IDF Revises Regulations on Handcuffing Detainees After Complaints

Move prompted by request filed last May by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces recently issued new instructions on handcuffing detainees, in a bid to prevent causing unnecessarily bodily harm to suspects during their arrest.

Maj. Yael Bar-Yosef of the West Bank division of the Attorney General's Office announced the new regulations on March 23. The move comes in response to a request filed by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel with the Military Advocate General last May, which had been prompted by a number of complaints from Palestinian detainees who'd said they had suffered physical harm while being handcuffed.

Bar-Yosef informed the advocacy group that the instructions were formulated following a comprehensive army study of the matter, that included the participation of army officers and physicians. She did not stipulate the exact nature of the new rules, which remain classified.

Bar-Yosef wrote that military authorities "found no advantage to using iron handcuffs over plastic ones. The important variable is how well the handcuffs fasten around the detainee's wrist, not the kind of handcuffs used."

She added that the new regulations specify that "as a rule, arrests will be made with plastic handcuffs, with both of the detainee's hands in front of him. Under circumstances in which there is an operational necessity to do so, a detainee may be handcuffed behind his back with metal cuffs."

The new instructions also stipulate that arrests must be made using three handcuffs - one on each wrist and a third connecting between them. Troops will be required to leave adequate space between the handcuffs and the detainee's wrists.

Bar-Yosef said the new measures highlight the military's "obligation to ensure the health and dignity of every detainee."

"It is essential to avoid causing medical damage with handcuffs, and it is the responsibility of the unit commander present to ensure that they are not excessively tight," she wrote.