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Honenu press conference: Interrogators applied severe methods of torture

Updated: Feb 23

Thursday, December 17, 2015, 20:18 After a 21-day ban on meeting with an attorney was lifted, three of the youths detained by the GSS met with Honenu attorneys after midnight on Wednesday, December 16 and revealed a long account of severe torture and abuses by the GSS interrogators. Attorneys Adi Kedar, David HaLevi, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Avichai Hajbi held a press conference on the evening of Thursday, December 17, in which they detailed appalling remand conditions and methods of interrogation.

Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar: “Today is a sad day for the judicial and the law enforcement systems of Israel. Today in effect, the State of Israel decided for the first time in history, to transform Israel into a different state, a state in which we do not want to live, a state in which a GSS interrogation room is a place in which a suspect has no rights and anything may be done to him and to his body, anything that comes to the mind of the interrogator. There is no justice and no judge, and everything is done in order to meet the wishes of certain people in the law enforcement system. “Yesterday, a bit after midnight, after 21 days during which a minor was denied the right to meet with an attorney, I met with him. I am acquainted with this minor and as soon as I saw him, I understood that I was not seeing the same person whom I knew, but rather someone else entirely, someone to whom something very terrible had happened. “After several minutes I learned that after weeks of interrogations, at a certain point, very high ranking individuals in the GSS entered the interrogation rooms and began applying severe methods of torture, shocking physical violence, the likes of which we have not heard in the State of Israel, certainly not concerning minors and certainly not under circumstances such as those with which we are currently dealing. “Our greatest sorrow in this matter is that during this entire process the justice system, which in our eyes was always supposed to provide balance, maintain limits and review the conduct of the law enforcement authorities, was in this instance working with those very authorities it should have been watching over. “This minor, who during the first stage was interrogated for hours upon hours, was deprived of sleep in a unprecedented manner. “At a certain stage, as he was handcuffed and ankle-cuffed, the above mentioned high-ranking interrogators entered the room and each one began in his own way to carry out cruel assaults. One of them assaulted sensitive parts of his body, another altered the position in which he was sitting in the chair while he was still shackled until he lost feeling in his limbs. Slaps and kicks had already become routine. “At a certain point the minor lost his grip on reality. He started to scream and cry in the interrogation room in a manner which indicated that he was losing his senses. “Another minor barely slept for three days. Although the minor told the court about the sleep deprivation, the court paid no attention to the matter. After being deprived of sleep for so long he naturally fell asleep and then the interrogators started to pull his head backwards in a way which caused him extreme pain. “He almost lost consciousness and severely vomited. A doctor who saw him said that he needed rest and was not fit to be interrogated. However he was immediately returned to the interrogation room and the abuse continued. “This description is only a small part of the continuous abuse of the detainees, some of whom are minors. These are difficult things to hear and difficult to imagine. I ask those same violent interrogators if they would be able to look the parents of those minors straight in the eye and give them any sort of explanation, if it is even possible to think of an explanation for such acts? Apparently there will be no answer.”

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir: “The State of Israel prided itself on its adherence to the principles of democracy and protection of citizens’ rights until this interrogation. The State of Israel is the same State in which only a few months ago, when a despicable terrorist ran with a knife after Jews in Pisgat Ze’ev, the Prime Minister gave explicit orders: Present him to the public and show him eating a proper meal because there is democracy in Israel. After this interrogation we see that there is no democracy. This is a black day for Israeli democracy. If the GSS agents allow themselves to abuse, injure, beat, punch and to apply pressure on the most sensitive points of the bodies of the youths, then they should not tell you about democracy. And the citizens’ rights people should not be righteous hypocrites. “Democracy and citizens’ rights are not words from a dictionary. Unfortunately the courts have given the interrogators too much credit [concerning their judgment]. We demand that this abuse stop and that the message which leaves here today is that the murder in [Kfar] Duma has not yet been solved, but what has been discovered is that the GSS agents beat and abused and there is no-one who will be penalized for it. We demand that the judges take action and not be there solely to watch minutes of the hearings recorded. When a minor stands before a judge and says that he is being beaten and abused we expect a judge to stop the interrogation and call in the individual in charge of the interrogation to give a response.”

Honenu Attorney Avichai Hajbi: “Justice is supposed to follow justice. [Reference to Deuteronomy 16:20] During the entire time the GSS presented the situation as if the suspects were a ‘ticking time bomb’, when we were actually dealing with an act which has already occurred. The entire time that the suspects were in remand, the GSS interrogators received credit for no reason. During the interrogations, physical injuries were carried out as were emotional injuries. What will the testimony given after an interrogation belonging to the Middle Ages and not the year 2015 be worth if it is presented to the court? “But I tell myself what do I expect from GSS interrogators when a senior figure in the Israel judicial system in one breath says that neither Hamas nor Honenu lack attorneys. What do I expect from the interrogators when the individual who gives the orders says such things at the trial? I reason that here all of the red lines have been crossed and I am not sure that crossing the red lines will lead to solving the case and to anything productive in the end, because there will be the need to examine whether or not the testimonies, if they were given, were given freely and willingly.”

Honenu Attorney David HaLevi: “I would like to relate particularly to the judicial system and to judicial review. As a democracy the State of Israel prides itself on its Youth Law, Law of Arrest, and Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty. The judicial system is supposed to restrain and monitor whomever carries out the interrogations. In this case the interrogations were carried out by the General Security Services and we will report to the Supreme Court about the torture they used. “The judicial system here has revealed its own serious faults because we have seen how minors were held for 21 days without seeing an attorney and no-one has said a word. Where are all the [human rights] organizations? Where is the National Council for the Child? Where are the left-wing organizations who care so much when Arab security prisoners are concerned? “Dozens of legal procedures were used to authorize everything that the GSS requested thereby turning the court into a rubber stamp. What is most serious is that the authorizations were given while torture was used during the interrogations, the detainees were prevented from meeting with an attorney, and detention of a relative was used as a means of applying pressure [on a detainee]. When they [the interrogators] saw that the days passed and pressure was increasing, they decided to implement extremely harsh physical violence and extremely severe emotional pressure on youths. This is not an acceptable way to achieve results. In the State of Israel there are cases of murder, including shocking cases of murder. We have not heard of taking suspects in such cases and beating them. That is not the way to solve crimes.”

Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar added: “We are sorry to disappoint the Defense Minister, but his irresponsible declarations are incorrect. It seems that the case of Kfar Duma, over which all of this abuse occurred, is dying down and about to come to a close. However this abuse caused additional incidents to rise to the surface and it could be that some of the suspects linked themselves to other matters and they will have to be examined.

“In our understanding it is not at all obvious that the testimonies are connected to reality. One of the suspects began to tell fabricated stories only due to the torture he was suffering during interrogation. This youth cannot imagine returning to the abuse of the interrogation rooms. “I reiterate that entire families were abused during the investigation. Family members completely unconnected to the case collapsed in the interrogation rooms and in court and required medical and emotional treatment. I would like call attention to the fact that if the parents of suspects, who are completely disconnected from the case, have been so severely abused and humiliated then what did the youths endure?”

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