JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Justice Ministry has launched an unprecedented criminal investigation against an interrogator from the Israel Security Agency over brutality allegations.
It marks the first time that an investigation has been opened since the Justice Ministry established a unit called Mivtan about 18 years ago to investigate complaints against the ISA, also known as the Shin Bet.
The complaint was filed against the ISA operative over an interrogation from 2015.
More than 1,100 complaints have been filed alleging misconduct and brutality by Shin Bet interrogators over the last 17 years, according to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which called the statistic “highly unflattering.” The committee did not file the complaint against the operative under the criminal probe, according to Haaretz.
Both Mivtan and the Police Internal Investigations Department, or Mahash, must approve the launch of a criminal investigation against a Shin Bet agent. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was involved in the decision to investigate this interrogator, Haaretz reported, citing two unnamed sources.
“We hope that this precedent will usher change in the Shin Bet’s interrogations procedures, in line with their legal and moral obligations,” the committee said in a statement. “Personal accountability will encourage interrogators to adhere to legal practices, keeping in mind that even detainees, be them Jews or Palestinians, maintain their rights and dignity.
“By launching this unprecedented investigation, the Ministry of Justice sends a clear message that the Israeli Security Agency is not above the law and that interrogators crossing red lines will have to answer for their actions. The State of Israel acknowledges that torture is a prohibited and immoral practice, and that no justification can be made for the use of cruel or degrading treatment in breach of international treaties.”
The Justice Ministry told Haaretz that 50 examinations of complaints were started in the last year.
“The process of examining the complaints has frequently led to different system-wide lessons being applied, or to disciplinary action being taken against investigators,” the ministry said.