.: Arbitrary Detention, Ill-treatment and Torture

Since the occupation of the Palestinian territories during the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has arrested and imprisoned Palestinians for resisting the occupation by political or militant means. Even after the Oslo Accords in 1994 Israel is still arresting Palestinians in so-called Palestinian territory and transferring them to prisons and detention centres inside Israel. The transfer in itself is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Furthermore, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) (formerly known as General Security Service (GSS)) - the body responsible for the interrogation of Palestinians - has for many years systematically used torture methods against thousands of Palestinian detainees in order to obtain information or confessions.
Methods of degrading treatment include sleep deprivation, denial of medical care, loud music, beatings, shaking, threats of physical or sexual abuse and insults, excessive binding of hands and feet so as to cause inflammation, prolonged exposure to bright light causing burns to the face, and severe pressure on the neck. One of the most famous methods used is the “Shabah position”. According to this method the hands of the detainee are tied behind the back of a chair, and his/her feet to the chair-legs. This position weakens the support of the detainee’s back, and thus his ability to resist violent shaking.

Palestinian men arrested in the end of                         Photo from Internet
August 2002 in the West  Bank  

Even though strictly forbidden under international humanitarian law, the Israeli Landau Commission legalised torture in 1987. In 1999 the decision was superficially outlawed by a ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice. However, this ruling did not constitute a definite legal prohibition on the use of physical force, particularly in “special circumstances”. The court ruled on the authority of the GSS to use those methods under Israeli law, rather than on the legality of the methods themselves.

Israel continues to use the “self-defence” argument in an attempt to legitimise its illegal practices, including torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Usually, Israeli authorities justify use of physical and mental torture on the basis that these practices help prevent terrorist operations. They do so although they are party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments "in any and all circumstances".

In November 2001, the UN Committee Against Torture has emphasized that what Israel defines as "moderate physical pressure" constitutes torture, and the Committee expressed concern that Israel has failed to pass legislation prohibiting torture - both actions are violations of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Furthermore, torture is strictly forbidden under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and is described as a grave breach under Article 147, thus constituting a war crime.

PCHR has collected and put together information on arrests, imprisonment and torture of Palestinians in Israeli jails in order to give the interested reader an adequate picture of the continuing human rights abuses committed against Palestinians by the Israeli authorities.

  • Relevant Articles in International Humanitarian Law

  • Statistics

  • Fact Sheet: Prisoners and Torture

  • PCHR Material

  • Articles and Feature Stories in the International Media

  • External material