Zero Investigations (Israeli apartheid system at work)

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann presented the following disturbing statistics last Wednesday, the final day of the Knesset’s winter session: In 2005 and 2006, a total of 129 complaints were filed against Shin Bet security services interrogators. Not a single one reached the ministry’s Police Investigations Department (PID). Friedmann, who was responding to a question submitted by MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), explained that none of the complaints “raised the suspicion of a criminal act.”

There is nothing new under the sun (or, in this case, far from the light of the sun). When Edna Arbel was state prosecutor, she told Haaretz that not a single one of the 100 complaints filed with the person in charge of reviewing complaints by interrogated suspects in 2000 and 2001 came in for criminal investigation. A few of the cases were passed on for disciplinary action.

The wholesale rejection of all the complaints must raise the question of a cover-up. “The figure is amazing,” Khenin said to Haaretz, “129 false complaints were made against the Shin Bet and not a single one deserved even to be investigated.” It can be assumed that the reason for zero investigations is that the reviewer works for the Shin Bet. Members of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel claim the reviewer has only two types of responses: There was no basis to the claims, or this was a case of a “ticking bomb” that justified the use of force.

The exemption from external oversight sends Shin Bet interrogators the problematic and dangerous message that they are immune from prosecution. The reviewer is subordinate to the State Prosecutor’s Office. This begs the question of whether the office is fulfilling its supervisory and critical function regarding the reviewer.

In 1999 the High Court banned the Shin Bet from torturing suspects or treating them in a cruel, humiliating or inhumane manner. However, the justice system does not take action against interrogators who apply force in “ticking bomb” situations. The Public Committee Against Torture claims that the Shin Bet’s interrogation methods are gradually returning to the period before the High Court ruling against torture. Is this correct? It’s hard to say. No external organization has checked.

On the other hand, there is no ignoring that many Israelis owe their lives to Shin Bet investigators. Israelis are once again free to shop in the malls and travel by bus safely, largely thanks to the impressive successes of the Shin Bet. But that organization is walking a thin line. The blood, honor and humanity of terror suspects are not at their disposal.

The power to decide on investigating complaints against interrogators must be taken out of the Shin Bet’s hands immediately. One option is to transfer the complaints directly to the PID. Now that there is a commissioner for handling complaints against judges, perhaps the time has come to appoint a commissioner for complaints against the Shin Bet. The post could be filled by a former military figure or someone connected to the Justice Ministry, but it must be someone whose career and livelihood are not dependent on the Shin Bet.

Friedmann promised Khenin that Justice Ministry staff would reexamine a sampling of the complaints. This examination is very important. It should be done soon and thoroughly, and the results should be made public.

ReF: Haaretz

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