Volume 23

February 2011

Summary of 2010 Activities


Friends and Supporters,

With 2011 now upon us we would like to offer our wishes for a good year and to update you about our activities from the previous year – activities made possible by your support. The right-wing attack on the human rights community by different organizations in the public sphere, by political parties in the Knesset and in various government ministries, required that we work intensively and increasingly in close cooperation with the local and international human rights community. This in addition to our regular work, which focuses on violations against the civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in particular the substandard treatment of those detained by the Israeli Army or interrogated by Israel’s General Security Services (GSS, also known as the Israeli Security Agency, or ISA). At the same time we continued to work on building cooperative relationships with Israeli, Palestinian and international NGOs, and on our public engagement and legal advocacy work. We represented torture victims, wrote complaints, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) and lower courts, published reports, produced videos and  newsletters and appeared in a variety of media sources, all in order to promote our position and to bring to the public sphere the significant information we have collected.

Legal Advocacy

A. The Struggle Against Impunity for GSS Interrogators:

Following our report “Accountability Denied: The Absence of Investigation and Punishment of Torture in Israel”, we continued to struggle against the absolute immunity granted to GSS interrogators. This immunity has, over the past decade, led to the shelving of over 650 complaints submitted to Israel’s Attorney General against those suspected of torturing GSS interrogees, without the opening of a single criminal investigation. Such a result is based on the exclusive adoption of the findings and recommendations of preliminary inquiries performed by a GSS agent attached to the Ministry of Justice, known as the Officer in Charge of GSS Interrogee Complaints (OCGIC). Such a process, needless to say, cannot be independent, reliable or transparent. Therefore, on 9.3.10, PCATI wrote to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on behalf of six other human rights NGOs, requesting a change in policy that would require the opening of criminal investigations in complaints arousing suspicions of torture or ill-treatment. In the course of PCATI’s dealing with this issue, the Ministry of Justice declared on 17.11.10 that the mechanism including the OCGIC, who is part of the GSS, will become part of the Ministry of Justice and will answer to the Ministry’s executive director. Nevertheless, despite repeated attempts to learn about the substance of this change, no information has been forthcoming from the authorities. We are working on a petition at this moment, which, we hope, will help to bring an end to this age of impunity. 

Another aspect of the immunity granted GSS interrogators lies in the chronic foot dragging practiced by the OCGIC in carrying out inquiries. We therefore lodged individual complaints in two of these cases, though in the one and a half to two years since their filing, no substantive response to them has been received. HCJ 1910/10, Jihad Moughrabi v. Attorney General, was filed in March 2010; HCJ 5889/10, Ala’a Salem v. Attorney General, in August of the same year. In both cases the victims testified that the torture they underwent in the course of their interrogations caused them physical and mental pain and injury, some of which was documented in medical files and court protocols from hearings in the military court, included with the appeals. Nevertheless, the State Attorney’s Office demanded that the High Court  summarily reject the appeals , claiming that the legal remedy was overly general and the appeals preliminary. In Salem’s case, a decision shelving the case on the basis of an examination by the OCGIC was handed down two days before the filing of the state’s response to the HCJ; it was claimed that the appellant must thus exhaust alternative legal remedies. In both cases the appellants were denied the right to be heard before the investigative authorities, and the investigation materials were likewise confidential. Following the filing of  responses by PCATI, the HCJ ordered a hearing on both appeals. 

We furthermore took part in the filing of six appeals headed by  other organizations. With the Association for Civil Rights in Israel we demanded  a significant reduction in the periods of detention in the Military Code (HCJ 4057/10 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Commander of IDF Forces in Judea and Samaria); an appeal demanding video documentation of interrogations of those suspected of security violations (HCJ 9416/10 Adalah v. The Ministry of Internal Security); appeals we filed in cooperation with Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel requesting the removal of the gag order in the Ameer Makhoul affair; and an appeal demanding that the authorities provide information on the fate of those detained, injured and killed during the Gaza Flotilla. 

As for the continuing treatment of pending appeals, a hearing took place on 17.5.10 in the case of (HCJ 10022/07) Abu El’ayash v. Israel Prison Service Commissioner, which challenges the deplorable conditions under which detainees are held while awaiting trial at the military courts at the “Ofer” and “Salem” military camps. During the hearing we learned that te cells at “Ofer” were currently underway, to be completed by the end of June 2010. At “Salem”, on the other hand, progress had been limited to the allocation of a budget and the choosing of experts to deal with the situation in the cells. The HCJ agreed to our request to continue supervision of the state’s carrying out of its obligations on this matter. Likewise, on 21.9.10 a hearing was held on HCJ 1901/08 Dababsah v. Chief Military Advocate General, in which we demanded the Chief Military Advocate General order an investigation of the killing of Issa Dababsah, a shepherd from the South Hebron Hills suspected of murdering Dov Derivan. Dababsah was killed six years ago by the only soldier to be awarded a Medal of Courage between the two Lebanon wars. In the course of the hearing, supplematary materials were filed by both sides, and we are currently awaiting the HCJ’s decision. 

