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Israel Refutes U.N. Charges of Using Torture on Prisoners

Israel is rejecting the conclusions of a United Nations committee that it uses torture against suspected terrorists.

The Geneva-based U.N. Committee against Torture last Friday called on Israel to “cease immediately” the use of such techniques as sleep deprivation and violent shaking, saying this constituted torture and broke international law.

Israel immediately lashed out at the 10-member committee, saying it was being singled out, that the findings were based on the “hearsay evidence” of non- governmental organizations, and that Israel was employing only commonly used anti-terrorism methods.

“It is absolutely not the case that Israel uses torture or any methods tantamount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in interrogating suspected terrorists,” the Israeli ambassador in Geneva, Yosef Lamdan, said in a statement. “Israel has nothing to hide on this issue.”

David Bar-Illan, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in Jerusalem that Israel only used “methods that are employed throughout the world in the war against terrorism, and to single out Israel is hypocritical.”

But the U.N. committee said the 1987 Convention against Torture, which Israel signed along with 101 other countries, maintained that the threat of an imminent act of terrorism did not justify the use of cruel investigative techniques.

It told Israel to submit another report on its interrogation methods by Sept. 1.

The committee listed seven interrogation methods that “appear to be applied systematically” and said Israel had neither confirmed nor denied reports of their use.

The methods were reported by Amnesty International and other human-rights groups, which had interviewed people interrogated by Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service.

The methods Israel was charged with using included: painful restraints, hooding, playing loud music for prolonged periods, sleep deprivation, death threats, violent shaking, and using cold air to chill detainees.

Peter Burns, a Canadian professor who is the committee’s investigator in Israel, was quoted saying, “Individually and in combination, the methods constitute torture.”

The committee also suggested that an Israeli Supreme Court decision had the effect of sanctioning some of the interrogation practices. Last November, the court overturned an interim court order barring the Shin Bet from using physical force when questioning two suspected Palestinian terrorists.

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