Facility 1391

FRFI 177 February / March 2004

Facility 1391 – a unit so secret that the complex has been purged from every modern Israeli map and the road leading to it airbrushed from aerial photographs. Facility 1391, originally a fort built for the British army in the 1930s, was so secret that censors excised all mention of it from the Israeli media ‘to prevent harm to the country’s security’. Although it has been dubbed Israel’s Guantanamo, far more is known about the US detention centre than about Facility 1391. Until recently, there were no photographs of Facility 1391. No one knows how many people are held there, or who has been held there, or for how long, or under what conditions. People just disappear into it. Even now, the Israeli government refuses to reveal anything substantial about it.

Such information as does exist has come from released prisoners who passed through it on their journey through the Zionists’ vast detention network. The original detainees appear to have been foreign nationals – Egyptians, Syrians, Iranians, and particularly Lebanese. How many are held there is unknown. But 15 Arab foreign nationals have gone missing in Israel’s prison system, including four Iranians kidnapped in Beirut in 1982. What finally led to the exposure of the unit was its use to house Palestinians detained during the huge invasions of the West Bank in April 2002. Israeli human rights lawyers forced the government to admit to its existence when they pursued habeas corpus writs for the Palestinian detainees.

Detainees who have been held in Facility 1391 all speak of a regime of torture, the most common form of this being sensory deprivation. Held in cells with black walls and the dimmest of illumination, deprived of any contact with other detainees, refused any access to lawyers, denied access to any information, prisoners become completely disoriented. Other forms include sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of temperature, and prolonged exposure to artificial light. Add to this actual physical torture, and prisoners develop a sense of dread, a feeling that no one knows where they are or cares. And physical torture is widespread: 58% of Palestinian prisoners have reported overt violence including beatings, kickings, partial strangulation and position abuse – being tied in painful contorted positions. Ex-Facility 1391 detainees have reported being sexually assaulted with sticks or wooden batons.

Facility 1391 may not be the only secret detention centre. Prisoners speak of another such unit near Haifa; with 70 heavily fortified police stations built during the British mandate, there is no shortage of locations.
Jimmy German