PCATI Announces Important Achievement in the Struggle Against Impunity in Torture and Ill Treatment Cases

Impunity/Accountability, Press Release

The Israeli Ministry of Justice Announced the appointment of Colonel (Res.) Jana Modzagavrishivili as the New Inspector of Interrogee Complaints Removing the position from ISA purview to a civilian office. 

PCATI cautiously welcomes this decision yet reminds the Attorney General that the Ultimate Authority and responsibility to open criminal investigations into complaints of torture is and has always been in his hands and calls on the Attorney General to fulfill his legal and moral obligations to seriously and transparently open investigations into complaints of torture or ill treatment lodged by former interrogees.

Dr. Ishai Menuchin, PCATI’s Executive Director stated “This is change we have demanded for many years from the State and wrote directly to the Attorney General in 2009, always pointing out  that a system in which alleged torturers are consistently cleared by their colleague is invalid.  Now the burden lies with the Attorney General. We expect that a criminal investigation will be coming and remain incredulous that over more than a decade no Attorney General has seen fit to initiate even one credible, public and transparent criminal investigation into a charge of torture.”

PCATI has tirelessly advocated for the reformation of the torture investigations process in Israel and recalls that the process has consistently been shrouded in secrecy and protected by a systemic impunity under which for over a decade out of over 750 complaints against Israel Security Agency (ISA) interrogators none have been criminally investigated by the Attorney General who has the legal and moral authority to do so.  In 2009 PCATI led other NGOs in sending a detailed letter to the Attorney General calling on him to bring this investigation process to an end (which accompanied our 2009 report “Accountability Denied“). Up until the June 6 2013 Announcement (in Hebrew) of the appointment of a civilian complaints inspector with no apparent ISA affiliation (Colonel (Res.) Jana Modzagavrishivili) the Inspector in charge of performing the initial (and apparently decisive) inquiry into torture victim complaints has been an active ISA agent.  The Ministry of Justice in its announcement of the appointment claimed that the ISA inspector functioned independently and under civilian (Ministry) supervision and that the final decision is in the hands of the ISA agent’s professional supervisors yet it also acknowledged the problematic nature of such a system.

Dr. Ishai Menuchin, PCATI’s Executive Director stated that “this announcement was expected some time ago, yet welcomes the actual appointment which comes close to three years after the Attorney General announced that the change was to be made.”  Dr. Menuchin added that in this period “PCATI continued to submit well supported complaints of torture committed by the ISA and has consistently pointed out that this system is fatally tainted by impunity. After all,” he explained “PCATI notified the State and the Public that the manner in which it investigates torture complaints amounts to a complete lack of accountability as we pointed out time and again most recently last year in Accountability Still Denied.”  Dr. Menuchin similarly pointed out that “our testimony to the Turkel Commission and its subsequent findings supported the call for reform.”

(See for example the following reports: “Flawed Defense”, 2002; “Back to a Routine of Torture”, 2003).