Human Rights Groups: State in Contempt of Court for Torture

Security Services continue to torture during interrogations in violation of 1999 High Court of Justice ruling

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and HaMoked, the Center for the Defence of the Individual (HaMoked) filed a contempt of court motion to the High Court of Justice against the government of Israel and its head, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and against the General Security Service (GSS) and its head Yuval Diskin for their responsibility for the policy that grants a-priori permits to use torture in interrogation that fundamentally violates the High Court of Justice decision of September 1999 today.

The motion was filed by Adv. Avigdor Feldman, a member of PCATI’s board of directors. The motion claims that more so than the fact that the GSS and the Prime Minister, who is directly responsible for the GSS, show contempt for Israel’s highest judicial authority, it is true that the contempt involved is particularly egregious, consistent and systematic and is enshrined in directives and procedures. Such continuous and systematic contemptuous behavior necessitates exceptional enforcement measures of the High Court’s ruling: the arrest and prosecution of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the head of the GSS, Yuval Diskin and the imposing of fines against the government of Israel and the GSS.

In September 1999, in its ruling on petitions filed by PCATI, ACRI and HaMoked, the High Court of Justice stated that:
“Neither the government nor the heads of security services possess the authority to establish directives and bestow authorization regarding the use of liberty infringing physical means during the interrogation of suspects suspected of hostile terrorist activities…”
For more than nine years, since the judgment known as “the torture ruling” was handed down, the petitioners have gathered evidence and sworn affidavits that prove that the GSS systematically violates the Court’s Judgment.

In practice, a variety of sources point to the continued existence of a practice of GSS procedures and authorizations for torturing interrogees, in violation of the judgment, domestic criminal law and international law. This motion provides evidence of the granting of a-priori authorizations to harm detainees by the interrogator’s supervisor and even by the head of the GSS himself, according to established procedures known to interrogators, prosecutors and judges as “the necessity interrogation procedure”. This evidence includes testimonies of GSS interrogators from court proceedings, which are attached as classified annexes of the motion, as well as testimonies from victims and public responses by the GSS and the Prime Minister’s Office. For example, in a GSS response to an item in the Haaretz newspaper, it is stated that “Authorization to use force in an interrogation is given at least by an agent with the rank of interrogation team head, and at times it is even granted by the head of the Service himself”. And in another instance, “It should be made clear that the authorization to use special procedures in an interrogation can be given by the GSS head alone”.

The motion states that the 1999 judgment categorically declared that past GSS actions towards a large number of suspects and interrogees, are illegal, and yet these practices have continued to exist for the past nine years,. The petitioners point out that the perpetrators of these acts incur criminal responsibility and can be held accountable for these serious crimes in Israel or in a foreign jurisdiction according to domestic law and international law.

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Categories: Democracy and Civil Liberties


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