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Gov’t interrogations decision will prompt increased use of torture

A recent decision to prevent the recording of security interrogation means a return to the norms of the witch trials.

Yossi Gurvitz | +972 | March 19 2012

The Israeli government recently made permanent a temporary order – in force for 11 years – that permits the police to avoid documenting security interrogations, Haaretz has reported (Hebrew). Regular criminal interrogations are taped; that will not be the case in matters of suspected security violations. We can safely assume that once the police are allowed not to tape an interrogation, they will not tape it. It saves resources, for starters.

The government’s decision creates a practical distinction between the rights of criminal suspects and security suspects. Criminal suspects have the right to demand, if they are prosecuted, their recorded interrogation which, theoretically, can allow them to prove their confession was forced, or that the description given by the police of what happened in the interrogation room is incorrect. It is a theoretical right because no Israeli court has ever found that such a suspect was tortured – except in very few cases, and almost always after the victims had already been jailed for quite some time.

Security suspects have no such rights. Actually, there will be no independent documentation of their interrogations. The courts will have to take the police’s word for what happened in the interrogation room. This will make it much harder for the accused to prove they were tortured. The problematic history of the police forces prompts a clear conclusion: we will soon have a secret police, whether formal or informal, composed of interrogators whose specialty will be torture.

This has several implications. First, torture leads to more false convictions. It is their function: the torturer is not looking for the truth, he is trying to extract a confession and close the file, and he is indifferent to the question of whether the broken person before him (and breaking a person is what torture is intended to do) is guilty or not. The point of torture, noted Orwell, is torture.

Secondly, such units attract sadists. That the torturer suffers more than the tortured is a myth told to sooth those of anxious conscience. Those sadists will then move on to other positions in the system, taking their unique work ethic with them. Thirdly, the use of torture degenerates the interrogator’s mind. He gets used to thinking that some pain and humiliation will obtain the desired result, and forgets how a true interrogation ought to be carried out. Should one need an example of this process, it is readily available in the abysmal record of the ISA (aka Shin Bet) in fighting Jewish terrorism. If torture is not an option, they can’t get the job done.

Fourth, and most worrying, is the fact that such units tend to expand their activities. The excuse of “public safety” is very wide indeed. After the ISA was denied the right to torture except in the case of “ticking bombs,” there was a dramatic increase in the number of interrogations designated as such – even though the public was never supplied with a full and open description of a single ticking bomb case.

The police – which have for years served as an ISA auxiliary force, with a police interrogator writing down the confession extracted by the ISA officer from a Palestinian detainee as if it was given of his free will – now claims that taping such interrogations may expose “investigative methods.” That’s true. That, however, is also true in the case of criminal investigations. This is the price of the rule of law: it allows the suspect/accused the right to defend himself against the government, and that means that, from time to time, interrogations tricks are exhausted. That’s life. Deal with it. … Full article

March 20, 2012 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , ,

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