Justice Official Meets West Bank Arson Suspects After Claims of Torture

Suspects in Duma arson-murder case quizzed by deputy attorney general about security service's interrogation; indictment expected in coming days.

Israel's Deputy Attorney Raz Nizri, who specializes in criminal cases, in the Knesset in July. He questioned the suspects in the Duma arson attack about their alleged torture by the Shin Bet security service's interrogators.
Emil Salman

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri met the suspects in the Duma murder case on Sunday, after their lawyers complained on their clients' behalf that they had been tortured during their interrogation.

The individuals were allegedly involved in torching the home of the Dawabsheh family in the West Bank village in July. In the attack 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents, Saad and Reham, were killed.

The lawyers were not informed of the meeting in which Nizri, who specializes in criminal cases, asked the suspects about the measures allegedly used by their Shin Bet security service interrogators.

Assessments are that a statement by the prosecution will be issued in the next few days, prior to filing of a formal indictment charging them with murdering the Dawabsheh family, as well as involvement in other crimes.

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, a member of the Honenu organization that provides legal assistance to Jewish suspects, said that Nizri’s meeting with the suspects was “too little too late. I would have expected him not to wake up only after a month, but to show up in the interrogation rooms in the first days after such serious charges surfaced."

Added Ben-Gvir: "[Nizri's] conduct shows that all he wanted was to prove that he'd shown up, whereas he could have prevented this abuse if he had so desired.”

Last Thursday the Shin Bet admitted in a statement that the interrogation of the suspects included some form of torture. The use of such irregular measures, it explained, was cleared in advance by a court and aimed at preventing future murders.

In its announcement, the Shin Bet also denied claims by the attorneys that the suspects had been sexually harassed, humiliated or spat on. It also rejected the accusation that one of the suspects tried to harm himself.

However, the organization did not refer specifically to charges by the suspects and their lawyers concerning other forms of torture, such as being slapped, tied up in painful positions and deprived of sleep.

In 1999, the High Court of Justice forbade the use of violent methods of interrogation in the absence of a law regulating such procedures. In its ruling, in response to a petition filed by the Public Committee against Torture, the justices ruled that interrogators cannot use means such as shaking, binding or depriving suspects of sleep.

The court added, however, that an interrogator employing such methods could argue, if prosecuted, that he was doing so to save lives, in which case he could be absolved of any criminal culpability.

Subsequently, the attorney general at the time, Elyakim Rubinstein, issued a document including guidelines addressed to the Shin Bet, specifying in which cases its agents would or would not be prosecuted after using measures that could be seen as constituting torture.