JUSTICE MINISTRY REPLY TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT
(Communicated by the Justice Ministry Spokeswoman)
Jerusalem, 5 July 1995
ISRAEL'S COMMENTS ON THE 1995 AMNESTY REPORT.
With the publication of the Amnesty International 1995 Report, the
Ministry of Justice wishes to comment on a number of issues contained
therein which warrant clarification. Points relating to the Israel Defense
Forces (IDF) will be addressed separately by the IDF Spokesman's Office.
The Ministry of Justice would like to address the human rights concerns
raised by Amnesty International in their 1995 report by placing them in
their proper context.
In 1994 alone, the period covered by Amnesty International's 1995 Annual
report, 76 innocent people died as a result of 32 terrorist attacks
against the Israeli population which were planned and carried out by
Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It should be
emphasized that these murderous acts were carried out by extreme
Palestinian terrorist groups, who reject not only the peace process but
the very existence of the State of Israel. This context is essential if
one is to understand the legitimacy of the security measures undertaken by
Israel objects to Amnesty's use of misleading terminology and
decontextualized presentations of inaccurate facts in its 1995 Annual
Report. We refer Amnesty to the case of Sa'id Badarnah who organized,
planned and directed a suicide bombing at the Hadera Central Bus Station.
Badarnah supplied the car and the bomb, targeted the bus, and recruited
the suicide bomber who murdered 5 innocent civilians and injured 30.
Although the prosecution did not ask for the death penalty against
Badarnah, the Court decided to impose the death penalty due to the
horrific nature of his crime. Amnesty reported that Badarnah had been
"sentenced to death." It should be noted that this death sentence was
never carried out, as on appeal the case was returned to the lower court
Amnesty then referred to the case of Adolf Eichmann as the "last"
execution in Israel. Adolf Eichmann was the Nazi mastermind of the "final
solution to the Jewish problem" which resulted in the deportation and
annihilation of 6 million Jews. The death penalty against Adolf Eichmann
was the one and only execution in Israel's history.
INTERROGATION GUIDELINES: The Protection of Human Rights when Vital
Information Can Save Lives
The Israeli Penal Code strictly forbids all forms of torture and ill
treatment against any individual. Israel has ratified the UN Convention
against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Humiliating Treatment. In
fulfillment of Israel's international obligation, the Minister of Justice
has appointed a special committee, headed by the Attorney-General, to
ensure this convention is properly incorporated into domestic Israeli law.
Despite the harsh reality of terrorism, which of necessity produces in
certain circumstances an urgent need for effective interrogation
procedures, Israel is acutely aware of the need to maintain the human
rights of all individuals.
In balancing the rights of suspected terrorists against the rights of
their anticipated victims, the members of the Landau Commission concluded
that it is justifiable to use a certain amount of pressure during
interrogation in order to obtain vital information that could save lives.
This is strictly regulated through pre-defined means and techniques of
interrogation and their supervised implementation.
Each complaint regarding the interrogation methods is thoroughly examined
by a special department in the Ministry of Justice under the direct
supervision of the State Attorney. Where it is found that a deviation from
the Guidelines has occurred, criminal or disciplinary measures are taken
against those found responsible.
A Ministerial Committee, headed by the Prime Minister, periodically
examines the interrogation guidelines and the need for their continued
application to combat terrorism. There has been no change whatsoever in
these basic guidelines and in interrogation policies which continue to
serve as a clear directive to the General Security Service interrogators.
Amnesty International has often upheld allegations of torture made by
Palestinian detainees on the basis of evidence that is neither credible
nor reliable according to any modern legal standard. The Palestinian
detainees have their own motivations for fabricating these claims such as
fear of retribution by Palestinian extremists for "cooperation" with the
Israeli authorities. Since the signing of the Declaration of Principles,
78 Palestinians have been murdered by other Palestinians as a means of
punishment for such "disloyal" behavior. In addition, clearly such false
claims of torture are made with a view to slander Israel's reputation in
the international community.
The UN Committee Against Torture stated in its conclusions and
recommendations to Israel's initial report that it is "pleased to note
that the General Security Service and police are no longer responsible for
reviewing complaints of ill-treatment of detainees by their own members,
and that such function is now the responsibility of a special unit of the
Ministry of Justice. The Committee is also pleased to note that Israel has
prosecuted interrogators who have breached domestic standards of conduct
and disciplined others." The UN Committee noted positively "the way in
which public debate is allowed in Israel on such sensitive matters as ill
treatment of detainees, both in Israel and the Occupied Territories."
We wish to point out that, according to Amnesty International itself,
Mordechai Vanunu is not a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty has called for
Vanunu's release on the basis that his solitary confinement is a violation
of human rights. Although there are thousands of similarly situated
individuals all over the world, to the best of our knowledge Amnesty has
not campaigned for the release of such prisoners on these grounds. Israel
maintains that Amnesty's allegations of Vanunu's inadequate prison
conditions are unjustified. Vanunu, a former worker at the Atomic Research
Center in Dimona, still poses a serious security threat to Israel since he
continuously vows to make public additional secret information in his
possession. Vanunu has chosen to remain alone in his cell by twice
refusing the offer of a cell mate.
Vanunu has unfettered access to the Israeli Courts including the High
Court of Justice, which he has made use of on numerous occasions. Every
aspect of Vanunu's case has been in accordance with the principles of law
and due process.
THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Amnesty International has raised separate human rights concerns in
relation to the newly autonomous regions administered by the Palestinian
Authority in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area. In those regions, the
responsibility for public order and internal security has been transferred
to the Palestinian Authority. Such responsibility includes: the police,
the interrogators, the prosecutors, the judges and the jailors.
In light of this, we find it inappropriate for Amnesty International to
address the current human rights abuses in the areas administered by the
Palestinian Authority under the umbrella of "Israel and the Occupied
Territories." This, combined with the misleading language used, exposes
Amnesty's disregard for its policy of objectivity, namely: the application
of a universal human rights yardstick to all governing authorities and the
individuals under their control.
By citing the Hamas rhetoric in the concluding paragraph of their report,
Amnesty seems to be placing faith in the Hamas declaration that it was
"anxious not to inflict harm on civilians." We wonder how this statement
can be reconciled with Hamas' earlier response to Amnesty, in which Hamas
upheld their commitment to terror and violence as a "natural human
response" to Israel's existence. Moreover, Israel invites Amnesty to offer
an explanation as to why an organization "anxious not to inflict harm on
civilians" continually targets and murders innocent men, women and
children through suicide bombings and the like. Hamas publicly claimed
responsibility for the murder of almost all the 76 innocent people who
were killed in some 32 brutal terrorist attacks in 1994. In addition, the
suggestion that this terrorism stems from the presence of Jewish settlers
in the administered areas is preposterous because the Hamas views the
entire State of Israel as land illegally occupied by the Jewish people.
Israel aspires toward the goal of peace so that both Jews and Arabs might
one day live without fear of extremist violence. The Israeli authorities
continue to review human rights issues and implement new recommendations
which address many of the issues raised by Amnesty International.
Israel shares Amnesty's commitment to human rights and welcomes
constructive criticism by the international community. However, human
rights issues must not be viewed in a vacuum as Israel is continually
asked to balance the rights of the aggressor to fair treatment against the
rights of innocent civilians to live a life free from fear and danger.