Finally, in a hearing held on 26.4.10, the HCJ rejected our appeal against the use of painful shackling as a means of ill-treatment and torture during GSS interrogations (HCJ 5553/09 Public Committee Against Torture v. Prime Minister of Israel). This on the basis of a preliminary response by the state rejecting our claim that painful shackling is used as an interrogation method; the HCJ ruled that: “As a rule it is impermissible to use shackling as an interrogation method. If, and insofar as the interrogator in a specific interrogation makes use of shackling for the purposes of the interrogation, then his/her legal position will be determined by the circumstances, just like with any physical interrogation method implemented, with the interrogator having access to the “necessity” defense as formulated in the Penal Code where this defense absolves him of criminal responsibility in, and not beyond, appropriate circumstances”. 

It should be emphasized that as a result of the petition the HCJ was informed that the guidelines regarding shackling of security detainees by the General Security Services (GSS) during their interrogation had been arranged; yet the court approved the argument that these guidelines not be published. In addition, PCATI was updated by the authorities that the guidelines had been updated and that it had been decided to extend the chain connecting the handcuffs in order to allow the interrogee’s hands to rest on the sides of the body instead of behind the back (some 50 cm). 

We were further informed that the decision regarding interrogee cuffing would be made according to the individual discretion of the interrogator regarding the necessity of using cuffing, considering a variety of criteria including: the suspicions against the interrogee and the interrogator’s impression of the interrogee’s behavior during detention and interrogation, the interrogee’s age and medical condition. In addition, it was dictated in the guidelines that “the shackling of interrogees above the age of 65 and those under 16, as well as women, requires approval be granted by the managing echelon”. Thus, the HCJ rejected the appeal and ruled that the appellant maintain the right to continue with individual legal action in every case of the misuse of shackling. The our monitoring  following the ruling which rejected our appeal shows that the Attorney General’s guidelines are far from being implemented in full; a collective complaint is being planned for early 2011. In this context, see the Report “Shackling as a Form of Torture and Abuse”. 

Finally, this year saw PCATI continue its activity against the involvement of doctors in torture, carried out in cooperation with Physicians for Human Rights-Israel including  tracking whether the authorities were living up to their duty to supply the full medical records of detainees who were subjected to torture, the problem of partial information contained in the records, and the failure of medical staffs who avoid reporting suspicions of violent crimes carried out against detainees to the appropriate authorities, in violation of criminal law.

B. Individual Legal Activity

In addition to the activity on petitions of principle, we filed individual complaints against torture and/or ill-treatment of detainees—the overwhelming majority of whom are Palestinian—by GSS interrogators, soldiers, police and prison guards. These were characterized this year by more intensive and closer supervision over the responses of the authorities to petitions filed in these cases. This year we filed over 50 such individual complaints and a collective complaint in the name of 40 detainees against the army’s use of painful shackling against the guidelines, and further dealt with nearly 100 cases from previous years. Likewise, we filed a number of appeals against the closing of cases by the Police Internal Investigations Department and the Military Police’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID). PCATI’s attorneys carried out nearly 200 visits to detainees this year, the overwhelming majority of these to detainees and prisoners classified as “security” cases. These visits are practically the exclusive means of taking their testimonies and updating them on developments in the treatment of their complaints. Special attention was granted this year to the complaints of women and children. Our attempt to convince the investigating authorities, primarily the CID, to consider victims of torture to be the victims of a crime, somewhat like the treatment granted under the law to victims of sexual violence, was met with the absolute refusal of the CID. This policy led to the shelving of complaints of complainants insisting upon their right to be accompanied by an attorney on their behalf while giving their testimony to CID investigators, even in cases where the complainant was a minor. We therefore lodged a petition on this issue with the Military Advocate General on 23.6.10. It should be emphasized that in cases of incarcerated complainants, the authorities appear at the holding facility in which the complainant is being held and take his/her testimony without prior notification.

