Israeli medics are complicit in the ill-treatment and abuse of Palestinian prisoners, in breach of the Hippocratic oath, two Israeli rights groups said in a report published on Thursday.
The report focuses on medical professionals who have witnessed, participated in or been in contact with prisoners who have been interrogated by the Shin Bet internal security service, formally known in English as the Israel Security Agency, which it says often inflicts physical or psychological violence.
The 61-page study — “Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim” — was put together by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and the Israel chapter of Physicians For Human Rights.
The findings were based on testimonies and the files of over 100 alleged victims of torture and ill-treatment handled by PCATI since 2007, and shows that medical professionals “are frequently involved either actively or passively in torture or ill-treatment,” it said.
PCATI spokesman Edan Ring told AFP that the alleged victims were all Palestinians, “under suspicion of being connected with security issues.”
Whether through direct action or through their silence, medical professionals were complicit with what goes on in the interrogation rooms, the report said.
It added that evidence showed that medical professionals were doing this by systematically failing to properly document prisoners’ injuries, by the failure to report abuse, and by sending detainees back to their interrogators even after seeing the injuries they had sustained.
In some cases, they also handed private medical data to interrogators, and frequently put the needs of the interrogation before the welfare of the patient, it said.
“This report reveals significant evidence arousing the suspicion that many doctors ignore the complaints of their patients; that they allow Israel Security Agency (ISA) interrogators to use torture,” it said.
It added that medical staff, “approve the use of forbidden interrogation methods and the ill-treatment of helpless detainees; and conceal information, thereby allowing total impunity for the torturers.”
The spokeswoman for the Israel Medical Association could not be reached for comment on Thursday evening but the Israel Prisons Service said that staff in its facilities followed procedures that were subject to broad outside oversight.
“The Prisons Service acts according to the law,” spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP. “It is supervised by many bodies.”
Ring said that many interrogations were however conducted in the Shin Bet’s own buildings, rather than in regular prisons.
The report said that Shin Bet interrogators are shielded from any oversight, trial or punishment by the law enforcement authorities, who systematically refuse to investigate them.
And they were also being protected by medical professionals who interact with the detainees, it said.
Ring said that copies of the report had been sent to the Israel Medical Association, the health ministry and other relevant bodies.
“We are hopeful that this report will help the medical system change its ways,” wrote PCATI executive director Ishai Menuchin and Ran Cohen, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights: Israel.