Claim for damages following torture during interrogation: Claim filed by HaMoked for physical and mental injuries suffered by a Palestinian who was tortured during General Security Service interrogation המוקד להגנת הפרט
01.09.2005
Claim for damages following torture during interrogation: Claim filed by HaMoked for physical and mental injuries suffered by a Palestinian who was tortured during General Security Service interrogation
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Background
On 6 September 1999, the High Court of Justice [HCJ] gave its decision on the use of torture during interrogations by the General Security Service [GSS, later known as ISA]. An expanded panel of nine justices heard a number of petitions, among them petitions filed by HaMoked, that were filed following the use of physical and psychological methods, which constituted torture, in the course of GSS interrogations of Palestinians. The High Court specifically discussed the methods that the GSS were using at the time – such as “shaking,” placing the interrogee in the “shabach” position, and forcing the detainees to take “the frog position" – and ruled that the methods were illegal.

The justices also mentioned that international conventions, to which Israel is party, prohibit the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. These prohibitions are absolute. There are no exceptions, and they are not to be balanced against any potential benefit. However, the High Court refrained from directly calling the GSS’s interrogation methods by their name – torture. 

For a detailed description of the methods of torture that the GSS used (B’Tselem, Routine Torture: Interrogation Methods of the General Security Service), click here.

For the judgment of the High Court of Justice in the precedent-setting case (HCJ 5100/94, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel et al.), click here.

For the Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, click here.

For reports of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel: Flawed Defence: Torture and Ill-treatment in GSS Interrogations following the Supreme Court Ruling, 6 September 1999 – 6 September 2001  and  Back to a Routine of Torture: September 2001 – April 2003, click here.  

The matter involved in Civ. Comp. 1278/05
On 3 January 1998, the plaintiff, a resident of Bani Naim, Hebron District, who was then 23 years old, was on his way to his university studies in Ramallah. At the checkpoint near his village, soldiers stopped the taxi he was in to check it. The plaintiff got out of the taxi and was arrested. He was taken to the Police station in Kiryat Arba, and later to other Police stations. On 8 January, he was taken to the GSS interrogation wing in Shikma Prison, in Ashkelon.

As soon as he arrived at the interrogation wing, GSS interrogators began to torture, threaten, and humiliate the plaintiff. He was kept in the “shabach” position for days and nights at a time. When he tried to sleep while in this position, an interrogator kicked him or threw cold water on him. At the same time, the plaintiff was exposed to very loud noises for hours, and was at times exposed to extreme cold for extended periods of time.

He was forced to take the “frog position” (“qambaz”). The interrogators also threatened and humiliated him, bound him in painful positions, shook, kicked, and beat him, kept him in prolonged solitary confinement, and held him in harsh conditions without proper clothing for the winter season. 

The court actions taken by HaMoked
On 15 January 1998, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice to cease the torture of the plaintiff. Following the filing of the petition, counsel for the state informed the court that, “at the present time, no physical means are being used against the petitioner, including use of the small chair and the other means described in the petition.” In light of this statement, HaMoked agreed to a dismissal of the petition, which was dismissed on 19 January 1998.

On 27 January 1998, when the use of physical torture against the plaintiff, including sleep deprivation, continued, HaMoked filed another petition to cease using these methods. As soon as the petition was filed, counsel for the state informed the court that it would allow the plaintiff a reasonable number of hours of sleep daily. Following this statement, HaMoked agreed to a dismissal of the petition, and on 6 February 1998, the petition was dismissed.

A short while later, the plaintiff’s family learned that he had been hospitalized in the psychiatric ward of Ayalon Prison, in Ramle. Plaintiff’s attorney, who had visited him previously, arrived at the prison on 5 March, but the plaintiff could not recognize him. A study of the medical records indicates that, on 6 February, he had been taken to Kishon Prison, in Haifa, and was later hospitalized at Rambam Hospital, in Haifa, following an attack on a Red Cross official and suspected psychosis that led to the attack. On 27 February, he was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward of Ayalon Prison pursuant to an observation order, issued by the Military Court. He was released from prison on 23 April, with a finding that he was not mentally fit to be prosecuted.

It should be noted that the plaintiff was in good physical and mental health when he was arrested. Upon release, he was in terrible condition. He was disoriented, suffered anxiety, was unable to sleep properly, and had lost his appetite. He began treatment with Dr. Mahmud Sahwil, a psychiatrist at the Center for the Treatment of Torture Victims, in Ramallah. Although his condition improved greatly following his discharge from detention, he continues to be treated at the center.

On 9 January 2005, HaMoked filed a compensation claim against the state for the plaintiff’s damages resulting from the torture he underwent – for his pain and suffering and mental injury, loss of wages, and medical expenses. The claim states that the interrogators’ acts during his detention and interrogation constitute assault, and that the state is responsible for these acts in light of the instructions given to GSS interrogators, which permitted, in advance or retroactively, the use of physical means during interrogation. The claim also contends that the state, directly or through its agents, was negligent, and breached statutory duties as set forth in Israeli and international law. HaMoked attached to the statement of claim a psychiatric opinion stating that the plaintiff is suffering from Post-traumatic Syndrome, which limits his ability to function and to work, and set his disability at 30 percent.

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