Israel allowed torture of Palestinian suspects, says UN

Agents who put suspected bomber Samer Al Arbeed in hospital escaped justice

Israeli security forces fire tear gas during clashes with Palestinian protesters following a demonstration against the expansion of settlements, near the village of Beit Dajan, east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on February 6, 2021. International law regards all settlements built on occupied Palestinian land, whether public or privately owned, as illegal. / AFP / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH
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The UN has censured Israel for using “enhanced interrogation techniques” against a suspected Palestinian militant and failing to prosecute those responsible for the treatment he suffered.

On Monday, six UN investigators hit out at the Israeli Security Agency, Shin Bet, over “life-threatening injuries” sustained by Samer Al Arbeed after he was detained in 2019 on suspicion of involvement in a bomb explosion.

The UN reaction followed Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision last month to end investigations into Mr Al Arbeed’s heavy-handed interrogation, which left him with “irreparable physical and psychological conditions”.

“We are alarmed at Israel’s failure to prosecute, punish and redress the torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against Mr Al Arbeed,” human rights rapporteurs Nils Melzer, Michael Lynk and other UN officials wrote.

“Addressing such abuse is not at the discretion of the government or the judiciary, but constitutes an absolute obligation under international law.”

Mr Al Arbeed was arrested by plain-clothed security agents on September 25, 2019, on suspicion of involvement in a bomb attack in the occupied West Bank that killed an Israeli girl, 17, and wounded her father and brother.

He was reportedly beaten and taken to the notorious Maskobiyeh Interrogation centre in Jerusalem.

Within 48 hours, Mr Al Arbeed was in hospital after “exceptional measures” had been used to extract a forced confession, the experts said.

Enhanced interrogation can include beatings, waterboarding and binding in controlled stress positions.

Intelligence agencies have defended them as necessary counter-terrorism methods, but rights groups say they often amount to torture.

Israel’s judicial system allowed Mr Al Arbeed’s questioners to use the “necessity defence” – a loophole that “excuses the coercive interrogation of persons suspected of possessing information on military operations”, wrote the experts.

“This misguided defence provides de facto impunity for investigative measures amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” they wrote.

Israel's mission to UN headquarters in New York did not respond to The National's request for comment.