Israel accused of legalising torture

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

Israel may legalise torture under two new laws, one of which is entitled the Prohibition of Torture Law, says Amnesty International. It expresses concern that secret guidelines allowing "physical pressure" by interrogators of the Shin Bet internal security agency have opened the door to torture.

Amnesty says Palestinians held for interrogation are commonly hooded and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation while shackled in painful positions. Although a detainee was shaken to death last year, the government has allowed violent shaking of suspects to continue.

The controversy over the Prohibition of Torture Law and a second law governing the Shin Bet was sparked off when Israel began moves last year to incorporate into its own law the United Nations Convention of 1991 banning torture.

Eitan Felner, of B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, says: "Unfortunately, the law against torture will in fact be the law for torture."

A ministerial committee started work six months ago on the law banning torture, which it defined as physical or mental pain and suffering, "with the exception of pain or suffering inherent in interrogation procedures or punishment according to the laws". Mr Felner says that the exception clause would in practice ensure that most instances of torture were not against Israeli law.

Human rights organisations have called for a law to cover the actions of the Shin Bet, but fear new legislation, soon to be debated by the Knesset, may make things worse rather than better.

This is because, although the law would ban torture, secret guidelines would allow interrogators "the use of pressure". In practice it has proved impossible to draw a line between physical pressure, which is permitted, and outright torture.

Amnesty says that 6,000 Palestinians have been arrested since 4 May 1994, many in round-ups after suicide bomb attacks on Israeli targets. The government argues that physical pressure is necessary to obtain information about future attacks, but B'Tselem points out that most of the suspects who were tortured were subsequently released without any charge against them.

It is not clear if the two new laws will be delayed or speeded up by the expected announcement that the Israeli elections will be brought forward from October to May. In the meantime there are no signs that the use of physical pressure on suspects is being reduced. Abd al-Rahman Zid, a 21- year-old suspected of belonging to the Islamic militant organisation Hamas, died in Meggido prison last Thursday as a result of what a pathologist described as "nerve shock caused by severe torture". Dr Jalal al-Jabiri said he found wounds on the left side of the neck, apparently caused by chains or manacles, which led to severe internal bleeding.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea