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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 May 2007, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Israel accused of prisoner abuse
By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

Palestinian taken into custody by Israeli soldiers
The groups drew on the testimony of 73 Palestinians
Human rights groups in Israel have accused the security services of routinely mistreating Palestinian detainees.

The two groups said detainees were held in appalling conditions, and were sometimes tortured.

They said the maltreatment was intended to "break the spirit" of those who were being interrogated.

Israel's justice ministry rejected the report - which was published on Sunday - as unrepresentative and inaccurate.

The report lists a number of techniques the two groups, B'Tselem and the HaMoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual, say are deployed by the Israeli Security Agency.

They range from preventing detainees from contacting their lawyers, to painful shackling to a chair, threats and intimidation, beating and sleep deprivation.

The groups drew on the testimony of 73 Palestinians detained over a six-month period.

International law

International law is clear in prohibiting ill-treatment or torture, and it allows for no extenuating circumstances.

However, the human rights groups point to a more ambiguous ruling from the Israeli High Court.

It decreed that members of the security service who abused detainees may be exempted from criminal liability, if they believed that the people they were interrogating had information about an imminent terrorist act.

The human rights campaigners also say that of more than 500 complaints about the behaviour of security service agents, not one criminal investigation has been opened.

The Ministry of Justice said the report was "fraught with mistakes, groundless claims and inaccuracies".

In a statement, the ministry also said that over the past few years, information obtained by security service agents - sometimes through interrogation - had saved the lives of many civilians.

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