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.

INTRODUCTION

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.

MISLEADING METHODOLOGY

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 for re-trial.

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."

MORDECHAI VANUNU

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.

CONCLUSION

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.