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Israeli interrogators in Iraq
BBC Report, 3 July, 2004
The US officer at the heart of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal says she has evidence that Israelis helped to interrogate Iraqis at another facility.
Brig Gen Janis Karpinski told the BBC she met an Israeli working as an interrogator at a secret intelligence centre in Baghdad.
A BBC reporter says it is the first time a senior US officer has suggested Israelis worked with the coalition.
The Israeli foreign ministry said the reports were completely untrue.
Gen Karpinski was in charge of the military police unit that ran Abu Ghraib and other prisons when the abuses were committed. She has been suspended but not charged.
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she met a man claiming to be Israeli during a visit to an intelligence centre with a senior coalition general.
"I saw an individual there that I hadn't had the opportunity to meet before, and I asked him what did he do there, was he an interpreter - he was clearly from the Middle East," she said in the interview.
"He said, 'Well, I do some of the interrogation here. I speak Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel.'"
Until a 1999 ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court, Israeli secret service interrogators were allowed to use "moderate force".
The US journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal told the programme his sources confirm the presence of Israeli intelligence agents in Iraq.
Seymour Hersh said that one of the Israeli aims was to gain access to detained members of the Iraqi secret intelligence unit, who reportedly specialise in Israeli affairs.
The BBC reporter, Matthew Grant, says that whatever the truth, these allegations could cause anger in the Arab world.
Photographs of naked Iraqi detainees being humiliated and maltreated first started to surface in April, sparking shock and anger across the world.
One soldier has been sentenced and six others are awaiting courts martial for abuses committed at Abu Ghraib jail.
Gen Karpinski has said she was being made a "convenient scapegoat" for abuse ordered by others.
US implementing Israeli torture practices in Iraq
Albawaba.com Report, 3 July 2003
As the scandal deepens on the physical abuse of Iraqis by American guards at Abu Ghraib prison, many Palestinian prisoners feel a keen identification with their Iraqi brothers, as they too, have suffered while in the hands of Israeli aggressive guards.
Just recently, the U.S. military said it has scheduled the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing for Pfc. Megan Ambuhl in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal case. The session, known as an Article 32 hearing, will determine if the 29-year-old from Virginia, will be subjected to a court martial. Ambuhl is one of seven defendants who are accused of abusing prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
The casual beatings, humiliations, so-called trophy photos taken by guards were experiences many Palestinians said they underwent as Palestinian security detainees at Israeli military camps.
There was, according to one of those Palestinians, a significant difference. The Israelis, he said, have rules and their techniques for breaking down prisoners are far more sophisticated. "What the Israelis do is much more effective than beatings.
"Three days without food and without sleep and you're eager to tell them anything. It just shows us the Americans are amateurs. They should have taken lessons from the Israelis."
Israel has been known across the globe for its brutal interrogation techniques. Even though Israeli officials tend to defend their "policies" from time to time, it is a well-known fact that prison guards are aggressive and forceful towards prisoners - especially towards Palestinians.
Israel is perhaps the only Western-style democracy that has acknowledged sanctioning mistreatment of prisoners in interrogation. In 1987, for example, following an intense debate in legal and security circles, a state commission established a set of "secret guidelines" for interrogators using what the panel described as "moderate physical and psychological pressure" against detainees.
In 1999, Israel's Supreme Court struck down those guidelines, ruling that torture was illegal under any circumstances.
However, after the Palestinian Al Aqsa Intifada erupted a year later, and especially after a wave of suicide bombings, Israel's internal security service, also known as the Shin Bet, returned to physical coercion as a standard practice, according to human rights lawyers and detainees. Moreover, the techniques it has used command widespread support from the Israeli public.
Shin Bet interrogators in the late 80s were bound by the 1987 guidelines. Palestinian prisoners were forced to stand for days at a time or were shackled in tightly contorted positions on low stools. They were violently shaken, deprived of sleep, bombarded with loud, continuous music, exposed to extremes of cold and heat and forced to relieve themselves in their clothing. Their heads were often covered with canvas hoods that reeked of urine or vomit.
However, sometimes interrogators even went beyond these guidelines. In October 1994, for instance, after Palestinians abducted an Israeli soldier, Yitzhak Rabin, then-prime minister, acknowledged that the suspected driver of the kidnap car had been tortured.
Over time, interrogation techniques became less brutal and more refined, according to some opinions. Ziad Arafeh, 40, a political activist who lives in the Balata refugee camp outside Nablus, estimated he had been arrested 14 times over the past twenty years. Each time, he said, his interrogators seemed to have mastered a new technique, the Washington Post quoted him as saying.
In the early days, he said, crude physical and sexual abuse was commonplace. When he was first arrested in 1983, an interrogator put on rubber gloves and squeezed his testicles until he cried out in pain. On another occasion Arafeh, who was suspected of involvement in the killings of alleged Palestinian collaborators, said he was kept in his underwear in a small, cold cell and splashed with water every few hours. Now the emphasis is on psychological pressure. During his arrest a year ago, Arafeh said, he was deprived of sleep for several days but not beaten.
