Shin Bet on Torture Allegations: Interrogations Prevent Future Acts of Jewish Terror

Security agency denies allegations, but at the same time defends investigation of Duma arson-murder by invoking the so-called 'ticking bomb' exemption in 1999 Supreme Court ruling.

Right-wing youths in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, re-enacting what they say is the torture of their detained comrades.
Motti Milrod

The Shin Bet alluded to the use of violent interrogation methods on the Jewish youths suspected of the Duma arson-murder in a rare statement issued by the security agency on Thursday.

At the same time, the Shin Bet denied allegations of sexually harassing or degrading the detainees and framed its interrogations in terms that would exempt them from judicial scrutiny.

The current investigation involves "uncovering plans for future attacks," the Shin Bet said in the statement. "With that in mind and in coordination with the judicial system, the group has been investigated according to established and professional judicial criteria for forestalling dangerous attacks in the future."

"The means appropriate to achieving that goal were used in the course of the investigations," the agency stressed.

Be defining the investigation as one designed to prevent future attacks, the Shin Bet placed itself outside existing legal restrictions on the use of physical torture on suspects.

The use of violence during interrogations was prohibited by the Supreme Court in 1999. In response to an appeal by the Public Committee Against Torture, the court ruled that Shin Bet interrogators were forbidden to shake and tie-up detainees under interrogation, as well as to deprive them of sleep.

However, the court exempted the use of such methods in circumstances in which an attack was imminent, known colloquially as a "ticking bomb" attack. An interrogator would not be held accountable if an imminent danger could not be prevented in any other way, the court ruled.

In its statement issued on Thursday, the Shin Bet also denied other allegations made against it, such as that the detainees had been sexually molested, degraded, spat upon and that one of the detainees had attempted to injure himself.

"The purpose of such lies is to ruin the name of the Shin Bet and disrupt its operations as a means of derailing the investigation," the statement said. "The Shin Bet will continue to act in terms of the authority vested in it to prevent terror and bring to justice all organized groups denying Israel's right to exist."

It stressed that the main objective of the group currently being investigated is "to overthrow the government by violent means and to foment rebellion, in order to bring about a theocratic monarchy, shatter the relations between Israel and other countries, bring about the expulsion of non-Jews and cause harm to minorities."

The statement added that the suspects had continued carrying out terror attacks after the Duma arson last July, in which three people died, and regarded Duma as worthy of repetition.

President Reuven Rivlin referred to the allegations of torture and incitement on Thursday, saying that "Israel has control and monitoring mechanisms, and no individual or group is above them. Anyone concerned about illegal activities can petition those bodies and receive a clear answer.

"We need to avoid damning and weakening the Shin Bet. Any harm done to the agency is harm done to Israel. Anyone staying silent in the face of such incitement will encounter the same incitement in his own backyard."