Israel using relatives to pressure detainees, group charges

(dpa) - The Israel Shin Bet internal security organization uses relatives of individuals under interrogation in order to extract confessions, a right group charged in a report released Sunday.

In the report, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) accused the Shin Bet of violating international human rights and said that "the illegal exploitation of family members, who in most instances are not suspects themselves, has on many occasions caused severe psychological suffering to interrogees and to their innocent victims."

In what described as "an extraordinary move" the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee was slated to discuss the PACTI charges Sunday.

The report, entitled "Family matters: Using family members to pressure detainees under GSS (Shin Bet) interrogation," details six cases from 2007 and early 2008 in which detainees were told their relatives had been arrested, or the relatives actually had been picked up by the authorities.

"The exploitation of family members and the psychological abuse of an interrogee and his family are forbidden and unacceptable in a democratic society based on the rule of law and the values of human dignity," PACTI said.

The group accused the Shin Bet of ignoring a High Court ruling from 1999 which outlawed physical and psychological torture.

Legislator Menahem Ben-Sasson, Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, was quoted by the Y-Net news site as saying that "it is imperative that the report's findings are heard in the committee and taken into serious consideration.

"I believe that the codes of behaviour which the State of Israel is bound to by international treaties, must be upheld," he said.

But, he added, "we must not forget that we are confronted with a daily war against terror. While this reality does not legitimize inflicting irreversible bodily injuries, it does force us to use other measures, which should be exercised when the situation calls for it and in a reasonable and proportional manner."

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