Camp 1391 is an Israel Defense Forces prison camp for "high-risk" prisoners in northern Israel, run by Unit 504 and less than an hour's drive from Tel Aviv. The existence of the prison was unknown to the public before 2003, and most information about it remains classified, though Israel's supreme court ordered the release of some information about the jail.
The location of the camp was accidentally discovered by Israeli historian Gad Kroizer, who found a 70-year old map drawn by a government architect while researching old British police buildings. On the map were 62 British police compounds in Palestine in the late 1930s and early 1940s where Arab and Jewish militants against the British occupation were interrogated. One camp, "Meretz", did not appear on any modern Israeli maps. In 2004, Kroizer published an article in an academic journal, mentioning the prison location in a footnote. Some days later he received a phone call from Israel's military censor asking why the article had not been submitted for inspection. According to The Guardian, the facility "had been airbrushed from Israeli aerial photographs and purged from modern maps."
Camp 1391 is situated in a Tegart fort on route 574 between kibbutz Barkai and kibbutz Ma'anit in northern Israel It is operated by the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps, rather than by Shin Bet. HaMoked, a major Israeli human rights organization, has petitioned the High Court of Justice to close the facility down.
Dubbed "the Israeli Guantanamo", the secret was kept in such a manner as to be even unknown to Prof. David Libai, Minister of Justice in Yitzhak Rabin's government and member of the secret services related ministerial committee. According to Leah Tsemel, an Israeli lawyer who specialises in advising Palestinians, "Anyone entering the prison can be made to disappear, potentially forever, it's no different from the jails run by tinpot South American dictators."
According to accounts of former captives, the detainees are led into the facility blindfolded, and kept in cells (most are 2 m × 2 m) with no natural light. Two smaller cells (1.25 m × 1.25 m) with heavy steel doors and black or red walls, and almost no light, are used for solitary confinement. Some of the cells do not have adequate toilet facilities and the guards control the running water. Mustafa Dirani, an Amal commander who was captured by the Israelis in May 1994 and released in 2004 as part of a prisoner swap, has filed a suit in Tel Aviv's district court claiming he was sexually abused in the prison. It has been acknowledged by the government of Israel that "within the framework of a military police investigation the suspicion arose that an interrogator who questioned the complainant threatened to perform a sexual act on the complainant".
Inmates are not allowed visits at the facility from the Red Cross, nor is any other independent organization permitted to inspect the site. The prisoners are not told where they are, nor are their families or lawyers. In 2003, in response to a lawsuit, Israeli government lawyers said that while the location was secret, Palestinians who are incarcerated there have their rights safeguarded, and can meet with lawyers and Red Cross at an off-site location. In May 2009, the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) questioned Israeli officials about the facility and expressed skepticism about this claim. The CAT stated that "Israeli security secretly detains and interrogates prisoners in an unknown location called 'Camp 1391' without granting access to the committee, the International Red Cross (ICRC), or the lawyers or relatives of the prisoners", questioned why interrogations at Camp 1391 were not recorded, and stated that "600 complaints of alleged ill-treatment or torture were brought between 2001 and 2006, but none had been followed up".
Israeli officials maintain that Camp 1391 "is no longer used since 2006 to detain or interrogate suspects", but several petitions filed to the Israeli Supreme Court by the CAT to examine the facility have been rejected. The Israeli Supreme Court also refused to allow an inquiry of the alleged abuses, declaring that Israeli authorities had acted reasonably in not conducting investigations into allegations of torture, ill-treatment and poor detention conditions of detainees. The Committee Against Torture responded to this by asserting that secret detention centers are per se a breach of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, concluding that the state "should ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its control in the future" and that Israel "should investigate and disclose the existence of any other such facility and the authority under which it has been established. It should ensure that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment by detainees in Facility 1391 be impartially investigated, the results made public, and any perpetrators responsible for breaches of the Convention be held accountable."
- Israel court lifts prison secrecy BBC News, December 2, 2003
- Newsweek: Secrets of Unit 1391
- Ephron, Dan. Secrets of Unit 1391: Uncovering an Israeli jail that specializes in nightmares, Newsweek (28 June 2004 Issue). Accessed 27 February 2008.
- McGreal, Chris. Facility 1391: Israel's Secret Prison, The Guardian (14 November 2003). Accessed 27 February 2008.
- Cook, Jonathan. Facility 1391: Israel's Guantanamo, Le Monde diplomatique (November 2003), reprinted in CounterPunch (12 November 2003) Accessed 27 February 2008.
- Aviv Lavie (20 August 2003). "Inside Israel's secret prison". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 2007-11-21. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
- The other Guantanamo Bays, New Internationalist (June, 2004)
- Middle East Times, Israel holding Hamas commander as a "bargaining chip" AFP, September 11, 2007
- Schattner, Marius Hezbollah hands over letter from missing Israeli airman Middle East Times, AFP October 22, 2007
- UN anti-torture committee calls on Israel to expose 'Camp 1391, Israel News. Accessed 15 May 2009.
- Reuters. UN questions Israelis on Palestinian torture allegations, Haaretz. Accessed 15 May 2009.
- "Committee Against Torture: Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 19 of the Convention" (DOC). United Nations Committee Against Torture. 2009-06-23. p. 11. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- L'ONU réclame une enquête sur les centres secrets de détention israéliens (UN requests an inquiry into secret Israeli detention centers), Le Monde. Accessed 15 May 2009.