Israel admits torture

22nd February 2000
actor An actor demonstrates a technique called the banana

An official Israeli report has acknowledged for the first time that the Israeli security service tortured detainees during the Palestinian uprising, the Intifada, between 1988 and 1992.

The report, written five years ago but kept secret until now, said the leadership of the security service Shin Bet knew about the torture but did nothing to stop it.

The report did not detail the torture methods used, but human rights organisations say some detainees died or were left paralysed.

Most of the violations were not caused by lack of knowledge of the line between what was permitted and what was forbidden, but were committed knowingly
Israeli torture report

Security agents were also accused of lying to the courts about their actions.

The release of the report in Israel was authorised by a parliamentary committee after the Supreme Court recommended it no longer be kept secret.

The Israeli Government has, in the past, denied that it used any interrogation methods that amounted to torture.

Israel 'broke own rules'

But the report says the Shin Bet routinely went beyond the "moderate physical pressure" authorised by a 1987 commission headed by then-Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau.

Human rights groups in Israel maintain that the practices authorised by the Landau commission - keeping prisoners in excruciatingly uncomfortable postures, covering their heads with filthy and malodorous sacks and depriving them of sleep - amount to torture.
hood Human rights groups say many authorised techniques amount to torture
The report, however, written by former State Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat, says the agents systematically overstepped even these limits, especially at the interrogation facility in the Gaza Strip.

"Most of the violations were not caused by lack of knowledge of the line between what was permitted and what was forbidden, but were committed knowingly," the report said.

"At the Gaza facility, veteran and even senior investigators committed very grave and systematic violations."

The report accuses the entire leadership of the Shin Bet of knowing what was going on but doing nothing to stop it. It says that the agents lied about their activities in court, to other investigating agencies and in their reports to superiors.

"The assurances of senior Shin Bet officials to the Landau Commission that truth-telling inside the organisation is enforced ... were found to have no basis in reality," it noted.

'Holy work'

The report acknowledged that the security issues faced by the agents at the time were unprecedented, and that they succeeded in preventing a number of guerilla attacks.

The report describes this activity as "holy work" but criticises the methods used and recommends measures to ensure that they be stopped.

Two years after the report was written, the Supreme Court banned the use of physical force in interrogations, even within the limits set by the Landau Commission.

The Ben-Porat report was submitted to an intelligence subcommittee of the Parliamentary State Audit Committee in 1997, but the subcommittee decided to keep it under wraps. It was made public on Wednesday in response to a recommendation by the Supreme Court.

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