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Israeli Doctors Are Complicit in the Torture of Palestinian Prisoners

Two Israeli human rights organizations, the Public Committee Against Torture (PCAT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) have released a report, Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim, in which they claim that medical professionals in Israel fail to document and report injuries caused by the ill-treatment and torture of detainees by security personnel. The report states that the doctors’ behavior is a violation of their ethical code.

The report, based on 100 cases of Palestinian prisoners brought to PCAT since 2007, “reveals significant evidence arousing the suspicion that many doctors ignore the complaints of their patients; that they allow Israeli Security Agency interrogators to use torture; approve the use of forbidden interrogation methods and the ill-treatment of helpless detainees; and conceal information, thereby allowing total immunity for the torturers.”

Although the Israeli government denies torturing or ill-treating prisoners, included in the report are evidence of beatings, being held for long periods in stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats. In addition, doctors are accused of not keeping proper medical records of injuries caused during interrogations. In this regard, the report notes “countless cases wherein individuals testified to injuries inflicted upon them during detention or in interrogation, and yet the medical record from the hospital or the prison service makes no mention at all.”

The report deals with medical professionals who have witnessed, participated in or been in contact with prisoners who have been interrogated by the Shin Bet internal security service, which has often been accused of inflicting physical or psychological violence on Palestinian prisoners. Either through direct action or through their silence, medical professionals were complicit with what goes on in the interrogation places, says the report. It also says that medical staff in prisons “approves the use of forbidden interrogation methods and the ill-treatment of helpless detainees; and conceals information thereby allowing total impunity for the torturers.”

“Palestinian political prisoners and detainees incarcerated by Israel are subject to harsher pre-trial detention laws (e.g., lengthy prohibition on meeting with lawyers), interrogations and conditions of confinement than other prisoners and detainees held in Israel. In Israel Security Agency (ISA or shabak) facilities, testimonies taken by human rights organizations in past years indicate clear patterns of torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinian detainees,” stated in 2010 the Public committee against torture in Israel.

According to this committee, detainees being held in the Ashqelon, Jalameh, Petakh-Tikva and Moscobiya facilities are routinely subjected to inhuman and degrading detention treatment during their interrogation by the ISA. It is mainly Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the OPT who are detained and interrogated in these facilities. However, only the new report deals with medical personnel participation or acquiescence in torture.

“In Israel it is illegal to abuse inmates, including security prisoners,” stated Israel government’s spokesman Mark Regev. “Guidelines have been passed to the relevant authorities. If years ago the guidelines were not clear, they are today. And if there are allegations of wrongdoing against people in custody, they are investigated thoroughly,” he added.

However, the evidence cited in the new report by PCAT and PHR Israel, indicates that abuses continue. As Dr. Ishai Menuchin and Ran Cohen, Executive Directors of the PCAT and PHR Israel respectively state, “We are hopeful that this report will help the medical system change its ways and those of the doctors who ignore their ethical obligations. The world will be a better place if the doctors conduct themselves in a moral fashion.”

César Chelala

César Chelala

Dr. César Chelala is an international public health consultant, co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.

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