The details of torture in an Israeli-run prison in Lebanon, including the electrocution of a female detainee and denial of medical care, have been uncovered in newly declassified Israeli documents.
Arab prisoners were subjected to inhumane treatment at the Khiam Prison run by Israel in Southern Lebanon, which operated for fifteen years until the occupation state withdrew from its northern neighbour in 2000. Details of the torture and serious human rights violations were found within the archive documents released by Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet.
The documents were released following a petition to the High Court of Justice by human rights activists including lawyer Eitay Mack, who over recent years has uncovered Israel’s questionable ties to rogue human rights abusing regimes. The materials, the activists say, record “torture and cruel and inhumane punishments” in the prison.
“Together with the South Lebanon Army, the Israel Defence Forces and Shin Bet ran a detention and torture facility like those in the military dictatorships in Latin America,” Mack told Haaretz. The Israeli paper reported the gruesome details at length.“The torture inflicted in Khiam Prison is a crime against humanity,” Mack said. “The documents that were revealed due to the petition are shocking, and constitute only a miniscule glimpse into the hell that they ran there. We will continue to fight until all the documents are made available to the public and those responsible for the horrors are brought to justice.”
Khiam Prison was opened in 1985 near the eponymous village, which is located in South Lebanon, a few kilometres north of the Israeli border. It was originally built as an army barracks in the 1930s.
Only a tiny fraction of the documents has been released. Legal proceedings are underway to obtain all of the material. The full scale of the torture is likely to be even more shocking.
Nevertheless, the small sample of declassified documents still paints a horrific picture. Between 250 and 300 detainees were said to have been held in the prison at any given time. They belonged to various organisations and political parties, including Amal, Hezbollah, the Communist Party, Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to one document, a female detainee being interrogated on suspicion of being “connected to Hezbollah” was electrocuted. The victim “received electricity in her fingers”, which is another way of saying that she was tortured during the interrogation.
A document dated 1988 testifies to the hunger from which the prisoners suffered in the jail. “This morning, the manager of the local prison reported that yesterday a hunger strike erupted in the prison due to a shortage of food,” it says.
Another document, from 1997, discussed medical problems from which the detainees suffered. In summary, the document says that there exists “a painful problem” and that the source who warned about it feels “that he has no support in the event that a detainee dies in prison due to medical problems or a failure to administer treatment recommended by the doctor.”
According to Amnesty International, during the prison’s fifteen years of operation, 11 detainees died. With the full scale of the torture still to be unveiled, the death toll may actually be much higher.