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Wednesday, 20 May, 1998, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Israeli court to rule on 'torture' law
A demonstration of one of the torture methods described by witnesses
A demonstration of one of the torture methods described by witnesses
Two Palestinians have asked to Israel's Supreme Court to outlaw violent interrogation methods used by the Shin Bet security service.

The two men, who claim to have been tortured by Shin Bet, asked the court on Wednesday to repeal a ruling which allows the use of "moderate physical pressure" during the interrogation of prisoners deemed a risk to security.

A ruling is expected on Wednesday or Thursday.

Human rights groups say Shin Bet routinely tortures hundreds of Palestinians every year.

An actor shows how prisoners are allegedly bound and hooded during torture
An actor shows how prisoners are allegedly bound and hooded during torture
The men who are bringing the case to court, 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.

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.

Gidon Ezra, the head of Shin Bet, said the law was necessary in fighting terrorism.

"We are fighting terror which doesn't care about children, women or old people," Mr Ezra said. "We have to defend people."

The Israeli government said earlier this week that the methods are only used "in very specific and justifiable circumstances," that they have saved lives and brought minimal pain to the prisoners.

Israeli anti-torture campaigners argue that if countries such as Britain and the US can combat terrorism without resorting to officially-sanctioned torture, so too should Israel.

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.

See also:

15 May 98 | Despatches
Israel defends interrogation methods
19 May 98 | Middle East
Israel torture condemned
20 May 98 | Despatches
Israeli ruling on torture claims
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