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UN Committee Against Torture: Serious questions for Israel

[RAMALLAH, 15 January 2009] - The UN Committee Against Torture has recently released a list of questions it wants Israel to answer when its record on torture is examined by the Committee in May 2009.

The list contains many of the issues brought to the Committee's attention by the United Against Torture Coalition (UAT Coalition) in its recent report on torture and ill-treatment in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

The UAT Coalition consists of 14 Palestinian and Israeli organisations, including DCI-Palestine, dedicated to the eradication of the systematic and widespread use of torture in the OPT.

Some of the key questions that the UN Committee Against Torture wishes to ask Israel in May 2009, are:

- How does the government of Israel support its contention that it only uses administrative detention (detention without charge or trial) in exceptional circumstances when 900 Palestinians were held in such detention in 2007?

- Israeli Military Order 378 allows for the detention of Palestinians, including children as young as 12, for 90 days without access to a lawyer and 188 days before being charged with an offence. How does Israel reconcile the Order with its obligation under article 2 of the Convention to take effective measures to prevent torture?

- According to information before the Committee, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) has allegedly been operating a secret detention and interrogation facility, known as "Facility 1391" in an undetermined location within Israel, not accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or detainees' lawyers or relatives. What measures have been undertaken to ensure appropriate access by ICRC to all detainees in this facility?

- Please provide information on allegations received by the Committee that Palestinian detainees are subjected by Israeli security officials to acts in violation of the Convention before, during and after interrogations, including claims of beatings, binding in "shabah" position, denial of basic needs, sleep deprivation, tightening of handcuffs, sudden pulling of the body, sharp twisting of the head, crouching in the "frog" position and bending the back in the "banana" position.

- Please comment on the measures adopted by Israel to respond to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right's call for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, by which 1.5 million Palestinians have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months.

- What measures has Israel taken to address the differing definitions of a child in Israel and in the OPT (16 in the OPT, 18 in Israel)? Please comment on the allegation that sentences in the OPT are meted out based on the child's age at the time of sentencing rather than when the offence was committed.

- Please comment on claims that Palestinian child detainees are interrogated in the absence of a lawyer or family member.

The UN Committee Against Torture's list of issues can be found on the OHCHR website.

If you would like further information concerning the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli interrogation centres and prisons, please contact a DCI-Palestine advocacy officer at ria@dci-pal.org