Israel Says ‘Secret’ Detention Center is Empty


shin-betThe Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence agency, has stopped using a detention facility where Palestinians and others were allegedly held in isolation, an Israeli government official told a UN torture watchdog yesterday. Human rights groups claim that the detention center, known as Facility 1391, may have violated international law and UN experts questioned Israel about it at a hearing in Geneva this week. Israeli Deputy State Attorney for Special Affairs Shai Nitzan told the UN Committee Against Torture that the Shin Bet, “has not used this facility for years, and actually no detainee was held there since September 2006.”

Israel confirmed the existence of the center in 2003 after human rights group HaMoked filed a high court suit on behalf of two Palestinian brothers who said they were put in the prison without their families or lawyers being notified. When one brother asked where he had been taken, a soldier told him he was “on the moon,” the suit said.

“The court considered allegations that were raised regarding ill-treatment in this facility, and the court found that the allegations were examined and did not warrant criminal proceedings,” Nitzan told the UN panel.

He also addressed the panel’s questions about some 600 complaints of mistreatment made by detainees against Shin Bet interrogators.

“The complainants are members of a terrorist organization that conducts a campaign to influence public opinion as part of the campaign against Israel,” Nitzan said.

“It is to be expected that submitting false complaints against ISA interrogations is part of the campaign,” he said, referring to the Israel Security Agency. “Of course not in all the cases, I don’t claim so. But in some cases we found that that’s what was the case.”

Some detainees also appeared to have made the claims to justify to their peers the confessions they made during questioning, Nitzan said.

Ran Yoran, a spokesman for the group Physicians for Human Rights who was present at the two-day hearing, said he was disappointed by some of Israel’s responses to the panel.
“There was a huge gap between what we know and what the state claims,” he said.

Yoran said government officials ignored three of the panel’s questions about Palestinians from Gaza being required to provide information to military interrogators before being allowed into Israel for urgent medical treatment.

{Yair Israel/AP}