The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has accused the Shin Bet security service of using relatives of individuals under interrogation to extract confessions.
In a report to be submitted Sunday to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the organization says the Shin Bet makes unjustified arrests of family members, or creates the pretense of such arrests to pressure suspects.
The report further states that such methods are used against individuals who are already subjected to severe physical torture. In at least one case, the report states that the pressure led to suicide attempts by the individual under interrogation.
Attorney Aviel Linder, who compiled the report, noted that a series of international treaties prohibit psychological torture, including threatened or actual harm to family members. The report details six cases between 2007 and 2008, but says it knows of dozens of others.
According to the findings, it is a common method of interrogation to psychologically abuse a detainee using family members, and that in most cases the interrogation was not a matter of a "ticking bomb." The report states that an interrogation using such harsh and improper means casts aspersions on the confession's veracity.
In one case, the report states, "The Shin Bet threatened a subject named Said Diab that if he did not cooperate, his mother would be arrested. The next day he was brought to look through a peephole at his mother being aggressively questioned and crying." In the end, the committee says, the mother was indicted on a marginal charge to justify the false arrest.
In another case, a couple, Jaser Abu-Omar and Hulah Zitawi, was arrested and held in extended detention while subjected to harsh physical torture, without letting them know the fate of their two daughters, aged two and six months.
According to Zitawi, "They said my daughters were now orphans, without a father or a mother. They showed me a picture of me with my little daughter in my arms and they said I should pity her. The picture killed me. I wept until I could no longer stand it. They said that I would not see her again until she was a teenager and she would not recognize me. That was the picture that broke me."
In a response to the committee, dated July 2007, the attorney general's office said: "In general, if a relative of a detainee is not in detention, and there is no legal reason to arrest the relative, the detainee should not be given the impression that the relative has been arrested."
Nevertheless, the committee claims that the method is still being used.
The chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), said, "It should not be forgotten that we are engaged in a war against terror. This reality does not authorize irrevocable physical harm, but it does require other actions - as needed, in a proportional and reasonable response."
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