PCATI to Israeli government: “Shut down secret detention facility 1391”

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), through attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, this week called on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz and Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, demanding that they the revoke the status of facility 1391 as a military prison and stop incarcerating detainees, suspects, prisoners or any other persons in it.

Alternately, PCATI demands that the secrecy surround the facility be lifted, that it�s location be published, that it be opened to visits by attorneys, the Red Cross, human rights organizations and other supervisory bodies and that the facility be turned into an ordinary detention center administered by the Military Police and under the supervision of the relevant authorities.

According to Hannah Friedman, Executive Director of PCATI, the existence of facility 1391, as described in the press and the media, is a reality reminiscent of dictatorial regimes where rulers secretly incarcerate their opponents in unknown detention camps, and is a clear indication that the state that has surrendered its democratic values.

The letter to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and the Attorney General follows below.

On Sunday, September 7, a hearing will be held at the High Court of Justice on the petition filed by Hamoked-The Center for the Defense of the Individual on this matter.

Text of the letter

1 September 2003


The Prime Minister of Israel Mr. Ariel Sharon

The Minister of Defense Mr. Shaul Mofaz

Attorney General Mr. Elyakim Rubinstein

Re: Detention Facility 1391

Dear Sirs,

1. On Behalf of my client, the Pubic Committee Against Torture in Israel.

2. We appeal to you as those in charge of the operation of the General Security Service and the Israel Defense Forces and following the exposure of detention facility number 1391.

3. Over the years, Palestinian detainees claimed that they were held at a secret detention facility whose exact location was unknown to them and where they were interrogated by General Security Service personnel, that no member of their families knew where they were being detained and that their attorneys were not given an opportunity to meet with them.

4. This highly charged practice, denied by the security services, led to the submission of dozens of petitions to the High Court of Justice by families concerned that their dear one had been detained and had disappeared for days and weeks without anyone knowing where he was held and by what authority, demanding that the IDF notify the petitioners where their relative is being held.

5. The existence of Detention Facility 1391was revealed within the framework of HCJ cases number 8696/02 and 10327/02 Jadallah et al vs. the IDF Commander of the West Bank filed by Hamoked-The Center for the Defense of the Individual on behalf of the families of two detainees who had “disappeared” after their arrest. Hamoked-The Center for the Defense of the Individual succeeded in discovering the existence of the facility, and the affidavits of two detainees, who had been held there without their or their relatives knowledge of the facility’s location, were submitted to the Court. The existence of the facility was confirmed for the first time in the statement of the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney’s statement includes the following:

“Facility 1391- located in a secret military base. The base serves various needs of the security forces and for this reason its location is confidential. Because of the concern for harm to the security of the State, it is impossible to reveal the details in this public statement…

In addition to its principal designation, there is a detention facility in the base”

6. A declaration by the Minister of Defense, pursuant to section 505 of the Military Judicial Law - 1955 and dated April 2002 was annexed to the State Attorney’s response and states that the facility serves as a military prison (Military Jurisdiction Order (Designation of a Location as a Prison) (2002).

7. After this initial exposure, facility 1391 “gained” further exposure through news stories, one on channel 10 and the other in the “Ha’aretz” newspaper. According to the article published on 18.8.03 in the “Ha’aretz” magazine under the title “The Darkest Corner in Israel”, the facility served as a detention, interrogation and incarceration facility many years before April 2002 when the Minister of Defense signed the declaration mentioned above. The article and the testimonies of the interrogees and detainees included in it, also reveal that the conditions at the detention facility are inhuman and that interrogators employ illegal means of interrogation including torture and psychological pressure against the detainees.

8. It must bestated, firstly, that a situation under which people are detained in a secret location, a place unsupervised by the relevant authorities, human rights organization, the courts, a place to which attorneys representing detainees have absolutely no access is a reality known to us from dictatorial regimes where all-powerful dictators hide their opponents away in unknown detention camps. There is no democratic state in the world where this practice exists and it is regrettable that the State of Israel has set such an undesirable precedent in the field of the protection of human rights and the rights of detainees and prisoners.

9. Moreover, the “disappearance” of persons as if the earth had swallowed them, particularly at the hands of the authorities, is a clear sign of state that has given up its democratic values, and that its administration and security forces have long ago forgotten the legitimate limits of their power.

10. The testimonies regarding facility 1391 are both shocking and frightening and it comes as no surprise that there is a direction link between the administration of a secret facility, with no public supervision, and the appalling conditions of detention and the contempt demonstrated towards the detainees by the interrogators and wardens.

11. So, for example, detainees who had been held at facility 1391 testify to the practice of having their eyes covered for many hours, to the airless cells where a bucket, which remains in place for days, serves as the toilet. A fact, which is repeated in the statements of all the detainees, is the lack of ventilation in the windowless cells that are, in addition, painted in dark colors to prevent the detainees from distinguishing between day and night. The detainees also state that there are no showers in the cells and that they were unable to shower or brush their teeth for weeks.

12. The detainees testify to the harsh treatment they suffered at the hands of their interrogators and by soldiers who act as wardens at the facility. This, also, is made possible by the secret nature of the facility and the lack of any supervision of the goings on in it.

13. It is difficult to believe that in Israel of 2003 a human rights organization is forced to write a letter which includes such grotesque contents to the heads of the state. Yet the difficult and sad fact is that in Israel of 2003 the army and the General Security Service maintain a detention camp where people are brought after they were taken away from their families in the dark of night, without any of their relatives having a clue as to where his dear one is being held, and where they are cut off from the outside world for weeks and months and held in inhuman conditions and exposed to torture, humiliation and ill treatment.

14. In addition to the above, one wonders what the legal basis was for holding detainees and prisoners at facility 1391 before April 2002 when it was formally declared to be a military detention facility. It is clear, today, that for many years detainees were held at the facility and the declaration was made only last year.

15. In view of the above, we request that you revoke the status of facility 1391 as a military prison and cease the holding of detainees, suspects, and prisoners of any kind in it. Alternately, we request that you lift the secrecy surrounding the facility and publish its location, open it to visits by attorneys, the Red Cross, human rights organizations and other supervising bodies and turn it into an ordinary detention facility as for example Prisons number 4 or 6 which are administered by the Military Policy under supervision of the relevant authorities..

16. We would be most grateful for your prompt reply so that we can advise our client as to the legal alternatives available.

Sincerely Yours,

Attorney Avigdor Feldman
Attorney Michael Sfar

For additional information please call:

Hannah Friedman
Tel: 02-6429825, 056-556442

Attorney Gaby Lasky
Tel: 054-418988

Guy Tatse or Nadav Cohen Keidar
Tel: 03-5290572, 058-356030

Related Links

  • A story from the heart of Israel’s secret prison by Mohammad Daraghmeh, Al-Ayyam daily newspaper (9 July 2003)