Physicians Inspect Jerusalem Detention Centre
The Russian Compound: Between the "Banana" and a Night on the Floor
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel releases a report following a visit to the Russian Compound Detention Center.
On 21 October 2003, PHR-Israel visited the "Russian Compound" Detention Center, in Jerusalem. This is the main detention center for Jerusalem and the vicinity, and contains 332 beds for detainees. The center is divided into two sections: "criminal" (where Jewish and Arab detainees are held) and "security" (where Arab detainees are held). The PHR-Israel team was not allowed to view the security section, which is under the authority of the GSS ("Shabak" or "Shin Bet").
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, as part of its "Prisoners and Detainees Project", has been conducting tours of police detention centers for the last 5 years. The goals of the visits are to examine the conditions the detainees are held in, to discover problems and to work to effect change in the system. Those held behind bars are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses since they are essentially locked away and hidden from the eyes of the public. The visits are conducted in coordination with the police- the only body in Israel which allows PHR-Israel to visit their lock-up centers. The Israeli army and the Israeli Prison Service do not allow such visits.
A full report on the visit to the Russian Compound Detention Center was compiled and is available in Hebrew. What follows here is a brief summery of the information disclosed in the report:
1) On the day of the visit, 30 detainees slept on the floor. This is a violation of the Israeli law pertaining to detention, which entitles each detainee to a bed. Below, one may find a link to the PHR-Israel press release following the relevant verdict handed down by the Israeli High Court.
2) In the basement of the detention center there are, it seems, three isolation cells. The detention center's staff attempted to hide their existence from the PHR-Israel team, and they were informed of the cells existence by a detainee. PHR-Israel was not allowed to visit them.
3) The detention center's staff punishes detainees for disciplinary violations. One of the punishments is the "banana shackle" (please see illustration above). This type of shackling causes suffering and pain to the detainee, and is not allowed according to the regulations of the Convention against Torture (entry into force 26 June 1987).
4) Jewish and Arab detainees are held in separate cells. There is reason for concern that the detention center discriminates against the Arab prisoners. For example, the majority of the complaints received by PHR-Israel regarding dental care were of Arab detainees.
5) The prison doctor examines all the security prisoners before they enter. According to the GSS's demands, the doctor decides whether the detainee is "fit" or "unfit". A copy of the form the doctor must fill out is included as an appendix in the full report. There is serious concern that the doctor is essentially clearing detainees for interrogations during which torture might be used.
6) There is no mental health care given at the detention center. Instead, the detainees that are "suspected" by the medical staff of being mentally ill are held in observation cells. In the event that the prisoners act out by rioting or by other means, they are severely punished, without any verification of whether or not their actions were a result of mental distress; they do not receive treatment.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel turned to the Attorney General and to the Police Inspector General, demanding that the use of the "banana shackle" and all other forms of physical punishment be stopped. Likewise, PHR-Israel turned to the Ministry of Health and to the Israeli Medical Association (IMA), demanding that they express their opinion on the alleged involvement of doctors in the torture of those being interrogated. Full report (Hebrew only): http://www.phr.org.il/Phr/downloads/dl_162.rtf Homepage of the Police Detention and Inspection Project: http://www.phr.org.il/Phr/Pages/PhrArticle_Unit.asp?Cat=20&art=127&Pcat=4 Link to PHR-Israel press release following the High Court's decision banning the practice of making detainees sleep on the floor: http://www.phr.org.il/Phr/Pages/PhrArticle_Unit.asp?Cat=11&art=572 International Law page on the PHR-Israel website. Special attention should be paid to the Convention against Torture from 1987, and the WMA's Declaration of Tokyo: http://www.phr.org.il/Phr/Pages/PhrArticles_index.asp?Cat=143