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Israeli Supreme Court Limits Torture

In a Sept. 1999 ruling, Israel's Supreme Court outlawed the systemic torture of Palestinian detainees by the country's security forces.

Israeli authorities had long claimed that "moderate physical pressure" during interrogations was necessary to combat terrorism. Palestinian prisoners, many detained without being charged, were subjected to violent shakings, sleep deprivation and physical abuse. Ten prisoners have died under interrogation since 1987.

Unlike other nations that practice but deny the use of torture, Israel has attempted to justify its official policy of physically abusive interrogations. Although Israeli officials say torture is required to obtain information about guerrilla threats, human rights advocates have noted that interrogations are performed routinely and often stop on weekends when the interrogators go home, indicating there is no pressing need to justify the use of torture.

Israeli lawmakers denounced the Supreme Court's ruling and called for legislation to circumvent the decision. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the verdict was "almost completely irrelevant to the world we live in."

The Israeli Supreme Court did allow a "good faith" exception for the use of torture: Security officials will be held immune from prosecution if they can show that torture was necessary to save lives, such as to stop an imminent guerrilla attack.

Source: The Tennessean

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