Torture expert claims Israeli doctors were ‘complicit’

Israel’s secret services are operating in a “black hole” which allows torture to go unchecked, according to a leading expert on torture in Israel.

Dr Ishai Menuchin, executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), says his organisation has recorded 600 complaints about treatment received during General Security Service interrogations since 2001.

Speaking in London at the inaugural New Generation meeting of the New Israel Fund, on the eve of a new report issued by PCATI, he criticised both the Israeli legal system and the supervising doctors “who sit back and allow torture to go unchecked”.

Dr Menuchin said: “There’s no public control of the secret services. Their level of legal protection gives them almost total legal immunity. The names of interrogators are often not recorded and they are not questioned about the methods that they use.”

Later, he claimed that his organisation had evidence of “five or six” doctors who have been “complicit” in torture since 2007.

“We have sworn affidavits from Palestinians and records from hospitals that attest to injuries that were sustained during interrogations. These doctors allow torture and say nothing.”

Dr Menuchin, who supports medical boycotts of “individuals who have stood by and allowed acts of torture to take place”, also said the Israel Medical Association was culpable for “standing by and allowing its doctors to go unpunished”.

His allegations follow Dr Derek Summerfield’s recent letter to the World Medical Association (WMA) council, signed by 725 doctors worldwide, which called for Israel’s Dr Yoram Blachar to stand down as WMA’s president. The letter claimed that under Dr Blachar “the Israel Medical Association made a decision to turn a blind eye to torture in Israel and the institutionalised involvement of doctors.”

But Dr Blachar insisted that the information came only from Palestinians and that there was “no outside corroboration from anyone else”.

The new PCATI report says that, against Israeli law, a variety of agencies, including the army, shackle detainees in painful ways that amount to torture. Written by lawyer Samah Elkhatib Ayoub, the report is timed to coincide with today’s UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims.

The report points to improvements in practices and procedures concerning the shackling of detainees when they are brought for medical treatment, following actions taken by the Public Committee and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel.

But it notes: “Security detainees do not benefit from these improvements. Rather they continue to receive medical treatment in hospitals while they are shackled, uniformly, with no consideration of the threat they may or may not present.”

    Last updated: 11:47am, June 25 2009