LONDON (Jul. 5)
Former Arab prisoners who say they were tortured during interrogation by Israeli police do so because they fear revenge by other Arabs whom they have implicated in terrorist activities. But their claims of confessing because of torture are without foundation.
This is stated in a lengthy reply by the Israel Embassy to an article in the Sunday Times two weeks ago accusing Israeli security organs of systematically using torture to extract confessions from suspected terrorists. The statement follows inquiries in Israel into the cases mentioned in the original Sunday Times article. It deals with six cases point by point claiming that in no case is the allegation of torture justified.
“In many of the cases,” the Embassy says, “the persons referred to had good reason for claiming that statements they made were made under torture, for in these statements they implicated others in the various acts of terror committed. There have been a number of cases of Arab prisoners being brutally murdered by their fellow prisoners on suspicion that they had cooperated with the authorities. Once claiming torture, they perhaps feel that they can no longer be accused by their colleagues of betrayal.”
The statement continues: “Israel police and security have every reason to refrain from use of force. Such use of force is a serious criminal offense, and where cases of police brutality have been found in the past, police officers have been prosecuted, and it is Israel’s policy to do so in the future.”
The Embassy points out that Felicia Langer and Lea Tsemel, the two Jewish lawyers frequently quoted in the original Sunday Times article, “make a practice of claiming that every client of theirs who makes a statement to the police does so under pressure.” However, whenever the police had opened inquiries into the allegations and requested people to provide statements or to submit evidence, “the two lawyers simply fail to reply.”
DEFENDS HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD
Defending Israel’s general record on human rights, the Embassy notes that Israel has an independent judiciary and judicial system “which even Israel’s avowed enemies admit is both fair and of extremely high caliber.” Israel is also the only Middle East country that does not carry out the death penalty. “Torture or use of force, in addition to being crimes are also offenses against the police and military codes,” the Embassy asserted.
Moreover, Israeli courts “refuse to consider any statement by the accused if the court is not convinced that it was given of the accused’s own free will, without use of force or threat of force.” Israeli prisons, the Embassy adds, are all open to inspection and such inspections are carried out frequently by judges, representatives of the Attorney General and defense counsel, including Tsemel and Langer.
In none of the cases alleged in the Sunday Times had any medical evidence of torture been submitted. On the contrary, in every case of which the authorities were informed, medical reports had failed to substantiate the allegations.
“Every prisoner admitted to prison is subject to a medical examination and to a further examination on release. These examinations are on record,” the Embassy stated. Israel also reports to the Red Cross on every single prisoner from the territories and the Red Cross lists prisoners’ details on a computer.
The statement concludes: “If clear evidence is produced, the Israel government undertakes to make every effort to investigate such complaints and to prosecute any policeman, soldier or security official involved, but no such evidence has been produced and we can but reiterate our regret and dismay that the Sunday Times found fit to print such an article.”