EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: MDE 15/12/94
This is a limited action. Please restrict appeals to 25 per Section.
UA 427/94 Fear of torture 2 December 1994
ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES Over 400 Palestinians
The use of "increased physical pressure" during the interrogation of suspected
members of the Islamic opposition group Hamas is reported to have been sanctioned
by the Israeli authorities, raising fears for the safety of over 400 Palestinians
taken into custody in the West Bank in recent weeks.
According to reports, the General Security Service (GSS) has claimed that some
of those detained were planning further suicide attacks against Israeli civilian
targets such as those carried out in April and October which led to the death
of at least 35 people. Amnesty International has condemned such arbitrary
attacks against civilians and has called on Hamas to respect basic principles
of humanitarian law and to refrain from any such attacks.
Following reports that the Israeli ministerial committee which oversees the
operations of the GSS has authorized the use of "increased physical pressure",
Amnesty International fears that some or all of the 400 Palestinians may be
at risk of torture during interrogation. 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. No justification may be used to derogate from a
State Party's obligations under these treaties.
Since 1987, interrogations by the GSS have been regulated by secret guidelines,
established by a Commission of Inquiry into GSS interrogation methods, headed
by Justice Moshe Landau. These guidelines allow the use of "moderate physical
pressure". Amnesty International has long had serious concerns about
interrogation practices by the GSS, believing that either the guidelines permit
the use of torture or ill-treatment, or that interrogators have been extensively
violating those guidelines with impunity.
On 19 October 1994, following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the
death of 22 people in a bomb attack, both claimed by Hamas, Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin called for legislation permitting harsher interrogation of
suspects, reportedly stating that "if the security services had acted according
to the guidelines of the Landau Report in interrogating Hamas people, they
would not have found out the location of the kidnappers of Nachshon Waxman".
On 20 October, the Minister of Justice, David Liba'i, stated that there was
no need to change the guidelines, as there was already a specific exception
to the Landau Commission guidelines, enabling investigators to act
"efficiently" in cases such as a "ticking time bomb". On 13 November, the
Minister of Justice denied reports that the Landau Commission guidelines would
be changed, but said that a decision had been taken "to help strengthen the
forces to fight the wave of terror of Hamas and Islamic Jihad".
Amnesty International has written to Prime Minister Rabin expressing concern
at these statements which appear to imply that harsher interrogation methods
are to be used against Palestinian detainees, particularly those suspected