UN Committee Against Torture recommends 50+ measures to Israel to end its use of torture
The Committee calls on Israel to end administrative detention, repeal the Unlawful Combatants Law, and prohibit the solitary confinement of children; emphasizes that forced feeding of hunger strikers may be torture or ill-treatment
The Committee raised concerns about Israel’s extrajudicial executions of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and in the access-restricted areas of Gaza; and called for the immediate release of the bodies of deceased Palestinians
On 13 May 2016, the UN Committee Against Torture issued its extensive concluding observations on Israel. Spanning over 50 items, these recommendations follow from the Committee’s 3 and 4 May 2016 review of Israel’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture (CAT). Israel ratified the CAT in 1991, and as 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 Committee raised numerous issues highlighted by the human rights organizations in its report in the concluding observations as matters of grave concern. Included among the principal subjects of concern and recommendations are the following:
- Scope of the Convention’s applicability: Despite Israel’s contention otherwise, the Committee reaffirmed that the Convention applies to the Occupied Territories (para. 9)
- Definition and criminalization of torture, removal of necessity defense: The Committee remained “concerned that a specific offence of torture” based on the Convention has not yet been adopted. While the Committee noted that the Justice Ministry is drafting a new bill in this regard, the Committee called on Israel “to speed up the process”. It also urged Israel again “to completely remove necessity as a possible justification for torture.” (para. 12-15) In the partners’ view, Israel is in non-compliance with the Convention 25 years after ratification, as Israeli law contains no crime of torture and includes the “necessity defense”.
- Access to a lawyer and arraignment before a judge: The Committee recommended that Israel “ensure, in law and in practice, that all persons deprived of liberty, irrespective of the charges brought against them, the law applicable to them or wherever they may be located, are afforded all legal safeguards from the very outset of the deprivation of liberty, including the rights to be assisted by a lawyer and to be brought before a judge without delay.” (para. 16, 17)
- Audio-visual documentation of interrogations: The Committee recommended that Israel “ensure the compulsory audio-visual recording” of all suspects’ interrogations … and that “Audio-visual footage should be monitored by an independent body and kept for a period sufficient for it to be used as evidence in courts.” (para. 18, 19)
- Independent medical examinations of persons deprived of liberty: Israel should to guarantee that all physicians and medical staff dealing with imprisoned persons “duly document all signs and allegations of torture or ill-treatment and report them without delay to the appropriate authorities.” Further, it should consider “transferring responsibility for all types of healthcare of persons deprived of liberty to the Ministry of Health in order to ensure that medical staff can operate fully independently from the custodial authorities.” (para. 20, 21)
- Administrative detention and Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law: Israel should take urgent measures to “end the practice of administrative detention” and ensure that all persons who are currently held in administrative detention are “afforded all basic legal safeguards; and to “repeal the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law.” (para. 22, 23)
- Solitary confinement: Israel should “(a) ensure that solitary confinement and [isolation] are used only in exceptional cases as a measure of last resort, for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review, in line with international standards; (b) put an immediate end and prohibit the use of solitary confinement … for juveniles and persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities; and (c) … regularly publish comprehensive disaggregated data on the use of solitary confinement and equivalent measures.” (para. 24, 25)
- Hunger strikes/forced feeding: Israel should guarantee that hunger strikers “are never subjected to ill-treatment or punished for engaging in a hunger strike, and are provided with necessary medical care in accordance with their wishes.” Further, that hunger strikers, who are competent to take informed decisions, “are never subjected to feeding or other medical treatment against their will, as these are practices that may amount to torture or ill-treatment.” (para. 26, 27)
- Excessive use of force: The Committee raised concerns at allegations of excessive use of force, including lethal force, by security forces, mostly against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the access-restricted areas (ARAs) of the Gaza Strip, particularly in the context of demonstrations, in response to attacks or alleged attacks against Israeli civilians or security forces, and to enforce the ARAs of the Gaza Strip. Notably the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that, “some of these responses strongly suggest unlawful killings, including possible extrajudicial executions” (A/HRC/31/40, para. 10). Thus, Israel should ensure that “the rules of engagement or regulations on opening fire are fully consistent with the Convention and other relevant international standards” and that “all instances and allegations of excessive use of force are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent body, that alleged perpetrators are duly prosecuted and, if found guilty, adequately sanctioned.” (para. 32, 33)
- Return of bodies: While noting Israel’s new agreement to initiate the return of the bodies, the Committee urged Israel “to return the bodies of the Palestinians that have not yet been returned to their relatives as soon as possible so they can be buried in accordance with their traditions and religious customs, and to avoid that similar situations are repeated in the future.” (para. 42, 43)
For more information:
> Contact Tom Mehager, Adalah’s Media Director: email@example.com, +972 (0) 52-436-6355
> Concluding Observations of the Committee Against Torture, 13 May 2016, here.
> Joint Press Release, “UN Committee against Torture reviews Israel,” 5 May 2016, here
> Adalah, PHRI and Al Mezan’s joint report to the Committee: Available here
> Israel’s report to the Committee: Available here