UN Committee against Torture reviews Israel, concluding observations to be published on 13 May 2016

Adalah, Al Mezan and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel submitted a joint NGO report to the Committee and attended the review session in Geneva.

On 3 and 4 May 2016, the United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture reviewed Israel’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CIDT) or Punishment (CAT). Israel ratified the CAT in 1991 and, like other state parties, is reviewed regularly by the Committee Against Torture. Adalah, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel submitted a joint NGO report to the Committee and attended the review session in Geneva. The joint report highlighted the following issues:


  • There is still no crime of torture in Israeli law, and the existence of the ‘necessity defense’ is contrary to the absolute prohibition of torture; as a result, torture and CIDT continue to be widely practiced against Palestinians, especially in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT);.
  • The General Security Services (GSS) and the police are still exempt from the requirement of audio/video recording of interrogations of security detainees;
  • Harsh criminal procedure laws violate detainees’ rights of access to a lawyer, access to judges, access to independent doctors;
  • An overly broad definition of “terrorism”, “terrorist organization” in proposed counter-terror legislation that may lead to discriminatory enforcement;
  • Israel continues to detain Palestinians under the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law-2002, which allows it to imprison civilians without fair trial, and based on secret evidence;
  • The increasingly and severe use of solitary confinement of prisoners and a sharp increase in administrative detention, including for Palestinian minors;
  • The excessive use of force and ill-treatment by the police, including a recent wave of extrajudicial executions of Palestinians;
  • The ill-treatment of Gaza fishermen and patients from Gaza seeking medical treatment outside the Strip;
  • The lack of accountability for Israeli military violations of international law, particularly in Gaza, and the lack of access to Israeli courts for compensation.


The organizations raised the following points to the Committee members at the NGO meeting:


  • The extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, particularly in East Jerusalem, who pose no danger to the lives of the security forces or others, the failure of the police to investigate, and the holding of the deceased Palestinians’ bodies for months;
  • The Forced-Feeding Law as a mechanism of torture, the growing use of solitary confinement of prisoners, including minors, and the enactment of harsh new laws that strip Palestinian detainees of procedural safeguards and basic due process rights.
  • The ongoing closure of Gaza and its attendant dire effects on the civilian population;
  • Israel’s overall lack of compliance with the Convention, and its failure to implement the concluding observations of the Committee over the last 25 years.


Highlights from the review session include:


  • The Israeli delegation announced that the Justice Ministry was preparing a bill to make torture a crime in Israel, with no information provided about the definition to be adopted or a timeline for completing it. Incorporating the crime of torture into Israeli law is an integral part of adopting the convention, which Israel did 25 years ago. And merely considering a bill is very far from passing a law. Further, the existence of the “necessity defense” is a gaping loophole in the law, which appears to qualify the absolute prohibition against torture in the CAT, of which Israel has been in continuous noncompliance for the past 25 years.


  • Israel claimed that the police had established the “nationalistically motivated crimes” unit in the West Bank in 2013 to increase the security of Palestinians. However, Yesh Din has noted that most of the investigations opened by this unit actually concerned offenses committed by settlers against the Israeli security forces. According to official statistics, police complaints filed by Palestinians in the West Bank have a mere 1.9% rate of being effectively investigated, and a suspect identified, prosecuted and convicted. This figure suggests grave concerns regarding Israel’s claims to be effectively enforcing the law in the OPT.


  • The Israeli Inspector for Complaints against ISA interrogators admitted that so far, none of the torture complaints that she has investigated had resulted in prosecutions due to insufficient evidence. According to PCATI, more than 1,000 complaints have been submitted over the past decade with no prosecutions made. In response, the Chairman of the Committee remarked that it seemed that the ISA inspector did not have the capacity to open criminal investigations.


  • The Israel delegation claimed that the “Audio-Video Law”, which exempts the ISA and the police from visually documenting the interrogations of alleged security suspects, was being reconsidered, and that closed-circuit TV cameras may be installed so that interrogations can be supervised and rights violations reported to the ISA. In response, the Committee noted that these kinds of tapes were generally not preserved, and thus a main safeguard against torture – the ability of defendants to use video evidence in court to prove coercion – would remain unavailable. Thus, this solution does not meet the requirements of CAT.


  • In stark contrast to data collected and published recently by PHR-Israel, the Israeli delegation alleged that solitary confinement (SC) was extremely restrictive and used only for short periods of time; that SC was not used an interrogation method; and that, pursuant to the new Mandela Rules, “separation” is not SC, as the prisoners have human contact with prison personnel. The Committee members expressed particular alarm at cases of Palestinians held in prolonged SC and separation, and the use of SC for minors.   


  • Regarding civil compensation for damages for Palestinians in the OPT, the Israeli delegation cited 196 Palestinian plaintiffs, 85 from Gaza, with pending cases in the Israeli civil court system. The delegation claimed that the Israeli courts were open for civil suits by Palestinians, yet failed to acknowledge the non-viability of the cases resulting from the essentially insurmountable financial, judicial, travel, and legislative barriers, which effectively block access to justice for Palestinians.


  • The Israeli delegation cited the few preliminary and criminal investigations opened (225 and 8 respectively, with 1 indictment) by the Military Advocate General two years on from Israel’s 2014 military bombardment on Gaza. The delegation failed to note, however, that the vast majority of criminal complaints remain unanswered or have already been closed. As in the past, this inaction indicates that Israel is genuinely unwilling to carry out independent investigations or prosecutions that meet international standards. The resulting impunity and lack of access to justice for Palestinians demonstrates the complete failure of domestic mechanisms.


For more information, see:


Adalah, PHRI and Al Mezan’s joint report to the Committee: Available here


Contact Tom Mehager, Adalah’s Media Director: tom@adalah.org, +972 (0) 52-436-6355