State ordered to report on conditions at terror suspect detention facility in the Negev

High Court decision comes in response to petitions from several human rights groups demanding Sde Teiman be shut down over alleged abuse; state to provide response by June 30

This undated photo taken in the winter 2023 and provided by Breaking the Silence, a whistleblower group of former Israeli soldiers, shows blindfolded Palestinians captured in the Gaza Strip in a detention facility on the Sde Teiman military base in southern Israel. (Breaking The Silence via AP)
This undated photo taken in the winter 2023 and provided by Breaking the Silence, a whistleblower group of former Israeli soldiers, shows blindfolded Palestinians captured in the Gaza Strip in a detention facility on the Sde Teiman military base in southern Israel. (Breaking The Silence via AP)

The High Court of Justice on Sunday ordered the state to update it on the prison conditions of Hamas and other terrorist combatants in the Sde Teiman detention facility.

The decision came in response to a petition by several human rights organizations demanding the closure of the Sde Teiman facility over allegations of severe human rights abuses there against detainees.

The court demanded in particular to be informed of conditions regarding the food provided to prisoners, health care and hygiene, among other terms of incarceration laid out in the 2002 law for unlawful combatants.

The state was given a week to provide its response, which is expected by June 30.

The petitioning organizations have alleged that the physical abuse of detainees at Sde Teiman and the poor conditions of their incarceration could constitute war crimes.

The IDF said it had set up a committee to investigate claims of abuse at the facility last month after a CNN report also alleged widespread abuse of detainees, including extreme use of physical restraints, beatings, neglect of medical problems, arbitrary punishments and more, citing a Palestinian doctor, who had been held in the Sde Teiman facility, and two Israeli whistleblowers.

Hamas terrorists who were caught during the October 7th massacre and during the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, seen at a courtyard in a prison in southern Israel, February 14, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The two Israeli sources told CNN that prisoners at Sde Teiman were forced to sit up straight for long hours, were blindfolded much of the time and were not allowed to speak. A common form of punishment for those who spoke, or otherwise caused offense, was to force them to hold their arms over their heads for an hour. Some had their arms zip-tied to a fence over their heads.

The IDF initially denied the accusations in the CNN report, saying that the army ensures proper conditions for prisoners under its responsibility, but it set up the investigatory committee not long after.

A week later, state attorneys told the High Court that the IDF would phase out the use of Sde Teiman and gradually transfer the inmates to different facilities around the country.

State Attorney Aner Helman told the court earlier this month that 700 inmates had already been moved to Ofer, a military stockade in the West Bank. Another 500 were slated to be transferred in the following weeks, leaving 200 at Sde Teiman whose future was yet to be decided.

Before the facility was shuttered, there were some 1,000 suspected “unlawful combatants” being held in Sde Teiman. The term refers to Hamas terrorists captured on and after October 7 when terrorists rampaged through the country’s south, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 251 hostages. Most of the detainees are suspected of having participated in the attack.

Suspected terror operatives are legally allowed to be held for 45 days before they must be either released or moved into the care of the Israel Prison Service. However, due to the massive spike in detainees in the wake of October 7, the suspected terrorists were kept in Sde Teiman for longer.

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