Health Min., Israel Medical Association Probing Whether Physicians Failed to Report Torture of Palestinian Detainee

Dan Even
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Dan Even

The Health Ministry and the Israel Medical Association are examining claims that doctors at Laniado Hospital in Netanya and at Kishon Prison violated international law in failing to report that a Palestinian prisoner had been subjected to torture that resulted in serious injuries, and in releasing him back to Shin Bet interrogators after he allegedly told them he was being abused.

A petition to the High Court was filed a week ago, requesting that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein order a criminal probe into the Shin Bet security service officer who interrogated the suspect, 21-year-old Jihad Mughrabi, in 2008.

Haaretz first exposed the matter in August 2008, when Mughrabi was transferred by Shin Bet investigators to Laniado for medical treatment due to internal bleeding and respiratory difficulties. After only two hours of treatment, however, he was released back into the hands of the Shin Bet. According to the petition, Mughrabi told doctors he was being tortured while held in detention.

Mughrabi had been detained by Israel Defense Forces troops in April of that year on suspicion of indirect involvement in a shooting attack that claimed the lives of two Israeli security guards in Nitzanei Oz, an industrial area just west of the Green Line from Mughrabi's hometown of Tul Karm. Shortly thereafter, Mughrabi was transferred to Kishon Prison near Haifa, where he claims he was subjected to torture and degrading treatment at the hands of Shin Bet officers.

A petition filed to the Prison Service last week by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel claims Mughrabi suffered a series of abuses, including wounds to the head, and was threatened with the incarceration of his family members and the demolition of their home.

The petition, filed by attorney Nabil Dakwar, stated that the Shin Bet officers offered Mughrabi alcohol and the services of prostitutes, which he declined. They later left him alone for the night, it continued, only to return suddenly and begin beating the suspect and striking him with their personal weapons.

Mughrabi fainted, the petition stated, and was later found to be suffering from massive head wounds and facial lacerations.

The Health Ministry is now examining whether the physicians who treated Mughrabi violated the 1975 Declaration of Tokyo, adopted by the Israel Medical Association in 2007 - which declares torture to be "contrary to the laws of humanity" and antithetical to the "higher purpose" of the physician.

In early 2008, then-director of the Health Ministry Avi Yisraeli rejected a request from Physicians for Human Rights to issue instructions prohibiting doctors from cooperating with investigators in committing torture.

Two weeks after his hospitalization, an indictment was filed against Mughrabi - not in connection to the murder of the two Israelis, but charging him with involvement in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to steal the personal weapons of IDF soldiers for use against them.

Mughrabi was held on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, and released three months later on a plea bargain. He is currently serving a prison sentence for unlawful entry into Israel and is slated for release in two months.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut instructed Weinstein to respond to the petition within 30 days.

The Shin Bet said in response, "Mughrabi was interrogated according to the law, but he struck two Shin Bet officers and caused injuries. In gaining control of him the suspect was lightly hurt and admitted for medical treatment."

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