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Cohn   Toronto Star   16-Aug-1998   The new torturers
"During nearly three decades of Israeli occupation, torture became a routine tool of government policy.  And after barely three years of Palestinian self-rule in some areas of the West Bank, torture is more endemic than ever." Martin Regg Cohn
The Martin Cohn article below is relevant to the Ukrainian Archive in two respects:

First, it along with much other material on the site reinforces the Prytulak Letter 12 of 30Mar98 to Anne McLellan, Canada's Justice Minister, protesting the prosecution of Ukrainians for half-century old war misdemeanors when substantive war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in more recent times, and some of the guilty may today be living in Canada.

Second, as Israel induces Ukrainian scientists, engineers, and others of talent and accomplishment to emigrate to Israel, these Ukrainians should be informed beforehand of the nature of the state to which they plan to transfer their allegiance.  That the crimes described below are attributed to Palestinian authorities does not exculpate Israel in the least Israel not only trained these Palestinian torturers, it controls them so that they may be said to serve as agents of Israel.




The new torturers

Palestinians interrogated with methods their security forces learned from Israel

By Martin Regg Cohn
Toronto Star Middle East Bureau

RAMALLAH, West Bank When Israeli interrogators shook him violently until he almost passed out, Khaled Nidal tried to ease the pain by dreaming of freedom.

He was tied in a painful position to a small chair, covered in a filthy hood, and deprived of sleep for days.  The only respite came when his interrogators booked off for the Jewish Sabbath from Friday to Saturday.

Five years ago, Nidal believed such torture was the price to pay for resisting the Israeli occupation.  He came away bruised and battered, but rarely broken by such encounters.

When Israeli security agents left Ramallah in 1995, Palestinians like Nidal assumed that statehood was in their future, and torture in their past.

Instead, the torture has got worse in one of the world's newest police states.

A new team of torturers is in town and they are based in the same police complex once used by the Israelis.

Today, in a cruel form of double jeopardy, Palestinians may be the only people on the planet who face the threat of torture by two rival governments overlapping on the same territory.


Twenty Arabs have died since Yasser Arafat's forces took control in '95


Human rights groups say the vast majority of Palestinians interrogated by the two security services are routinely subjected to torture and other forms of physical abuse and extreme psychological pressure.  Some 20 Arabs have died in Palestinian custody since President Yasser Arafat's forces took control of parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s.

And when Palestinian security forces inflict punishment on their fellow Palestinians, the wounds prove far more painful.

For Khaled Nidal, that reality struck home earlier this year.

Late one night, two cars pulled up in front of his workplace.  The four men who piled out taunted him with a macabre sense of humour that matched their ghoulish taste for torture: The plainclothes agents of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service identified themselves as human rights workers making a midnight visit.

The joke only elicited a wave of fear in Nidal, who recognized them from torture sessions the month before, when they tied him to a small chair and beat the soles of his feet.  That night, they brought him back to Ramallah police headquarters, and repeated their repertoire.

They shackled his ankles, bound his hands behind his back and tied them to a waterpipe, then struck his face until it swelled from the beatings.

There were no charges, only demands that Nidal (who declined to use his real name for fear of retribution) inform on his fellow activists in the militant Islamic opposition group Hamas about an internal power struggle.

Three months later, the scars are still visible on his ankles and wrists.

The disgust and disillusionment are also etched on his face.

"I didn't suffer psychologically when the Jews beat me, because I considered them the enemy," said Nidal, who has the beard favoured by many devout Muslims here.

"I told them it is haram Allah forbids it ... When a Palestinian who is not an enemy beats me, I cannot deal with that.  If your own family beats you up, you cannot forget it."

During nearly three decades of Israeli occupation, torture became a routine tool of government policy.  And after barely three years of Palestinian self-rule in some areas of the West Bank, torture is more endemic than ever.

Critics are distressed not just by the degradation, but the almost random way torture is applied across the West Bank.  The usual justification trotted out by the two governments that they must use harsh methods to fight the scourge of terrorism is a fig leaf for widespread abuses.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) routinely tortures up to 70 per cent of its detainees, says Bassem Eid, head of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.  It targets people suspected of collaborating with Israel, selling drugs, stealing cars, or selling land to Jews.

The latest twist: Torture, extortion, and taxation.

Eid says his group has studied the cases of 36 people severely tortured over tax offences.  They won their release only after paying, collectively, about $3 million to their captors.

Critics believe many agents of the six separate security services in the PA spent years in Israeli jails, where they learned their techniques from their former torturers.

