The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Adalah, Al Mezan and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) presented a briefing for the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) last week on the State of Israel’s failures in implementing the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment. The briefing was submitted in advance of the Committee’s adoption of its List of Issues Prior to Reporting at its 48th session (May 2012).*
Key issues raised in the report:
1) Since the UN Committee Against Torture (henceforth: the Committee or CAT) considered Israel’s previous report in 2009, the Israel Security Agency/General Security Service (henceforth: ISA) has continued to employ torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (henceforth: other ill-treatment) in the interrogation of dozens of Palestinian detainees. The use of techniques of torture, officially referred to as “special measures” or “necessity interrogation,” is officially sanctioned and justified by the claim of “necessity” under Israel’s Penal Law. Torture victims’ complaints are invariably closed by the State Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General, without steps being taken either to investigate complaints or to prosecute interrogators or their superiors.
2) As of January 2012, Israel held 4,357 Palestinian prisoners, mostly outside of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in prisons in Israel. One Palestinian from Gaza is currently being held in indefinite detention under the Unlawful Combatants Law. In June 2011, 37 of the prisoners were women, and 211 were children. In October and November 2011, the number of Palestinian prisoners dropped after approximately 1,000 prisoners were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.
3) Violence and humiliation constituting ill-treatment, and at times torture, are inflicted by soldiers, police and other security forces (besides the ISA) during the arrest and detention of Palestinians in the OPT. Preventative measures are half-hearted and inefficient; investigations are rare, prosecutions are rarer and convictions rarer still.
4) While there is no disagreement that the Convention applies in Israel, Israel continues to claim that the Convention does not apply to the OPT despite the Committee and other human rights treaty bodies’ position to the contrary. The Committee has repeatedly emphasized that, “as stated by the International Court of Justice in its Advisory opinion, international human rights treaties ratified by the State party, including the Convention, are applicable in the occupied Palestinian territories.” Practices in the OPT must be part of Israel’s report.
The briefing included information on issues ranging from Israel’s interrogation procedures, administrative detainees, solitary confinement, prison conditions, and the military court system in place for Palestinians from the West Bank. The submitting organizations also submitted extensive data on Israel’s siege on Gaza and the continued lack of accountability for the killings, injuries and extensive property damage resulting from Operation Cast Lead.
Israel has failed to implement the Committee’s previous recommendations. The submitting organizations hope that this briefing will serve as a clear and useful source of information in pursuit of Israeli compliance with the absolute prohibition against torture.
The submitting organizations once again repeat their demand that the Israeli authorities fully implement the UN Convention Against Torture.
*In October 2011 Israel agreed to submit its next periodic report, due in 2013, under the Committee's optional reporting procedure, whereby States parties submit focused reports based on lists of issues sent by the committee prior to the submission of the State party report.