Israel’s use of “Orders Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel” increase risk of torture

Eric Sottas, director of the World Organization Against Torture sent a letter to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calling on him to order the immediate cessation of the use of Orders Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel and any other practices that increase the risk of torture and to take all measures necessary to ensure that the absolute prohibition of torture is recognised by Israeli law.

Open letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon concerning Orders Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel and torture in detention

Geneva, June 13th, 2003

Your Excellency,

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the world�s largest network of NGO�s fighting against torture, has been informed by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), a member of the SOS-Torture network of serious concerns regarding the use of the Order Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel and the use of torture in Israeli detention facilities, which signal the Israeli Government�s failure to ensure the implementation of the High Court of Justice ruling of 1999, which outlawed torture.

In the first instance, OMCT is gravely concerned by the use of the Order Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel, which is usually issued in the first few days of interrogation and is reportedly often used to conceal the illegal nature of the interrogation from the public view; the following are a few examples.

Mohammed Yusuf Ashak Burkan, a resident of Heberon. Mr. Burkan was arrested on March 27, 2003 and held at Etzion Detention Center. He was later transferred so the GSS Interrogation Unit at the Russian Compound Detention Center in Jerusalem. Following his arrest, Mr. Burkan did not meet with counsel for 52 days, due to the issuing of several Orders Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel. When Attorney Fahmi Aweiwi finally met with Mr. Burkan on May 18, 2003, he collected a sworn affidavit in which Mr. Burkan claimed that he had been beaten several times during his interrogation. In addition, he was shackled to a chair with his hands and legs behind him for three consecutive days and only permitted to sleep for a few hours, remaining shackled throughout this time, and several times he was forced to stand for over one hour with his hands and legs manacled. Mr. Burkan continues to be detained at the Russian Compound Detention Center in Jerusalem.

Iman Asad Bader Maselmani, a 24-year-old gas technician, resident of Beit Hanina, Jerusalem and father of one, was arrested on April 9th, 2003. He has since been held at the GSS Interrogation Unit at Russian Compound Detention Center. Mr. Maselmani was unable to meet the attorney appointed to represent him because of an Order Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel. Multiple petitions were submitted in an attempt to lift the order, but the petitions were rejected, the order upheld, and Mr. Maselmani was unable to meet with his lawyer until May, 9th, 2003, one month after his arrest. In a sworn affidavit Mr. Maselmani stated that he and his wife live in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem and that he works in Jerusalem. As a resident of Jerusalem holding an Israeli I.D., Mr. Maselmani should be subjected to Israeli Penal Law and not to the Military Law that governs Israel�s administration of the Occupied Territories.

Jihad Mahmud Ali Shaoriya, a resident of Bethlehem, was arrested on April 24th, 2003. He was first detained at the Etzion Detention Center and then at the GSS Interrogation Unit at the Russian Compound Detention Center in Jerusalem. On April 24th, 2003, and Order Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel was issued. Mr. Shaoriya�s lawyer filed a petition on his behalf to have the order lifted, but this was withdrawn when the court informed the attorney that it would be rejected based on secret evidence. On May 11th, 2003, Attorney Fahmi Awiwi was able to speak to Mr. Shaoriya. In an affidavit collected by Attorney Awiwi, Mr. Shaoriya states that his interrogators wore civilian clothing and threatened to destroy his reputation, arrest his family, and demolish his home, if he did not confess. Mr. Shaoriya also claims that he was kept shackled with his hands and feet behind his chair for two consecutive days. Mr. Shaoriya is currently still being detained at the Russian Compound Detention Center in Jerusalem.

Another case which illustrates the use of torture in the Israeli interrogation process, the false confessions that may result from this practice and which supports the need to end Orders Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel and any other practices which increase the risk of torture, is that of Mr. A�asi Mohssein. According to the information received, Mr. Mohssein confessed to crimes that he did not commit in order to stop the torture that he was being subjected to. PCATI has stated that cases such as that of Mr. Mohssein, reveal that the High Court of Justice ruling of 1999, which outlawed torture, is no longer in effect and has not been enforced for a long period of time. Mr. A�asi Mohssein was reportedly acquitted by the Tel Aviv District Court on May 28th, 2003 � a decision that OMCT welcomes.

OMCT recalls that in 1999 the Israeli High Court of Justice outlawed, one by one, the most frequently used methods of torture, beginning with violent shaking, continuing with squatting and the �shabeh� methods (covering the head with a sack, playing loud music and tying to a small, tilted chair), and ending up with sleep deprivation (as a means of applying pressure) and painful shackling. The Court ruled that these methods cause suffering (and when applied cumulatively � as in the �shabeh� method � particular suffering and pain) to those being interrogated and degrade their dignity, and are therefore illegal. In addition, OMCT would like to highlight the fact that the United Nations Committee Against Torture concluded in 1997 that these methods constitute torture, in particular when used in combination. PCATI has further stated that �it is impossible to prevent torture through a Court ruling. Only the absolute prohibition of torture by law can prevent its use in the future.�

OMCT calls on your Excellency to order the immediately cessation of the use of Orders Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel and any other practices that increase the risk of torture. OMCT calls on your Excellency to take all measures necessary to ensure that the absolute prohibition of torture is recognised by Israeli law. Concerning the cases mentioned above, OMCT calls on the Israeli government to order the immediate release of the afore-mentioned detainees in the absence of valid legal charges, or, if such charges exist, ensure that the detainees receive prompt and fair trials and that their procedural rights are respected at all times. OMCT further urges the authorities to launch prompt and impartial investigations into the circumstances of these events, notably the allegations of torture, in order to identify those responsible and bring them to justice, and to provide the victims with adequate reparation.

Thank you for the careful consideration that you will give these matters.

Yours sincerely,

Eric Sottas
Director

Related Links:

  • World Organization Against Torture
  • Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
  • Comments on Issues relating to Palestinian Detainees in the Third Periodic Report of the State of Israel Concerning the Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (MS Word), Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, World Organization Against Torture, and LAW, submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee commenting on the Second Periodic Report of the State of Israel.