Israeli high court hears petition to ban Shin Bet interrogation methods

JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian detainees asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to bar specific methods of interrogation by Israel, saying depriving suspects of sleep, tying them in painful positions and covering their heads were all forms of torture.
The landmark case was heard by a special panel of nine of 14 Supreme Court judges, who were asked to issue a blanket ban on the methods the Shin Bet security service has acknowledged using against Palestinians.
London-based Amnesty International also asked the judges for the ban.
“Israel is the only country in the world known to have effectively legalized torture by officially allowing such methods,” the human rights group said in a statement. “We are hoping for a clear ruling by the high court that the use of such interrogation techniques is unacceptable.”
The case was brought by Palestinian detainees Abdel Rahman Ghanimat and Fuad Quran. They are suspected of having ties to the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has carried out more than a dozen suicide bombings in Israel since 1994.
State Attorney Shai Nitzan acknowledged that detainees often are forced to sit with their hands tied, have sacks placed over their heads and are blasted with loud music.
However, Nitzan said this occurred only in the waiting period between interrogation sessions and was meant to keep detainees from communicating with each other or attacking Shin Bet agents.
Attorney Leah Tsemel, who represents Ghanimat and Quran, disputed the state’s claims, saying Palestinian security detainees were routinely deprived of sleep, tied up in contorted positions, subjected to loud music and forced to wear dirty hoods.
Tsemel said the state had asked Quran to drop his appeal, amid promises that he would no longer be subjected to these methods. Quran declined, the lawyer said.
“Such behavior cannot continue,” Tsemel told reporters before the start of the hearing. “It is absolute torture and against both Israeli law and international standards.”
Human rights groups have alleged for years that the Shin Bet systematically mistreated Palestinian security detainees to extract confessions.
In 1987, an Israeli commission on interrogation methods said the Shin Bet could use “moderate physical force,” and the permitted methods were listed in a secret addendum.
It is widely believed that the methods being reviewed by the high court Wednesday were among those permitted by the inquiry commission.
It was not clear when the court would rule.
In the past, the court has been reluctant to restrict the Shin Bet, and has allowed the use of force, including violent shaking, against detainees believed to have information on future attacks.