On Tuesday, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut rejected a request submitted by Amiram Ben Uliel for a retrial in the notorious Duma murder case.
In September, 2022, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal submitted by Ben Uliel, leaving intact his three life sentences plus an additional 20 years, based on his having confessed to throwing firebombs into the homes of an Arab family, resulting in the deaths of the parents and one child of the Dawabshe family, and the injury of another child.
In her latest decision, Hayut wrote that, "The incident is a shocking one and the means used against the petitioner [Ben Uliel] during his interrogation were certainly extremely irregular. Nonetheless, the ruling that is the subject of the request for a further hearing did not establish any new law on issues concerning the admissibility of confessions."
Responding to Hayut's ruling, the Honenu legal aid organization issued a statement saying, "Esther Hayut, like all her friends who proclaim themselves protectors of human rights, has made a mockery of the human rights of all the downtrodden of society with her support of torture when it is used to force those being interrogated to confess to crimes - just like in a third world country.
"Precisely now, when everyone is talking about the Court as the 'protector of human rights,' Hayut has reminded us of the lies and deceit behind these fine words. When it comes to a Jew with a beard and peyot [sidelocks], the Court despises his human rights and tramples upon them."
Ben Uliel's request for a retrial was submitted by his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman. "At the center of the verdict is the question that has haunted Israeli law for many years: the authority of the ISA [Shabak] to use violence and torture in its interrogations in order to extract information from those suspected of committing serious crimes against the security of the state," he wrote.
Ben Uliel ultimately confessed to the murders and even reenacted the purported events, but his defense attorneys claimed that the confessions were extracted from him via torture, labeled as "interrogation under duress," that received the approval of the Attorney-General.
In the request for a retrial, attorney Feldman wrote that, "The District Court and the Supreme Court refrained from describing my client's interrogation as torture, preferring to call it 'interrogation under duress,' but no necessity was ever established for the interrogation nor did the courts cite any pressing need."
Feldman added that, "Confessions provided either during torture or immediately afterward are considered invalid by the courts; the courts draw an imaginary line at 36 hours post-torture, considering confessions made beyond that point as admissible. However, nothing changed for Ben Uliel after 36 hours had passed. He was still in the hands of the Shabak, still denied all contact with the outside world, and still prevented from seeing a lawyer.
"A judicial order permitted witholding a lawyer, but with no real justification provided," Feldman continued. "The only reason was the desire to ensure that a lawyer could not explain to my client that while confessions given during torture would not be considered admissible, those given 36 hours afterward would be accepted as valid by the courts. As if some magical memory-erasing device had been used to wipe all recollection of the torture from his mind," he added.