By Whitney Webb
New allegations have surfaced claiming that Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet or Shabak, is engaged in the brutal torture of Palestinian detainees, despite the practice being against both Israeli and international law. The new accusations, deemed “very credible” by both Israeli and Palestinian rights groups, come amid a recorded spike in the use of torture on Palestinian detainees by Israeli authorities.
The latest cases involve three Palestinian men who were detained as part of the extensive manhunt that followed an August 23 bombing that killed an Israeli settler and teenager Rina Shnerb. The three men, living in the occupied West Bank, were detained per Israel’s controversial practice of “administrative detention,” whereby Israel may detain an individual for months or even years without charging them with a crime.
The lawyers and family members of the three main suspects have asserted that all three men suspected of links to the bombing had been tortured to the point of needing hospitalization, with one of them being admitted for kidney failure and 11 broken ribs before subsequently being returned to the custody of Israeli interrogators. Another of the men had his genitals bitten by a security dog while the third man was wheelchair-bound and unrecognizable to his wife when he appeared in a courtroom.
While these three Palestinian men’s experiences are extreme cases, the same Shin Bet investigation also tortured several other detainees in less severe ways but nonetheless left them traumatized. Those detainees were released after weeks in detention and were never charged. Shin Bet also arrested family members of detainees and, in some cases, paraded them in front of detainees in order to create the impression that their wives and children would also undergo the same harsh treatment.
Though the manhunt and resulting torture of Palestinian suspects took place months ago, reporting on the incidents was delayed due to an Israeli court-mandated gag order that was renewed multiple times since it was first issued last September. That gag order, in effect for well over three months, also made court proceedings of the three main suspects in the case closed to the public and prevented family members from attending court, with few exceptions.
A spike in torture
The alleged torturing of prisoners in connection to the August 23 bombing occurred during a period when the use of torture of West Bank Palestinians by Shin Bet spiked dramatically,