I wrote last week about the New York Times believing bogus Israeli claims that the Jewish state no longer tortured.
A new blogger on the American Torture website – the book is written by a friend of mine, Mike Otterman – further explains the issue:
Before 1999, Israeli laws regarding interrogation were informed by a report from the Landau Commission, which found that ‘moderate physical pressure’ (including violent shaking, hooding, stress positions, sleep, and sensory deprivation) were ‘regrettable but necessary’ during interrogations dealing with ‘hostile terrorist activity’ in instances where more conventional interrogation methods had failed. This treatment would be subject to a variety of confidential safeguards. By 1998, the UN Committee Against Torture ruled that these methods constituted torture, and that in Israel its use had become routine and systematic. In 1999, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) brought a case alleging torture, and the Supreme Court ruled that the moderate physical pressure was not permissible, and that the prohibition is absolute. An interrogation must only use methods that are ‘reasonable and fair’; that is, those that are ‘necessarily… free of torture, free of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of the subject and free of any degrading handling whatsoever’ (interestingly, the court did not rule that sleep deprivation constituted an act that fell outside of lawful sanctions), The court also noted that torture is incompatible with Israel’s Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty.
This is where Baer, Schemann, and others seem to have concluded their analysis; but the ruling does not stop there. The court included a fatal caveat in its grand declaration: the defence of necessity. Under the defence, interrogators who use moderate physical pressure can avoid criminal responsibility for their acts when they believe that circumstances require them.