Human rights groups are condemning Israel for the torture of Samer Arbeed.
Arbeed is in critical condition following his interrogation by Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet.
A coalition of Palestinian human rights groups says Israel is responsible “for torturing and critically injuring” Arbeed during his arrest and interrogation.
An Israeli special forces unit seized Arbeed from his workplace in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on 25 September and beat him with their guns in front of his wife and other witnesses, according to Amnesty International.
He was then transferred to the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, an Israeli detention center synonymous with the torture of Palestinian prisoners, where he was severely mistreated while being denied access to a lawyer.
Arbeed, 44, appeared in Israel’s Ofer military court without his lawyer on 26 September with visible bruises. He told the army judge that he was unable to eat and was throwing up continuously.
Mahmoud Hassan, Arbeed’s lawyer with the prisoners rights group Addameer, was notified of his transfer to the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem on 28 September.
“He was admitted with broken ribs and kidney failure and is currently in critical condition on a respirator,” Amnesty stated.
Addameer says that Arbeed was actually transferred on 27 September, but that his family and lawyer were not notified until the next day and Hassan was only allowed to see him briefly.
The Shin Bet reportedly received permission from a “judicial body” to “use exceptional ways to investigate” Arbeed – code for torture.
While Israel’s high court supposedly outlawed torture in 1999, it ruled that the domestic intelligence agency can use torture in supposedly “ticking time-bomb” circumstances to investigate Palestinian prisoners.
“Since then, Shin Bet interrogators have tortured hundreds of Palestinians, citing the ‘ticking bomb’ plea, and not one of them has been prosecuted,” Amnesty stated.
Israel’s “ticking time-bomb” loophole was cited by US foreign spy agency the CIA to justify its torture regime, a US Senate inquiry revealed in 2014.
Shnerb was killed by what the Israeli military said was an improvised explosive device near the Dolev settlement in the West Bank on 23 August.
Her father and brother were injured by the same explosion.
Israeli occupation forces detained three other Palestinians they claim were involved in the attack: Yazan Mghamas, Nizam Muhammad and Qassam al-Barghouthi.
Israeli force subjected all three to physical and psychological torture as well, including the arrest of family members to exert pressure on them.
Israel’s resort to torture suggests that occupation forces lack any real evidence against the men.
Detained and released
Arbeed was initially detained on 26 August over suspicion of his involvement in the explosion that killed Shnerb.
On 29 August an Israeli military judge at Ofer ordered Arbeed’s release on bail.
Israel’s military prosecution requested a three-day delay to appeal his release.
On 2 September, instead of appealing, the military prosecution issued an administrative detention order to hold Arbeed without charge or trial for at least three months.
On 9 September, the judge again ordered his release and the prosecution again requested another 72-hour delay.
However, the next day the military prosecution ordered Arbeed released without conditions.
“It is utterly outrageous that the use of torture during interrogations continues to be sanctioned by the Israeli authorities, from the Shin Bet, through the executive branch and all the way to the supreme court,” Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s deputy Middle East director, stated.
Higazi called on Israel to ensure that all those involved in Arbeed’s torture are held accountable.
“Figures of the law are not authorized to torture detainees, no matter the severity of the suspicions against them. Cruel and inhumane means of interrogation are categorically forbidden,” Oded Feller, of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, stated.
While the justice ministry launched an investigation into the Shin Bet following Arbeed’s health deterioration, it is unlikely that it will lead to any accountability.
From 2001 to 2016, around 1,000 complaints were submitted alleging torture by the Shin Bet during interrogations. Not a single one resulted in a criminal investigation.
Israel’s minister of justice Amir Ohana is himself a former Shin Bet official.