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Medizinische Flüchtlingshilfe Bochum e.V.

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13.04.2008, Israel, PCATI

“Family Matters, Using Family Members to Pressure Detainees Under GSS Interrogation”

New Report by the Public Committee Against torture in Israel (PCATI) to be launched today in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee:

The GSS illegally exploits family members causing severe harm to detainees and their families

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel’s report published today reveals that Israel’s General Security Service (GSS) exploits family members of Palestinian detainees in order to apply illegal psychological pressure on them and to force them to confess. Demonstrating a heightened level of concern surrounding the findings of the report, which show the continued use of interrogation methods that have been condemned as torture or ill treatment under international law, Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee Chairperson, Professor Menachem Ben Sasson, has agreed to PCATI’s request to discuss the report in a special committee session, today at 13:30 in the Knesset. The extraordinary nature of this act is further demonstrated by Professor Ben Sasson’s calling on the GSS to respond to the report during the hearing. 

The illegal exploitation of family members, who, in most instances, are not suspects themselves, has on many occasions caused severe psychological suffering to interrogees and to their innocent relatives. In more extreme cases, this method takes the form of psychological torture of a detainee rendering him a victim of a cruel psychological manipulation via the illegal exploitation of a close relative. In one such case, detailed in the report, the pressure caused by this form of abuse led the detainee to attempt suicide on several occasions.

The report “Family Matters, Using Family Members to Pressure Detainees Under GSS Interrogation”, written by Attorney Aviel Liner, details a sampling of six cases involving the exploitation of family members. Some of the cases describe a “charade” presented before the detainee showing him that his loved ones are under detention and, like the interrogee, undergoing severe physical torture. In other cases, family members were, in fact, arrested and sometimes tortured, although they were not suspected of any offence whatsoever, all for the purpose of applying pressure on a relative undergoing interrogation. One of the cases outlined in the report concerns a detained couple held for an extended period of time, subjected to severe physical torture, and, in addition, refused knowledge of the fate of their young daughters, aged two and a half and 6 months, who were used as bargaining chips by the GSS.

The report reveals that torture in the State of Israel – both physical and psychological – continues even after the High Court of Justice ruling of 1999. PCATI emphasizes in the report that, even if severe suspicions exist against an interrogee, the use of family members as a form of pressure must be prohibited. The exploitation of family members and the psychological abuse of an interrogee and his family are forbidden and unacceptable in a democratic society based on the rule of law and the values of human dignity. Moreover, an interrogation that employs such harsh and illegal means raises doubts as to the accuracy of the confessions and information received from the detainee.

In July 2007, following a complaint submitted by PCATI the Attorney General's office replied and stated that “…as a rule, in a situation where the detainee’s relative is not in detention, and there is no legal pretext for detaining him, it is prohibited to present the detainee with a scenario according to which it appears that his relative is in detention,” seemingly banning this practice. In spite of this, PCATI has found that the practice of detaining family members in order to use them against detainees under interrogation continues.

The report concludes with recommendations concerning both legislation and the supervision of the GSS that will contribute to preventing the use of this deplorable method.

For additional details please call:

Yoav Loeff,  Public Outreach Coordinator
The Public Committee Against torture in Israel (PCATI)
Tel: +972-2-6429825 ext. 117, Mobile: +972-54-3368434
PCATI website: http://www.stoptorture.org.il

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