* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
International *

14 August 2001
MDE 15/074/2001
143/01

On 15 August, Carmi Gillon, former head of the Israel's General Security
Services (GSS), is scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen, where he is
expected to take up his new post as Ambassador of Israel with the
agreement of Denmark.

     Carmi Gillon first joined the GSS in 1988, and became overall head
of the service from March 1995 to February 1996. During his tenure, and
until the Israel High Court of Justice ruled against such methods in
1999, GSS interrogators were officially sanctioned to use "moderate
physical pressure" on detainees (the vast majority of them
Palestinians). From October 1994, when a suicide bomb killed 23 people,
they were allowed to use "increased physical pressure". Secret
government guidelines set down what "moderate physical pressure" and
"increased physical pressure" allowed; according to court testimonies of
GSS members themselves, this included subjecting detainees to sleep
deprivation, prolonged shackling in painful positions, hooding with
filthy sacks, being forced to squat like a frog (gambaz) and violent
shaking (tiltul). During Carmi Gillon's period of service with the GSS
such methods of interrogation were used against several hundred
Palestinian detainees every year, many of whom were later released
without charge.

     After the death of a detainee, 'Abd al-Samad Harizat, in April 1995
from a brain haemorrhage as a result of violent shaking, the ministerial
committee which oversees the GSS were reportedly divided as to whether
to allow an extension of the "exceptional dispensation" granted to the
GSS to use "increased physical pressure". The GSS, then headed by Carmi
Gillon, argued strongly that such means were necessary and that 48
attacks over the previous six months had been foiled as a result of
special interrogation methods. At a meeting of the ministerial committee
on 16 August 1995 the exceptional dispensation to use increased physical
pressure was renewed until October 1995. The committee agreed that
violent shaking was no longer "regular" and would continue to be used
but only with the special authorization of the head of the GSS.

     According to detainees' testimonies, violent shaking of detainees
normally took place with the legs shackled below a low chair and the
hands handcuffed behind and between the back bars of a chair; this
diminishes the support for the detainee's back and thus his ability to
resist the shaking. Detainees  have frequently reported falling
unconscious while being subjected to violent shaking; others said they
felt they were choking.

     A number of cases of violent shaking by special authorization of
the head of the GSS, at that time Carmi Gillon, are recorded. On 24
August 1995 the head of the GSS was reported to have announced that,
following the 21 August 1995 suicide bus-bombing in Jerusalem which had
killed four people and wounded 80 others, he had authorized the shaking
of two militants, Naser 'Isa and Hatem Isma'il, whose confessions had
enabled the GSS to discover a bomb factory.

     The assertion that suicide bomb attacks could have been prevented
by GSS interrogation techniques which amount to torture cannot be
independently verified. However, international human rights treaties to
which Israel is a state party forbid the use of torture under all
circumstances, without exception. In May 1997 the Committee against
Torture, the expert body which examines states' implementation of the UN
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment, found that the interrogation methods employed
and not denied by Israel "also constitute torture as defined in article
1 of the convention".

     Thus, not only was Carmi Gillon head of the GSS while it used
interrogation techniques constituting torture, but he also authorized
violent shaking - and continued to authorize this method even after it
had directly caused the death of a detainee. Carmi Gillon has stated in
interviews with the Danish media that he was involved in about 100 cases
in which detainees were tortured or ill-treated; he effectively
advocated the reintroduction of torture by stating in an interview to
Jyllands Posten on 9 July 2001 that "Now it looks as though we have to
use [techniques of physical pressure] again and I am sorry about that".

     On 3 August, Amnesty International wrote to the Danish Government,
reminding it of its duty under Article 6 (1) of the UN Convention
against Torture, ratified by Denmark in 1987, to detain persons found in
their territory suspected of responsibility for torture or to take other
measures to ensure their presence pending criminal or extradition
proceedings and, under Article 6 (2), "immediately [to] make a
preliminary inquiry into the facts". The organization also reminded the
Danish Government of its duty under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of
War, to which Denmark is a High Contracting Party, to search for and
bring to justice persons responsible for grave breaches of that
convention.

     The Danish Government has traditionally opposed the use
of torture, and has criticised Israel for using torture as an
interrogation technique. However, the Danish Government has also refused
to block Carmi Gillon's appointment and stated that it is obliged under
the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to grant immunity to
the diplomatic representative of a government.

     However, the Vienna Convention was adopted some 25 years before the
crime of torture was defined and codified in the Convention against
Torture. The drafters of the Vienna Convention clearly did not envisage
that it would reverse the fundamental rule of international law, as
reflected in the Nuremberg and Tokyo Charters, and most recently in the
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, that no public
official is immune with respect to crimes under international law.

     Likewise, the drafters of the Convention against Torture and the
Geneva Conventions did not provide for any exceptions to the duty of a
state party to extradite a suspect or to submit the case to its
competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution, and their failure
to do so is strong evidence that diplomatic immunities are not
applicable to the crime of torture.

     The Rome Statute, ratified by Denmark some six weeks ago, but not
yet in force, is the latest instrument to make clear that there is no
official immunity for crimes under international law.  Article 27 (1)
unambiguously states: "This Statute shall apply equally to all persons
without any distinction based on official capacity.  In particular,
official capacity as a Head of State or Government, a member of a
Government or parliament, an elected representative or a government
official shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility
under this Statute..."

     The prohibition of torture in international law is absolute;
affirming that the world community finds no circumstance in which
torture could possibly be justified or excused. Some human rights may be
temporarily suspended for various reasons to do with state security. But
torture has been set apart, as one of the gravest violations possible,
inexcusable under all circumstances. The use of diplomatic immunity to
protect an alleged torturer from investigation and possible prosecution
would be inconsistent with the international recognition of the extreme
gravity of the offence.

     By accepting Carmi Gillon's appointment to Denmark and
the condition that he will be immune from prosecution in Denmark, the
Danish authorities appear to be condoning the granting of impunity
through appointments to diplomatic posts. However, under long settled
international law, the government is not under any obligation whatsoever
to accept Carmi Gillon's credentials. Indeed, as a state party to the
Convention against Torture, Denmark has a duty not to provide a
suspected torturer with a safe haven. The government should inform other
states that they will not accept such a person except on the condition
that the sending state agree to waive diplomatic immunity if the person
is indicted by a national court or to agree to recall the suspect and
conduct a prompt criminal investigation itself, and if there is
sufficient admissible evidence, initiate a prosecution.

     The Danish Government has announced that it intends to admit Carmi
Gillon to take up his post and to accept his credentials as Israel's
ambassador. If this is the case, Amnesty International  would urge the
Danish Government to initiate an investigation into the claims of
torture against Carmi Gillon as soon as he arrives on Danish territory.
Such an investigation must be prompt, thorough, independent and
impartial.  If there is sufficient admissible evidence to warrant it, a
prosecution should be permitted to proceed, in Denmark, Israel or any
state able and willing to conduct a fair trial without the possibility
of the imposition of the death penalty or other cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment.