has called on Hamas to respect basic principles of
humanitarian law and to refrain from any such attacks.
Amnesty International has long been concerned about the systematic use of
torture during interrogation of Palestinians, particularly those suspected
of security offences, by the GSS. The organization has repeatedly highlighted
the use of hooding, prolonged standing or sitting in painful positions, sleep
deprivation and confinement in closet-shaped rooms amongst other torture
methods. On 25 April 'Abd al-Samed Harizat, a suspected Hamas supporter, died
in hospital three days after he had been arrested. Pathologists who performed
a post-mortem examination of the victim reported that he had died from having
been shaken violently, a method of torture reported by many detainees. Since
then, the Israeli government has officially announced that violent shaking
has been used against suspected members of Hamas believed to be planning attacks
Since 1987, interrogations by the GSS have been regulated by secret guidelines,
which allow "a moderate measure of physical pressure". Since October 1994,
after a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, these guidelines were amended by a
ministerial committee to allow increased physical pressure to be applied to
those under interrogation. Amnesty International considers that Israeli
interrogation guidelines allow the use of torture and ill-treatment to take
place within the law.
The Israeli government has responded to Amnesty International's concerns by
saying that all complaints received are investigated by a special department
in the Ministry of Justice under direct supervision of the State Attorney.
The Ministry of Justice states in a letter dated July 16 1995 that: "Where
it is found that a deviation from the guidelines has occurred, criminal or
disciplinary action is taken against those found responsible." However, this
does not answer Amnesty International's concern that the guidelines themselves
allow the use of torture and ill-treatment (such as shaking). In order to
address fully the concerns of Amnesty International, the Israeli government
must review the guidelines themselves.
The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Article 7 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Israel has ratified, forbids
unconditionally the use of any form of torture, or ill-treatment. Under these
treaties no justification may be used to derogate from a State Party's
obligations in this respect.