Torture in Israeli prisons is widespread and systematic
A joint report by Israeli human rights organisations B’Tselem and HaMoked titled, Backed by the System: Abuse and Torture at the Shikma Interrogation Facility, has provided invaluable insights into the systematic intention and implementation of various forms of torture used against Palestinian prisoners.
Funded by the European Union, the report details conditions and interrogations of Palestinian detainees, which violate both international law and the 1999 ruling on torture by the Israeli High Court of Justice.
However, as befits the colonial system, the latter included a clause which protected the torturers through impunity.
While holding commonly used torture tactics as violating international law and classified as “prohibited interrogation methods”, the IHCJ explicitly stated that interrogators indulging in outlawed practices “can avoid criminal responsibility if it is subsequently found that they acted in the proper circumstances.”
The other legal loophole was the avoidance of explicitly describing such interrogation practices as torture, thus ensuring legal complicity which sanctioned Israel’s colonial violence, state institutions and participants.
|The IHCJ explicitly stated that interrogators indulging in outlawed practices 'can avoid criminal responsibility if it is subsequently found that they acted in the proper circumstances'|
Torture at the Shikma Interrogation Facility
Testimony from 116 Palestinian prisoners interrogated at Shikma between August 2013 and March 2014 has revealed widespread torture practices, considered routine practice in Israeli jails.
Apart from humiliating behaviour during the arrest, physical violence en route to Shikma was also recorded.
Officers also posed for photos after Palestinian detainees were subjected to severe physical violence at the facility – a grim reminder of photos taken by US soldiers with tortured detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, which sparked international outrage.
For Palestinians, however, evidence is largely concealed owing to international complicity in defending Israel’s right to exist and, in turn, protecting every aspect of colonial ramifications, including torture practices.
Apart from being shackled in stress positions during interrogation, detainees were also subjected to extreme temperatures, threats against ill-family members, threats of raping female members of the family, home demolitions and ominous threats of being handed over to PA security forces.
Some detainees were also asked to become collaborators, with promises of economic prosperity; others were handed over to informers and later forced to sign confessions regarding their conversations.
One third of the Palestinian detainees' interviews for this report stated they had been tortured by PA security services prior to their transfer to Shikma.
While in PA custody, detainees reported they were subjected to similar forms of torture and coercion, including sexual assault.
Some added that material obtained during interrogation by PA security forces was shown to them during their interrogation at Shikma.
|While in PA custody, detainees reported they were subjected to similar forms of torture and coercion, including sexual assault|
The report also explicitly states that despite detainee complaints regarding the coercive interrogation methods, there has been no prosecution of Israeli officers indulging in torture against Palestinian prisoners.
From 2001 to 2015 there have been at least 950 complaints regarding interrogation brutality, yet legal loopholes continue to protect Israeli officers from prosecution.
Israeli contempt and international complicity
Towards the end of the document, a letter by the Israeli Ministry of Justice is included, which refutes the findings of the reports and claims that it offers “a description of only several isolated incidents”, thus rendering any proper investigation by authorities impossible.
With moral degradation being at the helm of any perfunctory statement issued by Israeli state institutions, it is hardly surprising that contempt for the report’s findings is embedded within the Justice Ministry’s statement.
|With moral degradation being at the helm of any perfunctory statement issued by Israeli state institutions, it is hardly surprising that contempt for the report’s findings is embedded within the Justice Ministry’s statement|
The statement refers to “isolated incidents” without any reference to these alleged isolated incidents forming part not only of Shikma’s interrogation practices, but those of other Israeli prisons.
The torture practices referred to in the report have been documented elsewhere, rendering such attitude part of the effort in collective violence against Palestinians.
Additional outrage on behalf of Israel is also targeted against the BDS movement, which has relentlessly exposed the complicity between security companies and Israeli violence and surveillance tactics in prisons.
G4S, which is notoriously known for its contracts with the Israeli Prison Service, has been targeted by the movement, leading to a statement that the company will not renew its contracts after 2017.
However, so far there has been no concrete evidence to support such a statement.
It should be noted that besides collaborating with Israel in the torture of Palestinian detainees, G4S also serves the United Nations, providing security for its staff.
When looking at the wider framework, it is clear that Palestinian anti-colonial struggle is not only an internal process, but one that must be acknowledged at an international level, due to the intricate complicity involved in prolonging such a cruel process.
|It is clear that Palestinian anti-colonial struggle is not only an internal process, but one that must be acknowledged at an international level, due to the intricate complicity involved in prolonging such a cruel process|
The other additional humiliation would be the actual funding of the report by the EU – an entity which, despite symbolic gestures towards Palestinians, has been decidedly in favour of Israel’s continuous colonial expansion and violence.
Once again, the restrictions placed upon Palestinians have been such that relevant information disclosed in this report will ultimately be confined to a mere resource, rather than serving as the basis for any concrete change, or support, for Palestinians enduring the ramifications of collective punishment.
The answer is clear – the EU will fund awareness projects, given that such reports will not deter the organisation from consolidating its ties with the colonial monstrosity it continues to support.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.