28/12/2010 The Israeli Security Agency commonly known as Shin Bet is preventing as many as 90 percent of Palestinian prisoners from consulting with an attorney, even though civilian and military legislation state clearly that such prohibition should be rarely applied, a study published recently reported.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Palestinian Prisoners' Society reported that the Shin Bet utilizes interrogation methods that run contrary to international law and Israeli laws, during prolonged periods when prisoners are kept from meeting with lawyers.
Dr. Maya Rosenfeld, the author of the study, reported that among these interrogation methods are tying prisoners for a long time to a chair with their hands behind the back, sleep deprivation, threats (usually of harming family members), humiliation and being kept for long periods in unsanitary cells.
The Shin Bet has refused in the past to provide data on the numbers of prisoners who are prevented from meeting with a lawyer.
In the absence of official data, The Public Campaign and the Prisoners Society carried out research and cross-referenced their information with different sources in order to estimate the numbers of prisoners who are prevented from meeting with lawyers.
According to estimates of the authors, out of 11,970 Palestinians the Shin Bet admits to interrogating between 2000 and 2007, the numbers of those whose right to an attorney was blocked ranged between 8,379 to 10,773.
According to the report, preventing a meeting with a lawyer for long periods of time enables illegal interrogation aimed at exhausting the prisoners and moving them to cells where undercover agents pretend to be regular prisoners. The report mentions a number of cases in which after a prolonged interrogation, the physical and psychological exhaustion resulted in admissions of relatively minor violations which were carried out several years earlier and did not justify the violation of the prisoners' rights.
In response, the Shin Bet said it has “legal clearance” to keep certain detainees from lawyers.
It stated that "the phenomena of terrorism and espionage, which are the subject of Shin Bet investigations, have unique characteristics which justify the use of essential court arrangements to counter them. These arrangements were established by legislators and received extensive approval over the years by the courts, especially by the Supreme Court in its rulings.”
“One of the tools given to the Shin Bet by law is the authority to prevent meetings between the suspects and a lawyer,” the agency said considering accusations of preventing prisoners from meeting their lawyers as “baseless claims”.
Prisoner access to counsel is considered a basic right in Israeli law. Preventing such access is considered out-of-bounds and the maximum period such prohibition can be in effect, in security related cases, is 21 days. In Israeli military law, the minimum time permissible is 15 days and the maximum is 90 days.