When you die you die in a second but in that prison you died a hundred times every day.
Ali Kashmar, former detainee in Khiam Prison, detained at age 14 for more than 10 years
They beat my husband and made me listen to him screaming. They also made me listen to Ryadh (my son) scream while he was beaten.
Mona, former detainee in Khiam Prison
Israel and the Lebanon have been involved in a struggle for territory and land for decades now. Over 20 years ago Israel occupied a buffer zone between it and Lebanon, to protect its northern border area. It funded and armed a local militia force called the South Lebanon Army or SLA. Although the claim was that the SLA were there to protect the local community the reality was that they followed the instructions of their pay-masters in Israel. On the ground the SLA's main opponent was the Hezbollah, a radical Islamic based group funded at that time by Iran which quickly took up the role of defending the local Muslim population, which was in the majority in the area
Although militarily Israel and the SLA had the upper hand they were struggling against guerilla fighter movements which were linked with the local population. In controlling the area they faced suicide bombers, random attacks by small Hezbollah units and a wholehearted dislike and lack of trust from the local population. Khiam prison was one of the measures that were implemented to help control the population. It was a detention center where, in its more than 15 years of operation, local people would be detained without trial for long periods of time, often years, under extreme conditions. These conditions included routine torture and beatings, solitary confinement for months on end with no toilet facilities and a complete denial of contact with the outside world. In all over 7,000 people are thought to have suffered in this centre during its history. The number of deaths is unknown but it is thought there were many.
He beat me and attached the electrodes to my nipples. Then all I remember is that I was screaming.
Mona, former detainee in Khiam Prison
We were not directly responsible for El Khiam prison. Believe me.
Yossi Peled, Commander of Israeli forces in the Lebanon, 1986 to 1991
As far as Khiam is concerned, the Israelis paid. What can be more than that? Paid the guards, including the interrogators. The Israelis teach the guards, sorry instruct, that's what it says in the affidavit. Israel invites them to seminars. They are not, I mean they teach interrogation. If needed polygraph is available with the Israelis. So this proves direct control of interrogation.
Tamar Peleg, Israeli Human Rights lawyer
Israel has always denied that it bore any reponsibility for what went on in Khiam. The amount of evidence for war crimes in the centre is now overwhelming. Evidence given by the detainees is consistent and horrifying. Talk of beatings, the methods of beating used, electric shock treatment administered to the fingers, tongue and genitals. That these things went on and went on in an organised fashion is undeniable. But the former prisoners also talk of Israeli guards and officers being present in the torture cells during the early part of Khiams bloody history. According to the testimony of both prisoners and some Lebanese prison guards the Israelis were not only present but took part in and instigated the torture. So far, however, Israel has only openly admitted to funding the centre, to its personnel visiting the centre and training the local SLA.
I tried to convince myself that I was someone important. I told myself I must be stupid, I probably am involved, I've probably done many things against them and worked for other people without being aware of it. In the end I made up story after story after story.
Ali Kashmar, former detainee in Khiam Prison
With no trial required or evidence needed to imprison someone idenfinetly in Khiam it was more than inevitable that the innocent would end up suffering with those who were active in opposing Israel. Even those who were involved in the war were treated in a manner that is illegal under international law. Treated in a manner that, in other conflicts, has provoked an international outcry for war crimes trials against those who organised it. But when Israel withdrew from the Lebanon it took with it over 6,000 SLA militia and their families including the guards and commanders in charge of Khiam at the time. They, along with the Israeli soldiers responsible, now enjoy a life of freedom in Israel.
Of course, even if those who were torturers in Khiam are punished, those who gave the orders are, should also be punished. And I think that means that the leaders of the SLA should clearly be punished but also the leaders of Israel, who for fifteen years have accepted that an intolerable situation has continued, are also as much guilty of war crimes as those who actually carried out the torture.
Liz Hodgkin, Amnesty International.
Khiam is now closed, but its legacy continues in the suffering of those who survived, in the grief of the relatives of those who never returned and as a symbol of terror to those who would oppose the army it stood for. For those who came through the torture and the beatings there are scars, their lifes will never be the same. Many suffer long term problems with their eyes, their genitals and their minds. Years of repeated torture and beatings can break people in a way that can't be fixed or paid back.
He feels anxiety. He asks me to sit by his side and says; 'I feel a pressure in my body that wants to escape'. He remains like that all day. Sometimes he spends three or four days or even a week asleep. He does nothing but eat, go to the toilet and sleep. He slips into a state of drowsiness.
Ali Kashmar's Mother
The crimes of Khiam were committed against a people with no real political voice in a climate when the West did not want to hear about or acknowledge the issues, prefering instead complicity with the Israelis. During the period that Khiam was in operation and at the height of Amnesty Internationals campaign to make people aware of the situation there, the US continued to fund and support the Israeli army. The rest of the Western powers continued to block or ignore the protests made to the UN with regard to the Khiam situation.
The crimes that were committed were committed and the suffering fixed, we cannot change these things. But unless the governments of the world are as willing to prosecute those responsible for the war crimes of this chamber of horrors as they are the crimes of their own enemies it will always remain possible for another Khiam to occur.
From the graves of Belsen where the innocent were burned
To the genocide in Beirut, Israel was nothing learned?
The numbers are different, the crime is still the same
Special AKA, War Crimes
Information and quotes taken from the transcripts of the BBC's Correspondent programme which won the Amesty International Award 2000. The transcript is available at the BBC website under
Other facts and figures from Amnesty International.