Activity in the Public Sphere

 A. Reports published by PCATI in 2010

Exposed: The Treatment of Palestinian Detainees During Operation Cast Lead

The report, released in partnership with Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, deals with the cruel and degrading treatment of the hundreds detained during Operation Cast Lead. First, the report describes the extended period of time which passed between the detention of the civilians on the one hand, and the notification of their family members and their official absorption at detention centers and military camps in Israel, on the other. This failure to provide notification allowed a complete lack of supervision over the manner of their detention: shameful conditions of intense cold, lack of food and holding in “craters” – enormous incarceration pits dug by the army. The report further describes how, during this period, some detainees were used as human shields in direct violation of a High Court of Justice ruling. In addition the report deals with the holding of civilians as “unlawful combatants” – a legal hybrid created in order to deny them the rights of both protected civilians and those of prisoners of war. These violations demand an independent investigation, on the local level, of the operation methods of the security forces and, in the absence of local investigation, on the international level. 

The report was released as part of the “Gaza – Here and Now” event, organized in cooperation with several other human rights organizations including Adalah , Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Gisha at the “Hagada HaSmalit” (Left Bank) in Tel Aviv. 

When the Exception Becomes the Rule: Incommunicado Holding of Palestinian Detainees

This report, released in partnership with “Nadi al-Asir (Palestinian Prisoner’s Society)”, begins by presenting data on the high frequency with which the General Security Services (GSS) utilizes its authority to prevent detainees from meeting their attorneys in the course of their interrogations. Despite the fact that this authority was meant to be used only rarely, the report shows it has nevertheless become the norm: the majority of Palestinian detainees are prevented from meeting their attorneys during interrogation – and thus, considering the other limitations on their communication with the outside world, are in effect held incommunicado. The report further shows how, during such incommunicado detention, many detainees are subjected to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment by their interrogators, and how their prevention from meeting their attorneys also prevents supervision of the interrogation process. 

The report was released at a special symposium held at the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University. The panel included Honorable Justice Dalia Dorner (ret.), President of the Israel Press Council; Atty. Shai Nitzan, Deputy State Attorney for Special Tasks at the Justice Department; Atty. Avigdor Feldman; and the the report's author, Dr. Maya Rosenfeld of the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

B. Video Library and PCATI Newsletters

This year PCATI’s video project focused on the subject of responsibility. A series of videos was produced in partnership with Social Television, made up of four chapters dealing with our responsibility as citizens in a democratic state. Among the speakers appearing in the series are Dr. Ishai Menuchin, Dr. Naomi Chazan, Prof. Yaron Ezrahi, Atty. Bana Shoughry-Badarne, Adar Graevsky, Hadas Ziv and Dr. Anat Matar. To see the series of videos on PCATI’s website click here. In addition, various events organized by PCATI were filmed and edited by Social Television, including “Ball on the Brink”, an event marking International Human Rights Day and “No to institutional violence!”, a protest march encircling the Jerusalem Police Headquarters at the Russian Compound.

Over the last year PCATI has produced and released four newsletters to our mailing list, each in both Hebrew and English, and taken care to provide occasional updates and special tidings regarding specific activities.

C. The Educational Project: “Film and Human Rights – Bad Things Happen When Good People Keep Quiet”

Over the course of 2010 we substantially extended our flagship educational program, “Film and Human Rights – Bad Things Happen When Good People Keep Quiet”. The film project works to deepen the human rights discourse in Israeli society by teaching critical viewing skills. This year, between six and eight discussion facilitators participated in the project, working in different educational settings also in the Be’er Sheva area and Tel Aviv, but primarily in Jerusalem. Among these are a “Mahapah” group in Tel Aviv, Kibbutz Harel, the Givat Ye’arim community and several Jerusalem high schools. In total our activity included cooperation with 38 different institutions, in which we worked with 56 groups and reached over 1,000 participating individuals. For more information on the project click here.

In addition, we ran a series of film screenings and discussions, open to the public, in conjunction with the “HaOzen HaShilishit” (Third Ear), for the fourth year running.

D. Public Events and PCATI Productions

Over the course of the year, PCATI initiated a variety of events regarding human rights. This June, PCATI organized an event at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. 

In July, PCATI’s report, “Exposed: The Treatment of Palestinian Detainees During Operation Cast Lead”, was released at the aforementioned event on the siege of Gaza, which included a broad panel on the siege of Gaza and a screening of the first-ever Palestinian animated film, “Fatenah”. 

To mark Simhat Torah this September, PCATI, Rabbis for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel orchestrated a ritual encirclement of the Jerusalem Police Headquarters at the Russian Compound under the slogan, “No to Institutional Violence!”. The event was held in protest of the persistence of torture and ill-treatment and for the opening of a new Jewish year free of torture and institutional violence.

We topped the year off with “Ball on the Brink – Human Rights Ball 2010”, held at the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa, in conjunction with various cultural figures and artists including: Dan Toren, Judd Ne’eman, System Ali, Sarah von Schwarze and Hadara Levin-Areddy. 

