Torture is an atrocity that concerns the world community. It is the purposeful and systematic annihilation of a human being’s physical and psychological well-being. The negative repercussions of torture not only hinder the victim’s quality of life in general, but are designed to shake the very foundation and dignity of entire communities. It is an abomination that, although strictly prohibited by international human rights and humanitarian law under any circumstances, is nevertheless practiced in more than half of the world’s countries.
Despite a landmark decision on September 6, 1999 by the Israeli High Court law outlawing the use of arbitrary torture as an interrogation method, which revealed Israel as the only ‘democratic’ state in the world that permitted torture by law, methods of torture are still applied by Israeli interrogators of Palestinian detainees. These methods include violent shaking, isolation, beating, kicking, sleep deprivation, agonizing positioning and infliction of pain for prolonged periods of time. The notorious Landau Commission Recommendations of 1987 approved the use of ‘moderate physical pressure and non-violent psychological pressure’ during the interrogation of Palestinian detainees. Landau Commission Recommendations override the Israeli High Court law by labelling Israel’s designation of the Palestinian Territories as ‘exceptional’ circumstances, thus justifying the need for ‘protective defense policies’ and the need to conduct ‘effective investigations’ in order to ensure security. In cases that Israel practiced torture against Palestinian prisoners, explanations and justifications have been based on the necessity of torture due to these ‘exceptional circumstances’. Confessions extracted through torture are admissible in Israeli court. B’Tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) reports that over 85% of Palestinian detainees are tortured during interrogation. TRC’s statistics reveal that 40% of those who are tortured suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
TRC works to embrace the Palestinian community at all levels and alleviate, if not erase, the enormous negative effects that torture has on the individual, family and community. TRC’s treatment activities target ex-detainees and their families, however survivors of other types of trauma and violence (particularly in relation to the current political situation and consequences of war) and certain social cases referred to the Center by other institutions (Ministry of Detainees’ Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Health) are also welcome. TRC is often the only available resource for the mental health care of victims of torture and organized violence in the mostly impoverished West Bank population, who cannot afford paying for treatment in private clinics. It is this segment of the population that is also the most vulnerable to the current violence, closures, curfews, sieges and systematic economic strangulation, and thus the most susceptible to stress-related disorders. All necessary medication, health care and therapy are provided to the patient free of charge.
Throughout the years, TRC has developed a strong referral system. It can sometimes take years for victims of torture and political violence and their families to realize that they need help and seek appropriate care. TRC’s referral system and Outreach Program make it possible for all those in need of care to receive dedicated, high-quality comprehensive medical and psychosocial services.