"All of them were in prison with us, and they know the tactics," muses Nidal.  "They learned it because they were prisoners themselves (in Israel)."

Former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin admitted that 8,000 Palestinians had been violently shaken by Israel's General Security Service (GSS) as of mid-1995.

That same year, Abd a-Samad Harizat became the 10th Palestinian to die during interrogation, suffering from brain damage that an autopsy attributed to the violent shakings, where the prisoner's head is thrown back and forth.  That was also the year the GSS passed on the baton literally and figuratively to its Palestinian counterparts.

Last week, the Yediot newspaper said Israel paid Harizat's family $550,000 in an out-of-court settlement for torturing him to death.


'I told them it is haram Allah forbids it ... When a Palestinian who is not an enemy beats me, I cannot deal with that.  If your own family beats you up, you cannot forget it.'
Victim Khaled Nidal

Critics say it is impossible to argue that so many thousands of suspects could possibly be suspected human time bombs, who possess critical information that could save lives.

Yet that is the pretext cited by Israel and the PA when publicly defending themselves against charges of abuse.

Israel may be unique in the world and certainly among democratic countries by publicly admitting to the use of torture as defined by the United Nations.  It has institutionalized a bureaucratic system of checks and balances for applying physical pressure under medical supervision what Israeli officials portray as enlightened torture.

Israel has also taken the unprecedented step of trying to codify such abuses in its lawbooks.

The public discussion of how and when to torture Palestinians Jewish citizens are not normally subjected to anything harsher than sleep deprivation has sparked a remarkable public discussion among Israel's political and intellectual classes.

After routinely giving its consent to continued interrogations and torture by the GSS, Israel's High Court of Justice announced this year that it would hold extensive hearings on the subject forcing the government to publicly defend its tactics.

In Israel's rarefied legal and journalistic circles, the debate is at once arcane and animated.

"I would like to furnish my professional opinion with respect to the use of special questioning methods, which the GSS investigators have been allowed to use under special circumstances which warrant it, including the use of shaking," GSS chief Ami Ayalon asserted in a deposition to the High Court.

"To the best of my judgment, these procedures are especially crucial for the struggle to prevent terror," he said, reassuring the court that doctors are kept on 24-hour standby.

His predecessor, Carmi Gillon, was more explicit.

"Those being interrogated are uncompromising fanatics who aim to undermine the existence of the Jewish people and to destroy the State of Israel at any price," Gillon wrote in a newspaper commentary this year.  "It is not possible to talk to these people.  These deeply religious people will falsely swear even on the Koran (Islam's holy book)."

Even in a democracy, "the limited ability of GSS interrogators in this stubborn war against murderers must not be taken from them," he argued.

He said the GSS drew its authority from a special 1987 government commission that recommended "moderate physical pressure" be permitted in interrogations if it would save lives in a "ticking time bomb" situation.

In fact, the recommendations were never adopted as law, leaving the torturers in a legal limbo.  And prompting the supreme court to ask Israeli parliamentarians why they had never tackled the matter.

B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights groups that monitors violations in still-occupied areas of the West Bank, believes the government is poised to bring in new legislation that would sanction physical force in certain circumstances.

It is a slippery slope. B'Tselem estimates 85 per cent of Palestinians are routinely tortured in custody roughly 1,000 victims a year.

In addition to shaking suspects violently by the collar, the GSS repertoire includes, according to its Hebrew terminology, the Shabah: the prisoner's hands and legs are shackled to a small, slanted chair that forces him forward in a painful position.  Agents cover the head with a filthy sack, play loud music incessantly from nearby speakers, and prevent sleep for days at a time.


U.N. groups reject Israeli euphemism of 'moderate physical pressure'


The United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the U.N. Committee against Torture, have classified these and other GSS methods as straightforward torture rejecting the preferred Israeli euphemism of "moderate physical pressure."

The government's customary pretext for torture that it is necessary to use it in order to save lives is also rejected by human rights groups.

"The Shin Bet (the Hebrew name of the GSS) and the state justify these methods of torture with frightening, and sometimes untrue, stories of 'ticking bombs,' " said a recent B'Tselem report.  Yet in many cases, so-called "ticking bombs" were later released without charges.

"How can Israel profess to be the only democracy in the Middle East while it violates the fundamental human rights of an entire people?" asked B'Tselem executive director Eitan Felner.

Felner says the government has only gone public because it was unable to ignore the massive evidence of abuses over the years, nor conceal the enormous bureaucracy that undertakes torture.

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