Shin Bet Report Criticized for Implied Support of Torture

The Knesset has debated 10 motions this week on the report of a commission of inquiry that found that the internal security service, Shin Bet, used “physical pressure” to extract confessions from suspected terrorists and perjury to obtain convictions.

The report, submitted to Premier Yitzhak Shamir last Friday and made public in part, has drawn the fire of leftist Knesset members and others who believe oversight of the security service belongs to parliament.

The Cabinet will discuss the commission’s report at its weekly meeting Sunday and is expected to defuse the issue by adopting the recommendations and most likely setting up a ministerial committee to watch over the Shin Bet.

The commission, headed by former Supreme Court President Moshe Landau, also was criticized for recommending that no action be taken against Shin Bet operatives who resorted to extra-legal behavior. While the report condemned perjury, it allowed that “physical pressure,” considered a euphemism for torture, was sometimes necessary, but should be applied under strict guidelines.

Knesset member Shulamit Aloni of the Citizens Rights Movement faulted the Landau commission for failing to examine the legal system within which Shin Bet operated. The Shin Bet legal advisers who condoned lying in the courts have not lost their jobs, and no mention was made of the political echelons, she said.

Chaika Grossman of Mapam demanded the creation of a parliamentary body to oversee the activities of Shin Bet’s investigative department.

Amnon Rubinstein of the Shinui party proposed that confessions alone should no longer suffice to convict. He also demanded revocation of the rule that prohibits appeal against decisions by military courts in the administered territories.

“Pressures Allowed–Lies Forbidden” was the headline of an article published in Haaretz this week by its leading columnist, Yoel Markus. He wrote that physical pressure to overcome the stubbornness of a suspect must be accompanied by specific criteria and not left to the discretion of the interrogators.

NO POINT IN RESUMING INVESTIGATION

Meanwhile, Police Minister Haim Barlev said Thursday there was no point in resuming the police investigation of the Shin Bet operatives criticized in the report.

“The object of a police investigation is to establish whether there is evidence to bring someone to trial. But if it has already been established that they should not be charged or tried, there is no point to the whole (police) investigation,” Barlev said in an army radio interview.

Nevertheless, the question of a police investigation remains in the hands of the attorney general, the police minister noted. “I presume there will be a decision along the lines of the report–that the police can halt their inquiries.”

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