Israel detainee shackling practices constitute abuse: rights group

Israel detainee shackling practices constitute abuse: rights group

[JURIST] Shackling techniques used by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Shin Bet Security Agency (GSS) [official websites] against Palestinian detainees are unjustifiably harsh and constitute torture, according to a report [text, PDF; executive summary, DOC] issued Wednesday by advocacy group Public Committee Against Torture in Israel [advocacy website]. The group said that the IDF and GSS employ harsh shackling techniques regardless of security risks, and at times used them to deliberately cause pain to punish or extract information from detainees. It also said that detainees were unnecessarily restrained during medical procedures. The group said it had substantial evidence of the abuse, and that the practices violate the UN Convention Against Torture [text]:

soldiers tend to shackle detainees hands in a painful and harmful manner which begins at the time of arrest and lasts during their transfer to the various interrogation facilities. Detainees are largely and systematically shackled behind their backs in combination with excessive tightening of the narrow plastic manacles, causing pain and at times lasting injury. Some of the detainees describe additional tightening of the plastic restraints with the obvious goal to causing additional suffering which is the usual answer to detainee's [sic] who complain about the pain. In the past year alone PCATI documented not less than 574 cases of painful shackling by Israeli soldiers. These figures, which are surely only the tip of the iceberg, testify to the extent of the phenomena…

Although [GSS] facilities are highly secured and there is no danger of escape, detainees are regularly shackled with their hands behind their backs, around the back of the chair upon which they are sitting. It is not uncommon for them to be held in this position for hours at a time and even for days on end. Often the detainee is left in this manner in a locked interrogation room for hours at a time, even when he is not being interrogated. Shackling of this sort, when the body is contorted occasionally results in long-term damage. This practice cannot be justified by the concerns for the safety of the interrogators or prevention of escape attempts offered by officials. The unacceptability of this claim is further demonstrated in light of the fact that these detainees – restrained in GSS interrogation chambers – are brought before police interrogators so that they can take their confession while the detainee is left unrestrained. These facts leave no room for doubt: painful shackling is designed to break the interrogee's spirit and to illegally extract a confession or information from him, in violation of Israel's obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and other international conventions and instruments.

The group said that despite previous appeals to the Israeli government, abusive shackling continues. It called on the government to only use the restraints when necessary and to end their punitive or coercive use.

In 2006, Palestinian politician Aziz Dweik [JMCC profile] was taken to the hospital [JURIST report] for chest pains and breathing problems, which his spokesman said were due to beatings by prison guards after his arrest [JURIST report] by Israeli forces. That same year, two other Hamas officials who have since been released from Israeli custody told reporters that they were abused while detained [JURIST report].