Sources: Attorney General Approved Torture of Jewish Suspects in Duma Murder Case

PM Netanyahu was only informed of the use of torture after the fact; AG Yehuda Weinstein may have overstepped authority with his decision.

File photo: Three women stand inside the Dawabsheh family home in Duma, West Bank, where an arson attack claimed three lives, August 4, 2015.
Menahem Kahana \ AFP

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein personally approved the torture of the Jewish suspects being interrogated over the murder of a Palestinian family in Duma last July, sources familiar with the investigation have told Haaretz.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not know about the torture in the high-profile case, according to the sources, and was only informed after the fact.

The Justice Ministry declined to confirm or deny this report, saying only that "the decisions regarding the interrogations were made by the head of the Shin Bet, in terms of his authority, with the oversight and accompaniment of the most senior officials in the Justice Ministry, headed by the attorney general."

Weinstein gave his approval three weeks ago, after being briefed by police officers that the investigation into the arson attack that killed three members of the Dawabsheh family, including an 18-month-old boy, was not progressing.

Given these circumstances, Weinstein permitted Shin Bet security service agents to employ extraordinary measures.

Although the Shin Bet answers to Netanyahu, who meets weekly with the head of the security service, the prime minister was not briefed in advance and didn’t know the Shin Bet intended to use these methods. Netanyahu was aware that the Shin Bet had the option of using physical force during the interrogations, but the agency did not update him or Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon until after the fact.

Weinstein’s approval seemingly contravenes the approval process for torture that Elyakim Rubinstein established after the High Court of Justice banned torture methods in 1999. According to Rubinstein, who was attorney general at the time, the AG may not authorize or approve the use of physical force by the Shin Bet, but rather, inform them in which instances he will not prosecute them for its use. Rubinstein also approved the procedures for internal consultations within the Shin Bet as to which instances are appropriate for applying physical force.

Olivier Fitoussi

It appears that Weinstein is not supposed to approve such interrogations in advance, so it is believed he may have told the Shin Bet, “If you see the need to use force in the interrogation, I will not prosecute the investigators.”

The prosecution expects to file charges in the Duma case on Sunday. The primary suspect will be charged with murder, while A. could be charged with murder or being an accessory to murder.

In its response, the Justice Ministry also said: "The impression of the deputy attorney general, who visited the detainees with the knowledge of the attorney general, was that their physical and mental condition was normal and that there was a significant gap between the statements made by the detainees themselves and some of what was said publicly on their behalf.

"It must be said that so long as the representatives of the suspects make different allegations about the means used during the investigation, those allegations will be clarified in the accepted ways.

"To remove all doubt, nothing said here confirms what you have written."