There is a big difference between soldiers who make arrests and Shin Bet interrogators, Arafeh said. The soldiers are often casually cruel, he said, kicking and humiliating detainees in ways similar to the behavior reported at Abu Ghraib. But once the interrogators take over, treatment is far more calculated and professional.
"Their strategy is much improved," he said. "They give you food without salt that makes you weak, and they prevent you from sleeping. They're more clever and more experienced." A turning point in Israel's treatment of detainees came in September 1999 when the Israeli Supreme Court banned all forms of physical abuse. "Violence directed at a suspect's body or spirit does not constitute a reasonable investigation practice," the court declared.
The justices left open several loopholes. Interrogators who used force preemptively to prevent a "terror attack" could invoke the "defense of necessity" if faced with prosecution. The court also made allowances for "prolonged" interrogation, even if it involved sleep deprivation, and shackling, "but only for the purpose of preserving the investigator's safety."
Most of the specific methods used before the 1999 decision all but vanished after the ruling. Yet slowly but surely, human rights lawyers said, new techniques took their place... The latest report by the committee against torture, covering the period from September 2001 to April 2003, alleged that detainees faced a new regime of sleep deprivation, shackling, slapping, hitting and kicking; exposure to extreme cold and heat; threats, curses and insults; and prolonged detention in subhuman conditions.
"Torture in Israel has once more become routine, carried out in an orderly and institutional fashion," concluded the report.
The committee accused the Israeli legal system of effectively sanctioning torture by routinely rejecting petitions seeking to grant detainees access to lawyers. Not one Shin Bet interrogator has been prosecuted despite hundreds of allegations, the report said.
The apparent ethical dilemma of whether torture should be applied where psychological strain has failed is not a new dilemma. It has been confronted by ethicists as well as others from all over the world.
In January, prominent Lebanese activist Mustafa Dirani testified that Israeli interrogators raped him, sodomized him with a club, kept him naked for weeks and humiliated him in an effort to extract information on missing Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad. Dirani is suing the state for 6 million Sheqels.
However, Israel's State prosecutor said interrogators never touched Dirani, who "sang like a bird" and made up the allegations of abuse to explain why he gave Israel information. In the courtroom, Dirani identified "George," the man who allegedly assaulted him from a photograph he was shown.
"It never happened," responded George in a television interview. Interrogators who deal with security prisoners "know exactly what is and what is not allowed." But, he added, "you must be innovative... and you can't always run and get permission in advance."
Abducted from Lebanon in May 1994, Dirani, a former Amal leader, is one of hundreds of Arab prisoners who were released by Israel in exchange for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers.
In a 10-hour-long court session, Dirani swore that Arad's suffering was minor compared to his own, and that whatever he said to his interrogators was under duress. He testified that interrogators kept him naked and shackled in a secret facility for a month as six men systematically tortured him, splashing him with hot and freezing water, shaking him until he fainted, squeezing his testicles, and sexually assaulting him as they demanded to know the whereabouts of Arad. "I would pray that I'd die," said Dirani.
Dirani, 52, said he was then taken to another facility in Israel, stripped naked, shackled, and brutally interrogated around the clock for a month by six people, including George.
One day, according to Dirani, George brought a uniformed soldier nicknamed Kojak into the room. The soldier dropped his pants and George told Dirani the soldier would sodomize him if he did not talk, he said.
Days later, Dirani was shackled and pushed down onto a bench, he said. "I couldn't see or resist... I was raped by the soldier. He said he would rape me, and he did," he told the court.
"Two or three days later they started raping me with a police baton," he said. "It's impossible to describe the pain. I yelled to high heaven."
The interrogators took him to a doctor to stop the bleeding, he said. They also forced him to drink castor oil, which made him incontinent, and made him wear large diapers as his only clothing.
"I remember one instance that I still feel until today, which makes me shudder, in which a baton was used - not for hitting," he said. "Even in the field, George did what he wanted, in front of my eyes and the eyes of everyone else." It appears Israeli torture practices are committed not only against Palestinians, but also against Israelis themselves. Just as an example, in April, Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was freed after serving an 18-year prison term for revealing secrets that exposed Israel as one of the world's top nuclear powers.
In a statement on his release, Vanunu said he received "cruel and barbaric" treatment during his incarceration, 12 years of which was spent in solitary confinement.
Vanunu said Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement. "You didn't succeed to break me, you didn't succeed to make me crazy," he said.
It seems US forces in Iraq have learned many of their tactics and codes of conduct from their Israeli counterparts.
The nature of the US soldiers' actions as well as the manner in which they are carried out stress once again the Tel-Aviv-Washington "axis of evil". In the United States' self-declared war against so-called "terror" - the world has been witnessing on a daily basis that the real terrorists are actually those terrorizing the Iraqi people and inmates. (Albawaba.com)
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