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Conviction rate for Israeli interrogators who use torture: 0%

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Israeli actor demonstrates the "shabach" position for the human rights group B'tselem. (Photo: AP)

Israeli actor demonstrates the “shabach” position for the human rights group B’tselem. (Photo: AP)

In Israel torturing Palestinian prisoners is against the law, but since 2001 there has not been a single conviction—even when the state admits its use. Over the past 13 years Palestinian detainees have filed over 800 petitions to criminally prosecute and in 15 percent of those trials, the state admitted to the abuse.  That’s right, zero.

The issue of criminally prosecuting interrogators will be discussed in the High Court later this month. From the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel:

The State admits that ISA interrogators tortured Mr. Abu Ghosh and the medical reports support his testimony.  Some of his injuries affect him for the rest of his life. The Ministry of Justice is well aware of the details of this case yet still refuses to open a criminal investigation into this case while refraining from giving legal grounds for its refusal. More than 800 complaints against ISA torture were submitted since 2001 and in 15% of them the Sate actually acknowledges that the torture described took place. Despite this the number of criminal investigations ISA interrogators remains at ZERO. [Emphasis in original]

The Palestinian prisoner legal rights group Addameer described some of the most common types of torture:

Physical torture also includes the denial of food and starving the prisoners, which is a phenomenon we have seen as well. They also use isolation as a form of torture. Beatings, as well as slapping, kicking, shabach and shackling in different ways which cause pain in different places in the body, as well as holding the prisoners in dark, small areas such as cabinets or between narrow walls of concrete.

The “shabach” position mentioned above is when a prisoner is shackled to a chair, handcuffed, bagged and left for hours, It was discussed in a 1999 Israeli High Court decision, which deemed torture illegal and allowed for criminal prosecution against officers. The ruling allowed for one exemption, the “ticking time bomb” scenario, where upon approval from a high-ranking official some forms of physical duress are allowed. Still officers who use abuse are not immune to criminal charges. Here’s a description from the judges of the “shabach” position:

He is seated on a small and low chair, whose seat is tilted forward, towards the ground. One hand is tied behind the suspect, and placed inside the gap between the chair’s seat and back support. His second hand is tied behind the chair, against its back support. The suspect’s head is covered by an opaque sack, falling down to his shoulders. Powerfully loud music is played in the room.

Last year the Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat died in Israeli prison after suffering from a heart attacked that was caused from “extreme torture” during interrogation. The Palestinian Prisoners Club also reports 95% of prisoners experience physical and psychological torture. Yet until today, officers who use torture continue to do so with impunity.


Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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13 Responses

    • Antidote
      February 22, 2014, 8:16 am

      “Shared values…”


      And not just, as Sullivan suggests, since Cheney and Rumsfeld:

      “On July 4, 1902 (as if on cue from John Philip Sousa), Roosevelt declared victory in the Philippines. Remaining insurgents would be politically downgraded to “brigands.” Although the United States ruled over the Philippines for the next four decades, the violence was now, in some sense, a problem in someone else’s country. Activists in the United States continued to pursue witnesses and urge renewed Senate investigation, but with little success; in February, 1903, Lodge’s Republican-controlled committee voted to end its inquiry into the allegations of torture. The public became inured to what had, only months earlier, been alarming revelations. As early as April 16, 1902, the New York World described the “American Public” sitting down to eat its breakfast with a newspaper full of Philippine atrocities:

      It sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the “water cure” to rebels; of how water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of the patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting; of how our soldiers then jump on the distended bodies to force the water out quickly so that the “treatment” can begin all over again. The American Public takes another sip of its coffee and remarks, “How very unpleasant!”

      “But where is that vast national outburst of astounded horror which an old-fashioned America would have predicted at the reading of such news?” the World asked. “Is it lost somewhere in the 8,000 miles that divide us from the scenes of these abominations? Is it led astray by the darker skins of the alien race among which these abominations are perpetrated? Or is it rotted away by that inevitable demoralization which the wrong-doing of a great nation must inflict on the consciences of the least of its citizens?”

      Responding to the verdict in the Glenn court-martial, Judge Advocate General Davis had suggested that the question it implicitly posed—how much was global power worth in other people’s pain?—was one no moral nation could legitimately ask. As the investigation of the water cure ended and the memory of faraway torture faded, Americans answered it with their silence. ”

      Such collective amnesia is also a “shared value”. Torture, censorship and mass murder is un-Jewish and unique to Zionism?

