For the first time in its history, an interrogator from Israel’s secret police agency, the Shin Bet, is to face a criminal investigation over allegations of torture.
It will be the first probe of the Shin Bet since Israel’s supreme court issued a landmark ruling nearly two decades ago prohibiting, except in extraordinary circumstances, the use of what it termed “special methods” of interrogation.
Before the ruling, physical abuse of Palestinians had been routine and resulted in several deaths in custody.
According to human rights groups, however, the supreme court ban has had a limited impact. The Shin Bet, formally known as the Israel Security Agency, has simply been more careful about hiding its use of torture, they say.
More than 1,000 complaints from Palestinians have been submitted to a government watchdog body over the past 18 years, but this is the first time one has led to a criminal investigation.
Many Palestinians are jailed based on confessions either they or other Palestinians make during Shin Bet questioning. Israeli military courts almost never examine how such confessions were obtained or whether they are reliable, say lawyers, contributing to a 99.7 percent conviction rate.
Last month, in freeing a Palestinian man who was jailed based on a false confession, an Israeli court accused the Shin Bet of using techniques that were “liable to induce innocent people to admit to acts that they did not commit”.
‘Exception proves the rule’