- Washington - 14 January:
Torture against Palestinians along with all kinds of illegally outlawed tactics continue throughout the occupied territories and in Israeli prisons. Gross forms of collective punishment, deportations, home demolitions, blockades, and "legalized" land seizures -- all outlawed by long-standing international conventions -- have been a constant feature of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians for decades and in many ways have been increased since the current "peace process" began after the Gulf War of 1991. Just traveling between Palestinian towns and villages, or attempting to go from Bethlehem or Ramallah to Jerusalem (normally a 10 minute trip), is now a major problem for the great majority of Palestinians who are denied permission to do so by the Israeli occupation Army.
Of course torture and other forms of severe repression are practiced by the Arab regimes throughout the region against their own people -- Israel is hardly alone. Indeed, one of the
main reason neither the Arafat regime nor the neighboring Arab States condemn Israeli torture is that they are practicing worse forms of it themselves.
But Israel is alone in giving its colonial and often-times racist policies the semblance of legality and the sanction of law. In this the closest analogy is the White South Africa of old with its Apartheid laws and racist "homeland" policies.
Even the Israeli Chief Justice, Aharon Barak, recently voted in favor of a preliminary injunction to halt Israeli torture of Palestinians. He was overruled in Israel's Supreme Court by a vote of 5 to 4.
The following information comes from The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW), a non-governmental organization in Jerusalem dedicated to
preserving human rights through legal advocacy.
"On Sunday 11 December in an exceptional nine judge panel hearing, the Israeli High Court again postponed coming to a decision barring the use of torture in Israeli prisons, after hearing a case last Wednesday submitted by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI).
Court heard the cases of Fuad Awad Qur'an, held incommunicado since 10
December 1997, and of Abd al Rahman Ismail Ghanimat, held and interrogated
since 13 November 1997. Lawyers for PCATI stated that hooding, handcuffing
in painful positions on a very small slanted
stool, sleep deprivation and constant blaring music for prolonged periods sometimes up to five days constituted torture, forbidden by international law, and are methods used to extract confessions. In December, the Israeli intelligence services admitted to routinely using these methods during interrogation, but said that these methods are used for administrative purposes. Hooding and blaring music, for example, prevents detainees from speaking to each other. It should be noted here that the Israeli intelligence has stated that neither Ghanimat nor Qur'an are considered so-called "ticking bombs".
In its decision the nine-judge panel, in a 5-4 vote, refused to give a temporary injunction against the use of torture during the ongoing interrogation of Ghanimat and Qur'an, and decided to join two other outstanding cases on torture (including head shaking, which last resulted in the death of a Palestinian detainee in 1995) and to rule later on its general use. Chief Justice Barak voted in the dissent, to issue the temporary injunction against the use of torture."
(Written 13 December 1997)