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Tuesday, 19 May, 1998, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Israel torture condemned
Torture chamber seen through bars
Torture chamber seen through bars
The United Nations has condemned Israel's methods of interrogating suspected Palestinian militants, saying they amount to torture.

The UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva said the methods violated international accords and should cease immediately.

It listed methods such as sleep deprivation, deafening music, beatings, threats and covering prisoners' heads with hoods.

The UN acknowledged Israel's claim that it needed tough tactics to counter the threat of terrorism but said this did not justify torture.

Israel's ambassador to Geneva, Yosef Lamdan, expressed his "surprise and disappointment" at the committee's conclusions.

He said the controversial methods do not constitute torture and are permitted by Israeli law, saying the country faces the dilemma of trying to save lives from "terrorist" attacks while itself respecting human rights.

The UN committee has condemned Israel's security services in the past for their ways of extracting information.

Supreme court case on torture

Meanwhile, hearings are due to begin on Wednesday at Israel's Supreme Court on a case by two Palestinians who claim to have been tortured while in Israeli custody.

The two men, who are accused of being members of the militant Hamas group, have asked the court to repeal a decision which allows the Shin Bet security agency to use "moderate physical pressure" during interrogation of security prisoners.

Abdel Rahman Ghenimat and Fuad Quran claim that they were tied to tilted stools and had their hands cuffed behind their backs while in custody. They say sacks were placed over their heads and loud music was blasted into their ears for prolonged periods.

But Israel said on Monday that the methods are only used "in very specific and justifiable circumstances," that they have saved lives and brought minimal pain to the prisoners.

See also:

15 May 98 | Despatches
Israel defends interrogation methods
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