E. Exposing the Struggle Against Torture at Various Cultural Events and Festivals

Over the course of the year PCATI attended several events, setting up a booth to provide information on the subject of torture in Israel and the means of our struggle against it. PCATI employees and volunteers have testified to the exhausting difficulty of interacting with the Israeli public on subjects relating to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nevertheless, it seems that exposure of our organization and its struggle against torture does arouse the interest of many, who then sign up to the PCATI mailing list to receive updates regarding our activities, and also join the Friends of PCATI. Over the course of this year PCATI appeared at the “Et LeShinui” (Time/Pen of Change) fair in Jerusalem and at Kibbutz Ein HaShofet, at the “Festival BeShekel” (Festival for a Shekel) in Jerusalem and in Gilboa, at the Pride Parades in Haifa and Jerusalem, the Activism Festival, the “Kiruv Levavot” (Bringing Hearts Together) Festival in Haifa, the Day of the Student at Kibbutz College, the “Yesh Gvul” Independence Day ceremony and more. 

F. Activity with Media Outlets

Over the course of 2010 PCATI and its activities were mentioned over 500 separate times in media outlets worldwide. In the Hebrew-language press, PCATI was mentioned some 265 times, rising from 193 the previous year. PCATI was mentioned 85 times in the English-language press this year, 145 in the Arabic-language press and 25 times in other languages. We furthermore published many ads on the activities and public campaigns PCATI took part in, both on websites and in newspapers. PCATI also has a weekly radio show on Radio All for Peace (on 107.2 FM and on the website) in Hebrew, and in the coming year we will begin a legal radio program in Arabic.

PCATI's International Activities

Over the last year PCATI participated in a significant number of international activities and conferences. In June, Dr. Ishai Menuchin testified before the European Parliament on the subject of human rights defenders. The UN Human Rights Commission heard a presentation on violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This presentation was given in the context of interrogee, detainee and prisoner rights, as part of a session in Geneva this July dedicated to a discussion of the report on the State of Israel. The presentation was given by the director of PCATI’s Legal Department, Atty. Bana Shoughry-Badarne, who also represented PCATI at an international conference held in Uganda in June to mark the ten year anniversary of the formation of the International Criminal Court, to which PCATI was the only Israeli human rights organization invited. Louis Frankenthaler, Development and International Outreach Director, participated in lobbying meetings in Rome, Brussels and Paris. PCATI also participated in the general assembly of the International Federation for Human Rights which took place in Armenia, in a working group of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network in London and in Rome, in discussions of the UN Human Rights Committee, and more. PCATI continues to cooperate with international organizations and partners, including ASF, EMHRN and FIDH.

The 2010 Budget and its Management
PCATI’s activity budget for 2010 stood at 2.5 million shekels, like last year provided by foundations, both previous donors and new ones. Several funding sources reduced their support, but we were able to compensate for this through emergency aid from the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF). Like in previous years, creative ways were found to carry out our working plan for this year, especially through successful cooperation with other organizations in Israel and abroad and with the help of volunteers, without whom we would be unable to maintain such a broad scope of activity. This year we further succeeded in forging new connections which should bear fruit on aspects of our working plan, their implementation and funding in the coming years.

Dear Friends of PCATI,

This year we had some 100 Friends of PCATI. Your support helped us this year, whether in planning meetings, public events, by funding a portion of our activities or by giving us the feeling that we are not alone. We are pleased to acknowledge your support for us over the past year, and would be further pleased at your continued moral, political and economic support of our activities in the following year as well, and ask that you remain in touch with us. 
 
To join Friends of PCATI click here

Sincerely,
Dr. Ishai Menuchin
PCATI Executive Director

 2010 Events

 Event marking the release of report, “Incommunicado Holding of Palestinian Detainees”




“Ball on the Brink – Human Rights Ball 2010” – event marking International Human Rights Day

For news item on our website click here

To view a video clip from the Ball click here


Event marking the ten-year anniversary of the October 2000 events


Event marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty


“No to Institutional Violence!” – demonstration protesting against torture and police violence

 

For news item on our website click here
 
To view the clip produced by Social Television
click here


“Gaza – Here and Now”, an evening on the siege of Gaza



Event held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in conjunction with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories



“Film and Human Rights”, third meeting at HaOzen HaShlishit (Third Ear)



“Film and Human Rights”, second meeting at HaOzen HaShlishit (Third Ear)

Publications

When the Exception Becomes the Rule: Incommunicado Holding of Palestinian Detainees


Exposed: The Treatment of Palestinian Detainees During Operation Cast Lead

 


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