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Groups Opposed To Use Of Family In Interrogations

Human Rights organizations file a petition to the High Court of Justice against the GSS, the Police and the Attorney General demanding the Court prohibit the use of family members to pressure interrogees

* The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)

* B’Tselem-the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

* Hamoked- the Center for the Defence of the Individual

* Physicians for Human Rights

* Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

The petition follows the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) report that was published and discussed in the Knesset earlier this week

Today, 16 April 2008, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, B'Tselem-The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual and Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the High court of Justice against the General Security Service (GSS), the Israel Police and the Attorney General demanding that the use of family members as means of exhorting pressure on suspects during interrogations by state authorities be absolutely prohibited (case # 3533/08) . The petition was submitted by Attorney Smadar Ben-Natan and PCATI Attorney Eliahu Abram on behalf of six family members of interrogees and the five above mentioned human rights organizations.

The organizations demand that the Court order the cessation of the use of methods amounting to psychological torture which present a “charade” before suspects that implies that their confession during interrogation will lead to the release or the improvement of the conditions of detention of members of their families, or that an innocent family member has been or is about to be arrested if they do not confess.

The use of family members in police and GSS interrogations, as demonstrated by the cases described in the petition, causes severe emotional pressure, tantamount to psychological torture, not only to the detainee himself but also to members of his family who, without their knowledge or free consent, have been turned into an instrument in the interrogation of their loved one.

The petition is based on a series of events detailed in the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel report, “Family Matters, Using Family Members to Pressure Detainees Under GSS Interrogation” that was published and discussed in the Knesset earlier this week as well as on additional cases including that of an East Jerusalem minor who was arrested on suspicion of participating in disturbances in the city. As a form of pressure on the minor, the police threatened to arrest his father and, later on, brought his mother into the interrogation room and presented her, handcuffed, before the detainee, in a pretense that she was arrested.

In the discussion held on Sunday at the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the Head of the GSS Interrogations Unit admitted that, at least in one case, family members were exploited in the above manner. This case, involving the Sweiti family and detailed in PCATI’s report and in the petition, the father and wife of a detainee were brought to an interrogation facility and presented to their loved one as if they also had been arrested. A short time afterwards, the interrogee, Mahmud Sweiti, attempted to commit suicide. The GSS agent stated at the in the Knesset that, following the complaint filed by PCATI on this matter, the directives have been changed so that “in general”, this form of pretense will not be allowed.

The organizations emphasize that the new directives are not sufficient means to end the phenomenon and that the exploitation of family members of detainees must be forbidden in all circumstances. The choice a detainee is forced to make between confession to an offence, that he may or may not have committed, and the well being of family members is cruel, difficult and impossible and must be prohibited.


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