Four years and six months. That’s enough time to finish college. Enough time to take a gap year and travel around the world, recover and find a job. Enough time to plan, build and launch a rocket to the moon. Enough time to be born, learn to walk and talk, and graduate preschool.
Four years and six months is also the average time it takes the IIC, the department in charge of examining interrogee complaints at the ISA (Shin Bet), to decide whether they will recommend a criminal investigation of the allegations. This becomes apparent from data PCATI has gathered for a situation report on the state of torture in Israel.
Recently, in response to our pressure, a relatively large number of decisions were taken in files which had been languishing for years. The decisions contain no great news for the complainants: no criminal investigations will be conducted. But the letters detailing the decisions to close the files contain an interesting point: in between the lines, the IIC admits that one cannot exclude the possibility that terrible deeds were indeed committed. In some cases – a man who had been threatened with being crippled, denial of medical treatment, and permanent and irreparable hearing loss – the IIC announced that it would turn to the ISA with a request for “clarifying procedures”.
Naturally, since this is the Shin Bet, we do not know what the procedures are or in what manner they will be clarified. We will continue to exert pressure in order to obtain clear answers and to ensure that that the directives change, so as to decrease the abuse of future interrogees. But this is far from being enough. The Ministry of Justice, and the IIC within it, simply cannot content themselves with faint promises of “clarifications”. They must start investigating allegations professionally, charge those responsible, and do everything in their power to ensure that the absolute prohibition on torture is honored.