The report claims to “reveal… significant evidence arousing the suspicion that many doctors ignore the complaints of their patients; that they allow Israel Security Agency [General Security Service] interrogators to use torture; approve the use of forbidden interrogation methods and the ill-treatment of helpless detainees; and conceal information, thereby allowing total impunity for the torturers.”
This report utilizes unreliable sources, presents inconsistent recommendations, and erases the context of terrorism in the actions of security forces.
These political NGOs further accuse Israel’s General Security Service (GSS) investigators, the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), Israel Medical Association (IMA), and Israel Prison Service (IPS) of complicity with these violations. They also allege without evidence “[w]idespread views in Israeli society condoning the violation of Palestinian human rights, and the inherent hostility towards them, exacerbate the situation.”
The “testimonies” in the report come from individuals convicted or suspected of security offenses and terrorism, who have political and personal reasons to falsely claim “torture.” Despite this problematic evidence, the NGOs assert that Israeli security officers “routinely employ interrogation methods which amount to torture and ill-treatment.”
The report does not provide a lexical, legal, or consistent definition for the key terms “torture” and “ill-treatment.”
The report provides 18 testimonies and accompanying analysis, allegedly proving both “active” and “passive” involvement of medical personnel in “torture and ill treatment.” The testimonies are based exclusively on the witness’ testimony, making it impossible to independently verify.
As the report notes, IPS and GSS “are exempt from the audio and video documentation required for criminal interrogations, during interrogations of those suspected of security violations.” The report acknowledges this major limitation, but still concludes with certainty that “testimonies reaching the Public Committee Against Torture – tens of them every year reveal a brutal picture: the systematic use of interrogation methods which amount to torture or ill treatment.” In contrast and indicating the weakness of the claims, PCATI has filed only a handful of court petitions regarding torture allegations.
Accusations against doctors
According to the report, “the long list of testimonies and evidence” demonstrate that “medical professionals are frequently involved either actively or passively in torture or ill-treatment. This, of course, contradicts a whole series of ethical and legal obligations to which they are beholden, and is in opposition to the moral duty thrust upon them by their unique status as medical professionals”.
The report accuses Israeli medical personnel of “silence as consent” for torture, “failure to document,” “[r]efoulement” to a place of torture, preference to “Serv[e] the Interrogation over Medical Confidentiality,” and cooperation with the interrogators.
Although the alleged guilt of the doctors and medics is not established by the “testimonies,” PCATI and PHR-I nevertheless accuse them of complicity.
For example, in “The Case of T.S.” a resident of Ramallah was subjected to, “Among other brutal violence….he was bitten by a dog who accompanied the soldiers.” Although he was treated by numerous doctors and “the medical record further details the injury,” the NGOs assert that the case should have been “reported to an external body” because of “suspicious injuries.” In fact, as noted by the hospital where T.S. was treated, “the doctors have no way to determine the source of the bite.” There was no reason, other than prejudicial political bias, to assume that the doctors were aware of the circumstances of bite, or that the bite was not sustained during an attempted escape, or while the detainee resisted arrest or attacked security forces.
Contrary to the report’s claims, the Israeli Medical Association’s ethical code, Chapter D(2), widely addresses the blanket prohibition on medical personnel to perform, ignore, or support torture.1
The report uses distorted and out-of-context quotes to accuse the IMA of using a “code [that] contains clauses which do not accord with the obligation to maintain the professional autonomy of the doctor”. On this basis, the report attacks the IMA as “derelict in its role” and using an ethical code that “contradict[s] the spirit of the international covenants and the principle maintaining a doctor’s right to professional autonomy.”
In its response to PCATI and PHR-I, IMA laments “your choice of adopting a mistaken understanding of the IMA’s position papers.”
The report also accuses the entirety of the Israeli medical establishment of “silent complicity” and of the “failure of the Prison Service’s medical system, which is obliged to provide proper medical care, to ensure documentation and reporting, and to maintain clinical medical independence.” It claims to uncover “many flaws in IPS performance in this regard. The medical system thus serves as an additional layer serving to deny torture victims legal remedy.”
The organizations openly threaten the Israeli medical community with prosecution in international forums, warning in the international criminal law chapter that medical personnel “may find themselves responsible for aiding and abetting the crime of torture.”