Severe Methods of Torture Still Practiced in Israel Despite 1999 High Court Ruling Outlawing Torture in Interrogation
The information in this article is based on a sworn affidavit taken from Rasem Inad Ahmad Obeidat, 48, from Jabal-Mukaber, East Jerusalem by Adv. Butheina Duqmaq of the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners and from recent testimony. Mr. Obeidat has been arrested by Israel five times: in May 1978, he was detained for 3 months; in May 1982, he spent 102 days in detention - under interrogation the entire time - and was then released without charge; on 11 December 1985, he was arrested, interrogated and was sentenced to prison for 2 years for being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); on 30 March 2001, he was arrested and interrogated for 54 days in the Russian Compound detention center in Jerusalem. During this period of detention, he was subjected to severe physical and psychological pain and suffering and was imprisoned until January 2003, again for membership in the PFLP. On 7 June 2005, he was again arrested and was subjected largely! to psychological pressure during his interrogation concerning his participation in the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections. According to Mr. Obeidat: “By the time of my last arrest, I had learned not to sign anything and I did not.” He was released 4 months later, in September 2006.
During our interview with Mr. Obeidat, he stated that the harshest treatment he experienced was during his interrogation in 2001 - two years after the Israeli High Court decision in the case The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel vs. The Government of Israel, et al., and several months after the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada. According to his testimony, while he was interrogated in the Russian Compound detention center (Moskobiyya), he was subjected to non-stop beatings all over his body, as well as to shabeh, mainly the “frog position.” The High Court decision noted that even before its ruling in 1999, the State claimed that it had ceased using the “frog crouch” interrogation method, consisting of consecutive, periodical crouches on the tips of one’s toes, each lasting for several minute intervals. Apparently that was not the case. Regardless, according to the Court this “is a prohibited investigation method. It is degrading and infringes an individual’s human di! gnity.”
According to Mr. Obeidat, his interrogation continued with him being forced to sit on a small chair with his hands and legs cuffed tightly to the legs of the chair, and his neck forced backwards. He eventually lost consciousness, but his interrogators poured water on his face to revive him. Although a sack was not placed on his head and loud music was not played, this method of interrogation is quite similar to that outlawed by the High Court’s decision, which found that “there is no justification for handcuffing the suspect’s hands with especially small handcuffs” and ruled that “cuffing that causes pain is prohibited.” While the court accepted the State’s argument that seating a detainee is inherent to the investigation, it ruled that seating him in a very low chair, tilted forward, for long hours “is not authorized.” Furthermore, seating a suspect in a manner that applies pressure and causes pain to his back is “not reasonable. It infringes the suspect’s dignity, his b! odily integrity and his basic rights in an excessive manner.”
Mr. Obeidat was deprived of sleep for 5 days and was interrogated through several interrogators’ shifts. His hands were tied and placed on the floor, whereupon the interrogators took turns jumping on his hands until they were bruised and swollen and became numb.
In addition, Mr. Obeidat was subjected to severe shaking. He testifies that the interrogators held his shoulders and violently shook them forward and backward very quickly. He again lost consciousness. According to the High Court decision in 1999, “Clearly, shaking is a prohibited method. It harms the suspect’s body. It violates his dignity. It is a violent method which can not form part of a legal investigation.”
After 32 days of interrogation, Mr. Obeidat told us he was taken to the Kishon detention center (Jalameh) near Haifa, and was placed in a cell with collaborators (asafir) for 12 days. The collaborators put him under severe psychological pressure, including threats of death; as a result, Mr. Obeidat rarely allowed himself to fall asleep. He was then returned to the Russian Compound where, according to Mr. Obeidat, his interrogation resumed. One of the interrogators, nick-named “Abu Sharif”, intimidated him by telling him that another Palestinian prisoner, Ibrahim al-Ra’i had stayed in that same cell for 130 days before he was killed in al-Ramleh prison. “Abu Sharif” also said that Huraizat, yet another Palestinian prisoner, who had been kept in that same cell had died of torture and that Mr. Obeidat would face the same fate. During this period, Mr. Obeidat spent over 75 days in solitary confinement.
As a result of his treatment, which was clearly illegal both under international law and the law of the State of Israel, Mr. Obeidat still suffers severe back pain and, according to a letter written by Dr. Ahmad Maslamani of the Health Work Committees in Al-Bireh, he has “symptoms that go along with the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder.” Mr. Obeidat also suffers from diabetes. He is considering filing a complaint for assistance to victims of torture with the OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture) in Switzerland.