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Correspondent Friday, 3 November, 2000, 18:04 GMT
Israel accused
Khiam

Winner of the Amnesty International Award 2001

This programme was first broadcast on Saturday 4th November 2000. The feature below accompanied the original broadcast.

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Khiam prison was a detention and interrogation centre during the years of the Israeli occupation in Southern Lebanon. From 1985 until the Israeli withdrawal this May, thousands of Lebanese were held in Khiam without trial. Most of them were brutally tortured - some of them died.

Israel has always sought to escape responsibility for what was done in Khiam; Israel Accused asks where the blame for what Amnesty International calls "war crimes" really lies.

map
To help secure its hold on Southern Lebanon, Israel armed and financed a local Lebanese militia, the South Lebanon Army or SLA. In theory the SLA was there to protect the interests of the Lebanese community - in practice it did Israel's work by proxy. The SLA provided Khiam's guards and interrogators.

Children tortured

Ali Kashmar
Ali two weeks before he was taken to Khiam
Ali Kashmar was 14 when arrested and detained in 1988. Although he had voiced anti-Israeli opinions in school (his own father was killed fighting the Israeli invasion ten years earlier) there is no evidence to suggest that he was guilty of any crime.

Ali was tortured for 11 days and says he started making up stories to please his interrogators. Ali Kashmar was kept in Khiam for ten years. He grew up from a boy to a man within the prison walls - without even a mirror to use as his appearance changed, and spent time in solitary confinement.

Ali Kashmar grew up from a boy to a man within the prison walls

Edward Stourton
Ali was eventually released after a decade as part of a hostage exchange - 55 Khiam prisoners and the bodies of 44 Lebanese were traded for the remains of three Israeli soliders in 1998. Terribly damaged by his years in Khiam, he is still fighting severe psychological difficulties - and there is nowhere in Lebanon that provides treatment for this kind of trauma.

Ryadh Kalakesh was 17 when he was detained in Khiam. He comes from a family that was deeply involved with the Islamic group Hezbollah - one of his brothers was a suicide bomber - and he was picked up by Israeli troops on a sweep through his village in 1986.


electric shocks were administered through wires attached to the finger tips or the genitals...

Ryadh Kalakesh
Ryadh was tortured for 11 months, and gives a graphic account of what it was like; the use of electric shocks administered through wires attached to the finger tips or the genitals, the beatings, the dousings with hot then cold water, and what was known as "the pole", where prisoners - often after being striped naked - were handcuffed and suspended for hours at a time.

Ryadh's brother Adel was detained in Khiam too; when Adel refused to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear they hauled in his wife Mona and tortured her so that he could hear her screams. Mona suffered electric shocks - through wires attached to her nipples - spent three months in solitary confinement and lost her baby while she was in the prison.

Khiam prison
Khiam prison today
There is a compelling body of evidence about Israel's involvement in Khiam. Former detainees all say that in the early days of Khiam's time as a detention centre Israeli interrogators worked alongside their SLA counterparts, and their evidence is corroborated by that of those guards who worked in the prison.

In 1988 the Israelis seem to have decided on a change of policy in Khiam, and the Israeli presence in the gaol became less obvious. But in a court case brought by Israeli human rights lawyers, the Defence Ministry has admitted paying all the staff at the gaol, training the interrogators and guards, and providing assistance with lie detector tests.

Israel denied war crimes in Khiam

Khiam Guard
Tanious Nafra, a gaurd in Khiam 1985-1987
In May, when Israel withdrew from Lebanon, many of Khiam's guards and interrogators fled across the border among the 6000 members of the SLA and their families who took refuge in Israel, living under Israeli government protection at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer.

No one from the Israeli government was willing to agree to an interview. When pressed to admit Israeli responsibility for the gaol, a man who commanded Israeli forces during the late 1980s finally concedes, "maybe".

Broadcast in the midst of one of the gravest Middle East crises of the past decade, Israel Accused is a timely reminder that there is still unfinished business from Israel's recent past.

This week, military prosecutor, Riad Talih demanded the death penalty for 11 former SLA officials who worked at the Khiam camp, and who will be tried in absentia.

Reporter: Edward Stourton

Producer: Giselle Portenier

Series Producer: Farah Durrani

Editor: Fiona Murch


Click here for transcripts

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The BBC's Edward Stourton
"They tortured men, young boys and women"
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