Torture of Palestinian detainees held by Israeli state police rose sharply in the past half year, according to a report by Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, which investigated records from military courts, an attorney who represents detainees, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.
Last year, 23 Palestinians filed complaints over torture at the hands of Shin Bet, the Israeli state police analogous to the American FBI. In 2013, that number was 16. However, that number hit 30, 27, and 42 in years prior.
It was the second half of 2014 that stood out when “there were 19 complaints of sleep deprivation, 12 of beatings, 18 of tying and two of shaking,” Haaretz reported. “All in all there were 51 instances reported, as opposed to eight in the first half of the year.”
Of the last 850 torture complaints filed in recent years, none were investigated by authorities, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.
Haaretz described uses of sleep deprivation, beatings, shaking, and being tied in pressure positions for extended periods. By some international standards, this meets the threshold for torture.
In some cases, the torture caused suspects to admit to crimes that never took place as revealed by further investigation. This isn’t a surprise, as it’s well known that torture can cause subjects to make false confessions.
Shin Bet, which has a history of illegal torture of thousands of Palestinians, is authorized by Israeli law to exert physical pressure on detainees in the case of “urgent need,” something which is defined by the Israeli attorney general but kept secret from the public.
In 2013, Arafat Jaradat died while in Shin Bet custody after being arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at Israelis. Palestinians said he was a victim of torture, but Israelis denied there was any evidence of physical violence against Jaradat. Jaradat’s funeral was attended by thousands as he was made a hero.
The agency is obligated to report the torture so that judges can weigh evidence obtained by torture.
The report has been a catalyst for a tense online discussion from both critics and defenders of Shin Bet’s practices.
@haaretzcom terrible to be hooded and seated before a panel with dressed in suits and wearing nametags. Is this a fraternity prank?— Stiles Bitchley ✫✫ (@WeWhoDieSaluteU) March 6, 2015
Shin Bet responded to torture complaints earlier this year.
“Shin Bet detainees receive all the rights they are entitled to under humanitarian law,” the agency wrote. “This includes medical treatment, meeting with legal counsel and visits by the Red Cross.”