The Israeli Supreme Court has facilitated the interrogation of a Palestinian under torture, according to human rights group B’Tselem.
On 7 October, three judges – sitting as the High Court of Justice – ruled to uphold an injunction denying Samir Arbeed, a Palestinian from the West Bank detained by Israeli occupation forces, the right to meet with legal counsel.
Arbeed was violently arrested on 25 September and transferred to the custody of the Shin Bet, whose agents interrogated him using “special means” – a euphemism for torture. Arbeed was subsequently admitted to hospital unconscious and suffering serious injuries.
After Israeli authorities used an injunction to prevent Arbeed from meeting with his lawyers, prisoners’ rights group Addameer petitioned the Supreme Court to cancel it. On 7 October, however, the justices rejected the petition in a brief ruling only a few paragraphs long.
In the ruling, according to B’Tselem, the judges first state that “the situation at hand is unusual” given the petitioner’s medical status.
However, and citing “a certain improvement in his medical status”, the justices ruled that “preventing the meeting [with legal counsel] is indeed vital to regional security”.
As stated by B’Tselem, “the right to consult a lawyer is a basic right of detainees”, adding that “for detainees in interrogation, who are cut off from the world and physically and mentally weak, legal counsel is crucial.”
The rights group noted that the Supreme Court justices “imposed no restrictions on the conduct of [Shin Bet agents]…in further interrogation, including the means permitted for use against [Arbeed].”
The justices noted “claims regarding violence” used against Arbeed during interrogation, “but refrain from addressing them”, making do with a declaration by officials that there will be an investigation.
However, the investigation of complaints regarding violence and torture in Shin Bet interrogations is “most likely – as the facts indicate – a sham”.
The Supreme Court ruling is thus “horrifying in its significance”, said B’Tselem.
“Without restrictions on the conduct and methods of interrogators, external oversight or a real system of investigating complaints, the Court’s decision to prevent [Arbeed]…from consulting with his lawyers”, allows the Shin Bet “to continue interrogating him under torture unchecked.”
According to B’Tselem, Arbeed’s case “is exceptional only because he was interrogated with ‘special means’ and submitted to hospital unconscious.”
“The reality is that every year, as a matter of routine, hundreds of Palestinians are interrogated by…[Shin Bet agents] with methods that constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and even torture”.
In the case of Samir Arbeed, “all the involved parties” – including the Supreme Court justices – decided to treat Arbeed “as if he were not a human being”.