      Alexander Solzhenitsyn “200 Years Together”, chapter 24: Breaking away from the Bolshevism

      Sever Plocker on “Stalin’s Jews”,7340,L-3342999,00.html

  1. LanceThruster
    February 20, 2014, 12:10 pm

    Quite a feather in the Israeli cap. Not many programs are 100% effective but they’re able to torture at will without crossing that legal fine line it seems.

  2. NickJOCW
    February 20, 2014, 2:29 pm

    Allison, Thank you for this. I feel we are confronting another well-pool of evil. I was 8 years old when I watched Pathe News images from the opening up of Dachau and Buchenwald. Here I am now with, give or take a few, the same number of years left before before I’m drawn back whence I came, and I find myself facing the same numbing sense of shocked disbelief; all the myriad things that have happened, and Mankind appears just the same.

  3. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    February 20, 2014, 2:58 pm

    Does anyone know how decisions are made concerning the circumstances under which torture is to be used? Presumably there are internal guidelines of some sort, perhaps disseminated only by word of mouth but approved by relevant officials and ministers, including the prime minister. I mean guidelines different from the High Court ruling of 1999, as torture is obviously not used solely in “ticking bomb” cases, but then under Netanyahu the executive has not recognized judicial decisions as binding. I find it hard to believe that individual interrogators decide these things completely on their own.

    Of course, even the clearest orders from above would not relieve torturers of legal and moral responsibility, but the responsibility of those who issue the orders or guidelines is even greater.

    • Allison Deger
      Allison Deger
      February 20, 2014, 4:59 pm

      @Stephen, the 99′ High Court ruling states the officer needs approval from the security services to use physical abuse, and they can only receive it in a scenario where there is a clear and imminent threat, like a bomb is planted and the officers want to know where. Moreover, in the case of the plaintiffs in the 99′ decision, nearly all of them did carry out violent attacks, but there was no persistent threat. Still torture was used. The jurists concluded that despite their extreme crimes, it was unacceptable to use torture. And so the law actually is quite progressive. The ruling even references international law (very common in Israeli courts, even with all the brewhaha against international law in the public sphere). It’s just too bad the law has not been followed.

      One in four Palestinian men have been to, or are in prison. If 95% have been tortured, that has a huge effect on the entire population.

      • puppies
        February 20, 2014, 5:08 pm

        @Alison – “And so the law actually is quite progressive”. Surprising from you. No, it’s barbarian and not fit for cavemen.
        As you say, “ruling states the officer needs approval from the security services to use physical abuse, and they can only receive it in a scenario where there is a clear and imminent threat…” so Zionist law fully approves torture, no matter the curlicues. That is reason enough to ask for the disappearance of that state.

      • just
        February 20, 2014, 7:58 pm

        “ticking time bomb”…………everything/anything is perceived this way by the zionists. Even BDS!

        everything is excused– all sadism is a- ok!

        nobody in Israel that is Jewish is punished for their unbearable cruelty toward the Palestinians.

  4. just
    February 20, 2014, 7:52 pm

    Sounds like we learned our special tactics at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and all those other black sites from our very bestest friends in Israel.

    Maybe that’s why we cherish that oh, so special friendship while the rest of the world looks upon us and them with disgust.

    Such beacons of democracy and morality!/NOT. We follow and lead one another down a path of inhumanity and barbarism.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      February 20, 2014, 8:06 pm

      “Sounds like we learned our special tactics at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and all those other black sites from our very bestest friends in Israel.”

      And don’t forget Jack Bauer!

  5. eljay
    February 20, 2014, 8:27 pm

    The only person who should ever be tortured is the person who advocates torture, and only because he seems to think it’s a good idea.

    He should be required to undergo six hard months worth of whatever form of torture it is that he advocates, and then he should be required to report on his experience…if he is in any condition to do so.

    No-one else should ever undergo torture. No-one. Ever.

    • ritzl
      February 20, 2014, 11:00 pm

      That could be dismissed as perfect world kind of stuff, if it wasn’t so nearly within reach. Completely doable.

      Great comment, eljay.

  6. amigo
    February 20, 2014, 9:08 pm

    The new version of Judaism!!!!.

    Torture , murder, land theft, oppression, abuse,apartheid,targeted killings,racism,ethnic cleansing,collective punishment,child torture,destruction of houses,skunk gas,white phosphorous,sonic booms,water theft and a myriad of war crimes committed by the so called light unto the nations.

    Such a successful project.

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