Human rights records confirm that thousands of Palestinians have been
subjected to torture, which Israel justifies as "moderate physical pressure."
Thousands have undergone severe shaking (many to the point of death), sleep deprivation,
and tight handcuffing that results in the loss of blood circulation. Prisoners are kept in
contorted and excruciating positions, often in closet-size rooms, with foul smelling sacks
over their heads, and denied access to toilets and food. Human rights organizations
estimate that about 5,000 Palestinians a year were tortured by the Israelis in all the
years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993, and despite the peace
process, this practice has continued unabated.
The 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture, which Israel ratified in
1991, defines torture as "any act by which severe pain and suffering, whether
physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted upon a person" to obtain
information or a confession. Accordingly, the U.N. Committee, whose composition includes
Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross and various Israeli
human rights organizations, confirmed that the Shin Bets methods are indisputably
torture as defined by international law.
The legality of the use of torture in Israel stems back to 1987, when
the Landau Commission found that the Shin Bet had been using violent methods in
questioning Palestinians. Rather than condemning the practice, the Commission instead
proposed to legalize these "moderate measures of physical pressure". Not only
has the policy been condoned and approved by the Israeli Supreme Court, but the entire
Israeli security, legal and legislative establishment has effectively institutionalized
this use of violence in questioning Palestinians.
The U.N. Committee rejected all the Israeli justifications presented in
defense of the use of torture and it fiercely condemned the Israeli institutionalization
of torture, arguing that its regulation only encourages its further use. The international
community refused to accept the long-standing Israeli response that Israel faces a unique
terrorist threat and rejected Israels assertion that it only employs violence in
extreme cases. Reports by lawyers and human rights organizations prove that over 80% of
those tortured are not even indicted, confirming most interrogations in fact have little
to do with imminent attacks.