Center for the Defence of the Individual - Torture in interrogation rooms: six lawsuits submitted through HaMoked over mental and physical damage caused to interrogees at the ISA interrogation facility at Shikma Prison
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Torture in interrogation rooms: six lawsuits submitted through HaMoked over mental and physical damage caused to interrogees at the ISA interrogation facility at Shikma Prison

From September 2015 to May 2016, six lawsuits were filed via HaMoked against the state with its various agencies – the military, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and the Israel Security Agency (ISA), concerning the ill-treatment and unacceptable interrogation methods used against detainees held at the ISA interrogation facility at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, Israel. The lawsuits, which document humiliating treatment and acts of abuse which may amount to torture, point to the failure of all of the involved agencies in protecting the rights of detainees to dignity and bodily integrity and their absolute right not to be subjected to abuse and torture.

The lawsuits present a variety of failures, among them medical negligence on part of the authorities and improper interrogation methods practiced at Shikma Prison, including intensive interrogations, isolation conditions, prolonged shackling and sensory deprivation – which lead the interrogees to states of extreme anguish and despair, sometimes causing a mental breakdown.

One of the more disturbing cases appears in the lawsuit of a young man from Hebron who was arrested at his home in January 2014. The youth, suffering from shortness of breath and chronic leg and back pains, told both the military medic who saw him and the Shikma Prison doctor about his medical condition. Despite that, in complete disregard of his reported ailments, the man was interrogated for a whole of 36 days, 20 hours a day on average, while sitting on an interrogation chair with his arms and legs bound in painful positions. After he was interrogated for some ten days, the man suffered a mental breakdown to the degree that he lashed out at his interrogators and threatened he would kill himself. At this point a social worker was called in to talk with him, with the interrogators acting as interpreters. When the conversation ended the man was taken to a small windowless cell, where he was bound hand and foot to a bed! The same was done for four days: each day, at the end of a long and exhausting interrogation, the youth was taken to this cell and shackled during “rest hours”.

Another lawsuit was filed by a man from Qalandiya Refugee Camp, who was arrested at his home at the age of 18, on November 2013; he was viciously beaten by the arresting soldiers with their rifle butts, cursed and humiliated during the arrest, while he was shackled and helpless. Despite the evident beating marks on his face and body, the medic who saw him instructed him to make a false report and mark “No” in all the articles of the medical form he had to fill. But the plaintiff marked “Yes” and signed the form. This was not the end of the system’s negligent treatment of the arrested man. Once he was brought to the ISA facility at Shikma Prison, the youth said that the soldiers had abused him, but the facility doctor “saw and did nothing. Just checked the blood pressure”. Although the youth told the doctor that he suffered from a chronic illness and required regular medical treatment, nothing was done. In his unstable state, the man was subjected to an intense interrogation lasting many hours, while handcuffed to a chair. All of this led to a substantial deterioration in his health, with recurring fainting spells and intolerable pains. The case is a clear instance of deliberate suppression of evidence of abuse by the soldiers and also of medical negligence, while placing the prisoner’s health at risk.

The lawsuits, which detail the wrongful acts that took place while the plaintiffs were held by the various security agencies, point to unacceptable practices. The separate use of each of the depicted measures, and certainly in conjunction, amounts to cruel, inhuman and humiliating treatment and in some cases even torture. The six plaintiffs ask the court to award them damages for the harm they suffered as a result of the severe acts of soldiers, ISA personnel, interrogators and IPS personnel.

These and many others cases appear in a joint report by HaMoked and B’Tselem, published in February 2016, which describes the harsh incarceration conditions at the ISA interrogation facility at Shikma prison.