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Prof. Aumann to Supreme Court President: Reconsider the Ben Uliel case

Updated: Jan 8

Since the July 2015 arson attack on the Dawabshe family’s house in Kfar Duma, Honenu has assisted many Jews accused of involvement with the crime. For a selection of posts describing Honenu Attorneys’ representation of Amiram Ben Uliel, click here, and for a selection of posts about other defendants and GSS interrogees, click here. To familiarize our readers with the case, Honenu has gathered – click here – various articles and short videos on the subject.

Demonstration of torture methods; Photo credit: Otzma Yehudit

Friday, January 6, 2023, 9:29 In the coming days, the Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision on the request by Amiram Ben Uliel for an en banc hearing on the admissibility of confessions extracted by torture. Attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Yehoshua Reznik, who filed the request, wrote, "At the center of ruling arises a question that has been haunting Israeli law for many years: the authority of the GSS to use violent, torturous, and painful interrogations in order to extract information from interrogatees suspected of serious crimes against the security of the State."


Professor Yisrael Aumann, a Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, wrote a letter of support for Amiram Ben Uliel to Supreme Court President Chief Justice Esther Hayut asking that his case be reconsidered. Ben Uliel was convicted of murder in the Kfar Duma arson case. His conviction was based solely on a confession extracted by torture, which should not be admissible, and therefore the conviction should not be left standing.


Letter from Prof. Aumann to Chief Justice Hayut

Professor Aumann opened his letter with a request for justice: "I hereby write to you, because you are the only one who can cancel [this] terrible injustice; but more importantly, you can save Israel from turning into a police state. The Supreme Court has been asked to reconsider the case of Amiram Ben Uliel, a young Jew sentenced to more than three life terms for a murder [although his guilt] was never proven. His conviction was based solely on a confession extracted from him by torture. His confession, thus ruled the [Central] District Court and the Supreme Court, is admissible evidence. Although I am not a jurist, it appears to me that there is no justification for using torture to extract confessions in a democratic state," wrote the Nobel Prize laureate.


Professor Aumann called the attention of Supreme Court President Hayut to the aspect of human rights: "The arrest and interrogation of Ben-Uliel violated article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 'No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.' Furthermore, there is no justification for the use of torture to extract a confession in any country in the world, democratic or not, as long as one desires to reach the truth. A confession extracted by torture has absolutely no connection to the truth. A defendant confesses because he cannot bear the torture, without any connection to the question of whether or not he had committed a crime. Indeed, this is the aim of torture – to extract a confession from a defendant, at any cost."


Professor Aumann cited that the justices chose not to consider the admissibility of the torture with regard to the central evidence in the conviction of Ben Uliel: "If one is not interested in the truth, but rather one simply wants a conviction, then torture is indeed the perfect way to reach the goal. As children, we learned that this is how 'justice' was done in the darkest of the Medieval Ages. It is difficult to believe that this is what is done also in the 'enlightened' State of Israel in the twenty-first century. It is difficult to grasp that with their decision on September 1, 2022, the Supreme Court refused to relate to the subject of torture. The three justices refused to relate also to the question of whether or not to admit as evidence the confessions extracted from Ben Uliel by torture. They ruled that 'there is no doubt that it was he who committed this terrible act,' without having any actual evidence."


In conclusion, Professor Aumann requested that Supreme Court President Hayut allow an additional hearing in the case and thereby prevent the State of Israel from turning into a police state: "The defense filed a request for an extended panel of Supreme Court justices to examine the appeal by Ben Uliel. You have here an opportunity to overturn the unfortunate decision from September and to reaffirm the need to protect human rights and strive for the truth. The Torah calls on judges not to have fear – not of strong defendants and not of rulers – when doing justice. If the decision is not overturned, Israel will be the only state in the world that officially authorizes torture for extracting confessions. Honorable President, you have the power to prevent our deterioration into a police state. It must be clarified to the GSS, the police, and the office of the State Attorney that they must investigate and gather evidence – and not torture detainees in order to extract confessions."

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