Samer Arbeed, a 44-year-old Palestinian man, was violently arrested on September 25 by plain-clothed Israeli soldiers on suspicion of organising a deadly bombing in the occupied West Bank. After initially being beaten, he was taken to the infamous Maskobiyeh Interrogation centre in Jerusalem, where he endured torture so severe he had to be hospitalised.
Arbeed remains in a critical condition and has been denied proper access to medical care and his lawyers. The Israeli media reported that a judicial body had authorised the Israeli Secret Service, Shin Bet, to use "exceptional methods" to extract information for this case, leading Amnesty International to condemn what happened to Arbeed as "legally-sanctioned torture".
Meanwhile, another prisoner, 24-year-old Palestinian woman Heba al-Labadi, has been on a hunger strike for well over two weeks after being sentenced to administrative detention for five months and being subjected to physical torture, including excruciating stress positions. Such stress positions can involve shackling the hands to the ankles, forcing the prisoner to lean forward, for lengthy periods of time.
Arbeed and al-Labadi's situations are unfortunately not exceptional and Israeli interrogators frequently use torture on Palestinian political prisoners of which there are approximately 5,000.
The prohibition of torture is clearly enshrined in customary international law and the United Nations Convention Against Torture (which was ratified by Israel in 1991) reiterates this. The convention defines torture as an "act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession".
Israel is thus bound by the international legal regime to not commit acts of torture against anyone including Palestinians. Yet, Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights organisation, Addameer, has documented extensively that Israel has for decades violated this convention. "Israel's ill-treatment and abuse of Palestinian detainees is widespread and systematic and typically starts from the moment of arrest," it has said.