In comments to Al Jazeera regarding Israel’s use of torture against Palestinian detainees, Qadura Faris, head of the Palestinian Prisoner Society, declared: “The Israeli security wants to leave a mark on the psyche of those it detains: resistance has a price, and it is hefty.”
Torture methods used by Israel include stress positions, beatings which result in severe injuries, sleep deprivation, emotional blackmail, threats of torture against family members of the detainees and the transfer of detainees to secret prisons. In one case reported by the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer: “The harsh beating was committed with the intention to kill the detainee.”
Israel allows the use of torture in so-called exceptional cases and exempts the officials involved in torture from criminal responsibility. This ambiguity has contributed to a rampant use of torture against Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails. Complaints to authorities have not yielded any results. Israel’s tactics of depriving legal counsel to tortured detainees during interrogation also hinders immediate recognition and awareness of such human rights violations as they occur.
Addameer’s latest update on torture in Israeli jails, since August 2019, shows how Israel manipulates its so-called state of exception in order to circumvent the absolute prohibition of torture in international law. Israel’s security narrative – a commodity that has become part of mainstream rhetoric and adopted globally – provides the legal loophole within Israeli legislation to torture Palestinian detainees. Given that Palestinians, without exception, are all deemed a purported threat to Israel, there are no parameters excluding detainees from torture. On the contrary, rather than having their rights protected, Palestinians in Israeli jails risk additional violations while the perpetrators of such violence are immune from prosecution, by means of the same security narrative that allows for the torture of Palestinians.
The recent update notes: “According to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), about 1,200 complaints of torture during Israeli interrogations have been filed since 2001. All the cases were closed without a single indictment.” Addameer also notes that torture is classified as a war crime – a pertinent point as Israel faces a possible investigation at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Interestingly, Addameer quotes a statement by Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, who draws comparisons in terms of occupation and torture, between the US presence in Guantanamo and Israel’s colonial entrenchment in Palestine. Both Israel and the US, he states, are setting an example of impunity when it comes to the torture of detainees.
Since 1967, 73 Palestinian prisoners were killed by torture in Israeli jails. Torture survivors have no recourse to justice, as it is Israel who decides whether an investigation should be opened. Meanwhile, the international community continues to ignore such flagrant violations of human rights – war crimes, to use the current assertions levelled against Israel. Indeed, if the international community paid less importance to Israel’s security narrative, and concerned itself primarily with the violations justified through its purported right to defend itself, it is possible that there will be more cohesion regarding the legal importance of holding Israel accountable for its repression of the Palestinian people.