Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir admitted that measures that may amount to the use of torture are being used against alleged members of the Nukhba commando unit of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
The video shows Ben-Gvir with Katy Perry, the head of the Israel Prison Service, visiting the prison wings where the alleged Nukhba detainees are being held:Ben-Gvir said that in accordance with his orders, eight detainees are shackled in a dark cell with iron beds and a hole in the floor for a toilet while “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem, is constantly played.
The national anthem can be heard playing at a loud volume in the video.
Ben-Gvir added that he hoped that Israel’s cabinet moves forward with a discussion of his proposed death penalty law for “terrorists.” That proposal has passed a “preliminary reading” in Israel’s parliament, he said, “and we can apply it to these vile murderers.”As pointed out by Jamil Dakwar, the head of the ACLU’s human rights unit, Israel suspended visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross “to all places of detention and has so far declined to allow journalists to tour the detention facility where members of Hamas’ elite Nukhba force are being held.”
A 30 October letter from the ICRC to Perry states that the humanitarian group “understands that temporary regulations were implemented in all detention facilities thereby suspending the ICRC’s access to persons protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.”
The ICRC adds in its letter that Israel is obliged “to ensure a full and unconditional access to all facilities where protected persons are detained” and urgently requests that it be granted “prompt and unimpeded access.”
Perry refused the ICRC’s request for access.
A video released by the Israel Prison Service last week shows blindfolded detainees on their knees and with their feet and hands cuffed behind their back and being forced to walk in what appears to be a stress position.
The video appears to show detainees in physical distress.The Israeli outlet Ynet reported on 12 November that several hundred Palestinians from Gaza have been detained since 7 October.
That number may have increased as Palestinians fleeing from the northern Gaza Strip have witnessed people being detained, sometimes in humiliating conditions in which Israeli soldiers have forced the detainee to remove all of his or her clothing.
Perry said that since 7 October, Palestinian “security prisoners” are being subjected to a “new and more restrictive policy.”
She said that dozens of alleged Nukhba force detainees are being “held four to eight in a cell, locked there all day. They are defined as the most dangerous detainees” in the prison system.
“At this stage, they are isolated and receive only basic conditions,” Perry added.
An unnamed prison official told Ynet that the authorities “are studying them and their capabilities,” adding that “we provided specific training for the wardens and officers who lead and work with the detainees … they arrive at [Israel Prison Service] facilities after being interrogated by various security agencies.”
The prison official’s comments strongly suggest that Palestinians suspected of affiliation with the Nukhba force are being systematically tortured.
Public defender won’t represent 7 October detainees
Meanwhile, the public defender’s office of Israel’s justice ministry said that its lawyers would not defend Palestinians suspected of participating in the 7 October attacks, “arguing that the existing legal process for terrorist cases was ill-suited to this situation,” The New York Times reported.
The publication added that “it was a significant declaration for an agency created to defend society’s most disfavored, including indigent criminal defendants and people accused of terrorism.”
Palestinians accused of crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under military occupation since 1967, are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, where the conviction rate is nearly 100 percent.
“The same crimes committed within Israel are prosecuted in civilian criminal courts under general law, where the defendants have a right to appointed counsel,” according to The New York Times.
The paper said there was a debate in Israel whether cases related to the 7 October attacks “necessitate the creation of an alternative process” such as a special military tribunal.
The New York Times pointed to the highly controversial US trials at Guantanamo Bay – where defendants are denied lack of due process and where evidence extracted under torture is treated as admissable – as an example of such an alternative.
West Bank detainees humiliated for “war propaganda”
The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said on Tuesday that it has “documented cases of torture, humiliating abuse and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.”
The group added that “many of the detainees are subjected to severe beatings, filmed without any clothes on, blindfolded, handcuffed and forced to perform various acts against their will under the threat of torture.”
The group published a video showing blindfolded detainees in the West Bank being forced to listen to Israel’s national anthem while being humiliated and physically abused by their captors.
Edy Cohen, a prominent Israeli propagandist, shared the video on Twitter, now known as X, saying that “our soldiers discipline the human animals so that they stand up in respect while the Zionist national anthem plays.”
Cohen was echoing the rhetoric used by Israeli leaders that human rights experts have said demonstrates Israel’s genocidal intent in Gaza.Soldiers have also filmed themselves marching detainees who are naked and blindfolded to a shuttle bus while shouting insults at them: The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor stated that the videos are aimed at deliberately degrading and humiliating Palestinians “for war propaganda.”
On Tuesday, the group said that more than 2,600 Palestinians in the West Bank have been detained since 7 October, many of them held without charge or trial under indefinitely renewable administrative detention orders.
The group added that “Israeli authorities have failed to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of at least five detainees in Israeli prisons since 7 October.”
As of 1 November, Israel was holding more than 6,800 Palestinian prisoners.
Amnesty International has also pointed to Israel’s use of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. These measures include “severe beatings and humiliation of detainees, including by forcing them to keep their heads down, to kneel on the floor during inmate count, and to sing Israeli songs,” Amnesty said.
Emergency orders extended through the end of November give Ben-Gvir “virtually unrestricted authority to keep Palestinian detainees isolated from the outside world” and to take punitive measures against them, “such as prolonged power and water outages,” the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor added.
Israel’s “Unlawful Combatants Law” allows for the indefinite detention of Palestinians from Gaza without charge or trial.
Thousands of Palestinians from Gaza who had work permits in Israel and the West Bank were detained by Israel after 7 October, some held for several weeks before being released to Gaza, while the fates of others “remain unknown,” the Euro-Med Human Human Rights Monitor said.
The group called for an international inquiry into Israel’s torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners.
Torture against Palestinians is widespread in Israel’s interrogation rooms and detention centers.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel says that since 2001, more than 1,400 complaints of torture have been submitted to Israel’s justice ministry.
Criminal investigations were opened following only three of those complaints, none resulting in indictments.