June 23, 2008 - 3:01pm

An Israeli anti-torture watchdog said in a report on Sunday Israeli soldiers routinely abuse bound Palestinian detainees and it accused the military of "absolute indifference" towards such mistreatment.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) said its findings were based on 90 detailed accounts from Palestinians as well as from soldiers who witnessed the abuse and were concerned over the army's failure to stop it.

Soldiers, the report said, were frequently violent towards Palestinian detainees, including minors, in many cases after they had been handcuffed and no longer posed a threat.

"On certain occasions, the ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees is highly violent, resulting in serious injury. At other times, abuse manifests itself in a routine of beating, degradation and additional abuses," the PCATI said.

The report said abuse occurs immediately following arrest, in vehicles transporting detainees and during the time they are held in military camps prior to their transfer to interrogation and detention facilities.

The PCATI accused the Israeli military, Defence Ministry and parliament of "almost absolute indifference ... towards the existence of this phenomenon and the need to take action in order to eradicate it."

Asked about the report, an Israeli army spokesman said soldiers and commanders were obligated to ensure the safety of detainees and the military views with great concern any violations of its ethical code.

An Israeli military official said the army set up a special investigative unit in 2006 to look into complaints of abuse of Palestinians, and it had since recorded a rise in the number of soldiers and commanders reporting violence against detainees.

The Israeli army frequently carries out arrest raids in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip in what it says are necessary measure to stave off attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilians.

The PCATI describes itself as an independent human rights organization that monitors implementation of a 1999 Israeli Supreme Court ban on the use of torture during interrogation.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017