Female Prisoners Lodge Complaints Against Shin Bet Interrogation Techniques

Article Summary
Seventeen complaints have been filed by Palestinian women, along with the Israeli NGO the Public Committee Against Torture, protesting tactics employed by the Shin Bet security service during interrogation of female detainees. Tactics allegedly include strip searching female detainees and threatening to arrest family members. Amjad Samhan reports.

Isra Salhab, a young Palestinian woman, was at her home when the Israeli forces stormed her house, arrested her and took her to investigations in the middle of the night. She did not know that the investigation would be shameful to such a great extent. However, she broke the barrier of fear and told her story to Al-Safir newspaper, including the fact that she had been undressed during the interrogation.
The young Palestinian Hana Shalabi was also held in administrative detention by the Israelis. She went on hunger strike for 22 consecutive days in protest of humiliation and detention without charge, a case affecting nine other female prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons.

"I was strip searched by the Shin Bet. The investigator was sitting next to me and shouting. I asked him to stay away from me. I refused to cooperate with him until he moved away. They were pushing me - by threatening to hurt my husband, who was also a prisoner - to confess to crimes I have not committed. Their pressure did not affect me nor my husband. We were released later on," said Isra to al-Safir.

The Israeli organization called the Public Committee Against Torture has published a report in Haaretz newspaper on Israeli violations against Palestinian prisoners. "Interrogations" range from sexual harassment to strip searching.

According to Haaretz, the Israeli public prosecutor is investigating complaints made by the Palestinian female prisoners' families about sexual harassment and strip searches during the interrogations. Seventeen complaints were filed by female Palestinian prisoners, stating that  "during investigation, the Shin Bet humiliated them. They have also strip searched them, and removed their headscarves, in addition to other shameful and abusive acts.”

Furthermore, it has been revealed that [in the past,] Israeli investigators made recourse to another violation during investigations: threatening to arrest members of the detainees' families.  Up until 2007, the Shin Bet would arrest members of the prisoner's family in an attempt to pressure him/her. However, the High Court of Justice banned the arrest of family members who have not committed any offense  as way of pressuring detained suspects to confess.

A 26 year-old Palestinian woman said that she was arrested in the summer of 2009. She underwent investigation on suspicion of preparing to abduct an [Israeli] soldier. When she arrived at the prison, she was given a man’s undergarment to wear. She was tied to a chair for hours of the investigation. During the interrogations, Israelis threatened that they would arrest her mother and sister, but promised that she could live in Israel with her father if she cooperated with them. They also threatened to publish information that she had been arrested for security offenses. She was prevented from covering her head with the headscarf.

In another statement, a 27-year-old Palestinian woman said that Israeli investigators threatened to rape her. She was arrested in the summer of 2009 on suspicion of belonging to a cell that was planning to abduct a soldier. During the investigation, they arrested her friend and brought her into the prison. The investigators told the young Palestinian prisoner that her friend was arrested because of her. They also threatened to arrest all of her family members. Blindfolded, she was led to a room, where a man was waiting for her. "We brought you a young woman, we know you like young women," said the investigators to the man in the room. The man laughed and then left. When she complained that the investigators were touching her, they replied :"What difference does it make? You are not even religious."

According to the many testimonies which figured in Haaretz, strip searching was not limited to the Shin Bet alone. Army members also employed this technique with detainees before the arrival of the investigators.

Hana Shalabi, who was on hunger strike for 22 consecutive days until she was released, also stated that she was subjected to humiliation, harassment and torture during her detention.

Hana Shalabi was released in the most recent prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel. She said that she had been on hunger strike since the first day of her arrest in protest of humiliation, torture, and strip searches.

In a statement issued by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, Shalabi said "the occupation forces told me to sit on the floor, as I did not deserve to be seated in a chair. A soldier, who was dressed in civilian clothes, claimed to be the prison nurse and asked me to take off my clothes for inspection. I refused. The investigators called a number of soldiers. They tied me up and throw me to the ground and began beating me."

Subsequently, the Court of Israel responded to some of Shalabi's demands and eased the sentence, from 6 to 4 months in administrative detention. However, the prisoner continued with her hunger strike.
Yesterday [March 7, 2012], the Israeli court postponed the hearing to appeal Hana's sentence, so that the military prosecutor would be able to reach an agreement on her case.

According, al-Damir [the conscience] Palestinian foundation, which has been following up with the case of Hana, "she was determined to go on with the hunger strike until she was released. She lost 10 kg and her health was deteriorating. Her body was obviously worn out."

"The judge did not allow the detainee's father to see her, even from a distance. He ordered that the doors to the court be closed, locking her father outside. When Hana was brought to the courtroom, her hands and leg were bound. One of the female soldiers tried to strip search her in front of the other prisoners and soldiers, but she adamantly refused," added the foundation.

Found in: women’s issues, women, shin bet, public committee against torture, prisoners, palestinian prisoners, palestinian hunger strike, palestinian, israeli prisons, israel, human rights, female prisoners

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