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Human rights groups accuse the Shin Bet security forces of continuing to use "irregular" interrogation techniques involving physical measures and torture against Palestinian prisoners, in a report published yesterday.

B'Tselem and HaMoked - Center for the Defense of the Individual, write in their joint report that in spite High Court of Justice rulings barring such practices, the Shin Bet continues to use torture.

The report, which is based on the testimony of 73 prisoners arrested between July, 2005 and March, 2006, states that "special interrogation methods" that are considered to be torture are not employed frequently, but are used according to standing regulations.

The physical abuse, according to the report, includes beating, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation. The two groups say that these methods constitute torture under international law.

A range of other measures aimed at breaking the morale of interrogated prisoners are employed routinely, and can degenerate into torture, the report notes.

The authors of the report strongly criticized the State Prosecutor's Office and the courts for allegedly allowing these practices to be used.

A 1999 High Court ruling declared an absolute ban on the use of torture during interrogation. The court did allow use of methods to create pressure or discomfort as part of questioning, but not with the aim of breaking the morale of those under interrogation.

An exception was also made in cases defined as "ticking bombs," in which interrogation could prevent an imminent terror attack. Under these circumstances, disciplinary steps would not be taken against interrogators who used forms of torture.

The Justice Ministry, which oversees investigations of security services, said in response to the report that the Shin Bet investigations are performed in accordance with the law.

However, in spite more than 500 complaints of abuse made to the State Prosecutor's office since 2001, no criminal investigation has been launched, the human rights groups charged.