Cutting through the bullshit.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Case closed

The examination of the complaints did not turn up any excesses in the interrogation, and in the wake of this, the official in charge of the OIC [Ombudsman of Interogees' Complaints] in the State Prosecutor's Office decided to close the examination file.

A few days ago, I posted a piece entitled ‘Pity the poor torturer’, which dealt in part with an interview with a retired Shin Beit torturer who went by the pseudonym, Sheriff. Friday’s Ha’aretz had a piece by Gideon Levy entitled ‘The twilight zone’ that detailed the experiences of one of nine Palestinians whose testimony is documented in a new report from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.

The report, “Ticking Bombs”: Testimonies of Torture Victims in Israel, begins with a poem, The Colonel and the Major by Avigdor Feldman. Here is a stanza, probably about that same Sheriff

The Colonel and the Major Johnny and Sheriff
The hand that strikes is sprinkled with brown age spots
An open palm, a slap
A sprung fist to the midriff.
A rolled hand punches the headTwo hands box the ears

Luwaii Ashqar won’t walk again.

He is a young man whose world fell apart. He entered prison sound of body and mind and emerged a broken man. For four days and four nights nonstop, he says, he was interrogated and subjected to torture of the most brutal kind.

Was there a judgment by the High Court of Justice? There was. It banned precisely the types of torture he underwent: the "banana posture," the "shabah" (body stretching with hands tied to a chair), "invisible" blows and the "frog posture" (being forced to stand for hours on the toes in a crouching position) - all the way to a vicious kick to his chest that bent his body backward while he was tied to a chair with his arms and legs, and which was the probable cause of the partial paralysis of his legs.

After some ‘sports’ to warm him up for ‘military interrogation,

‘…they made me crouch on my toes, not letting me lean on the back of my foot. I was in that position for 40-50 minutes, maybe an hour - that was my estimate - until I felt my soles swelling and they turned blue and there was tremendous pain. After that, stand up, and they tied my hands and pressed as hard as they could on the metal handcuffs until the metal dug into my hand. Here are the signs, you can still see them. Because of the pressure, the key of the handcuffs didn't always work and they would bring huge metal scissors, like they use in construction, and tear off the handcuffs and then bring new ones, to go on. The color of my hands changed to blue, and when they opened [the handcuffs] my hands shook. The interrogator stood on the table and pulled me with a chain of handcuffs. When I fell, they pulled me by the hair…’

And so it goes on, for four days without food or sleep.

‘”You will drink only half a cup of saltwater.” That is what they gave me every time after they bent me and I vomited. Why with salt? I asked. Give me without salt. No, so nothing will happen in your stomach and intestines. I would drink it and vomit…He said to me: Stand on your feet. I felt that my legs were cold, like pins and needles in the legs. I said: I can't. He said: Now you are paralyzed. I said: I guess I am. He said: That is what we promised you and that is what you want…After that, they stopped the military interrogation.’

After another two months of interrogation without further torture, he was sentenced to 26 months’ prison for assisting a wanted person to hide and using a forged document.

Although the Supreme Court has outlawed torture, there is a loophole. Interrogators can claim extenuating circumstances if prosecuted for torture, where they claim they needed to use torture to get information about a ‘ticking bomb’. Clearly the message has not got through yet. Shin Bet’s investigation revealed

His interrogation was carried out according to the rules and directives, with constant review of the interrogation process.

The rehabilitation Luwaii needs is not available in the West Bank and Shin Bet will almost certainly obstruct the permission he needs to get treatment in Israel or overseas.


  1. Good thing that Dershowitz assures us "there is no torture in Israel". I really wonder how people like him can look in the mirror without fainting.

  2. It's a worry, isn't it. For more thoughts on hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance: