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UN condemns Israel's widespread use of torture

Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
18 July 2012

In June 2012, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) posed 59 questions to Israel regarding its compliance with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Israel ratified this convention in 1991.  Adalah, Al Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel submitted a joint report to CAT on Israel's non-compliance with the convention in order to call the expert members of the Committee attention to Israel's use of torture.

Why do some Israeli citizens form a Public Committee against Torture?Why do some Israeli citizens form a Public Committee against Torture?
37 of the CAT's 59 questions for Israel related directly to issues that the NGOs raised in the joint report, including failure to make torture a crime as defined in the Convention, detention without trial including administrative detention and those classified as "Unlawful Combatants," harsh detention conditions such as solitary confinement, mistreatment of asylum seekers, insufficient investigation into torture complaints, exceptions to excluding unlawfully obtained evidence in prosecution, severe restrictions on movement preventing access to healthcare and family life for Palestinians in Gaza, lack of adequate investigation into violations during Operation Cast Lead, and punitive home demolitions.

Among the 59 issues highlighted by CAT as conducive to or indicative of torture in contravention to the Convention Against Torture, are:

  1. Prevailing torture and other ill-treatment of Palestinians, in particular by Israel Security Agency, with total impunity
  2. Israel has failed to effectively criminalize torture in its penal law. The Committee asks of Israel: "Please provide information on any steps taken by the State party to amend its legislation and incorporate a crime of torture..."
  3. Israel continues to effectively apply the "necessity defense" as means to legitimate torture. The Committee asks of Israel: "Please also provide detailed information on the number of Palestinian detainees interrogated since 2002 under the "ticking time-bomb" exception..."Israel fails to effectively investigate complaints submitted on torture and ill treatment. The Committee asks of Israel:  "Please indicate how many of around 700 complaints of alleged torture or ill-treatment during ISA interrogation have been properly and impartially investigated."
  4. The Committee notes that Israel fails to provide for effective forensic documentation of complaints of torture and fails to provide for video or audio recordings of security interrogations.
  5. The Committee notes that Israel continues to refuse to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, thus failing to institutionalize a National (Torture) Prevention Mechanism which would allow for unfettered access to places of detention and interrogation. The Committee asks of Israel: "Please also indicate whether the Government has considered ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention."

The Committee also raised additional issues under Article 16, which states that "Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity." Here the Committee posed questions on checkpoints in the West Bank, the denial of medical permits for Gazans seeking treatment outside of and unavailable in Gaza, and "continued restrictions which prevent Palestinians from Gaza from living with spouses from the West Bank or Israel, or Palestinians from the West Bank from living with spouses from Jerusalem or Israel."

Adalah, Al Mezan, Physicians For Human Rights – Israel and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel call on Israel to provide a detailed response to the questions posed by CAT and to fully comply with its international human rights legal obligations.

 

 Download the complete joint report issued by Adalah, Al Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, originally released on 26 March 2012.]