JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A human rights group said Israel uses psychological torture against some Palestinian detainees by faking the arrest of close relatives or taking family members into custody on questionable charges.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), documenting six cases, said the aim of the practice was to force confessions from Palestinians suspected of security offences.
Israel’s attorney-general, responding to a complaint by the PCATI in 2007, advised that it was “prohibited to present the detainee with a scenario according to which it appears his relative is in detention,” said the PCATI report, released on Sunday.
Nonetheless, the organization said, such methods continue.
The Shin Bet Security Service issued a statement denying it carried out fake arrests or jailed detainees’ relatives without justification.
In the report, the PCATI said the “illegal exploitation” of family members, who in most cases were not suspects themselves, caused “severe psychological suffering.”
“In more extreme cases, this method takes the form of psychological torture of a detainee.”
Describing one incident, the report said interrogators tried to fool Mahmoud Suweiti, detained in the West Bank city of Hebron on suspicion of membership in a Palestinian militant group, into thinking his wife and father had been arrested.
Ordered to report to the facility where Suweiti was being held, his spouse and father were escorted into its courtyard, flanked by security personnel.
Guards allowed Suweiti a brief glimpse of his relatives through a second-floor window. His father was wearing a prisoner’s coat, an attempt by the authorities to make Suweiti believe the two were under arrest, the report said.
As a result, Suweiti became suicidal. An interrogator’s notes included in the report said he tried to harm himself by banging his head on a table and a wall and apparently attempting to hang himself with his jacket.
In another alleged incident, the PCATI said detainee Said Diab was beaten repeatedly by Shin Bet interrogators after his arrest in Hebron in February 2007.
Pressuring him to say he plotted to carry out an attack in Israel, the Shin Bet arrested his mother — making sure he saw the shackled woman through an open cell door, the report said.
Diab was told his mother was suspected of involvement in his alleged activities on behalf of the Hamas group.
She was eventually charged with a minor offense of passing a message from a prisoner to his mother, the report said, calling the indictment “an attempt by the authorities to hide the real purpose of her arrest.”
The PCATI describes itself as an independent human rights organization that monitors implementation of a 1999 Israeli Supreme Court ban on the use of torture during interrogation.
In a report last May, the Israeli rights groups B’Tselem and HaMoked found Israeli security interrogators routinely mistreat and sometimes physically torture Palestinian detainees.
Israel’s Justice Ministry said those findings were “fraught with mistakes, groundless claims and inaccuracies.”