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UN Committee against Torture Condemns Israel’s Torture and Inhumane Treatment of Palestinians, and Calls for Accountability

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CAIRO — The Cairo Institute for Human Rights studies (CIHRS) welcomes the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee Against Torture’s (CAT) review of Israel released on  May 13th. On  May 3rd and 4th, CAT considered Israel’s fifth periodic report concerning the implementation of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment and Punishment (the Convention)and it reiterated the Convention’s applicability to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

On the eve of the 68th anniversary of the expulsion of the Palestinian people from historic Palestine (Al Nakba – the catastrophe), the Committee expressed numerous concerns about persistent patterns of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment against Palestinians living under prolonged occupation both in detention and in non detention situations; as well as new policies carried out by Israel that exasperate these trends. The Committee put forward specific recommendations to Israel to ensure effective accountability and redress for acts of torture carried out against Palestinians.

On several occasions CAT highlighted Israel’songoing failure to respect its obligations under the Conventions, as well as under general International Human Rights Law (IHRL) through insufficient implementation of previous recommendations made by the Committee. CIHRS reiterates the need forIsrael to ensure implementation of all recommendations by Treaty Bodies and other relevant UN mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council.

During the review, members of the Committee questioned Israel over the continuous denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people through the perpetuation of prolonged military occupation. Discussing the lack of a definition of torture within Israeli law and specifying other policies and practices, including Israel’s refusal to report to CAT on its actions carried out in the OPT, members of the Committee reminded Israel that the application of the Convention, as a legal obligation, is not subject to the discretion or whims of any particular government.

CIHRS and Palestinian human rights organisations, including Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club participated in the review of Israel. Despite recent attacks against Palestinian rights organisations by Israel, Palestinian organisations in attendance submitted a joint report highlighting grave violations, many of which were reflected in CAT’s Concluding Observations.

In response, the Committee deliberated on Israeli practices of administrative detention, solitary confinement, detention of Palestinian children and concluded that such practices could amount to torture and inhumane and degrading treatment. CAT also expressed its concern over Israel’s inadequate response to violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians. In relation to a bill that would allow forced feeding of Palestinians on hunger strike, CAT considered that Israel should also take “the legislative and other measures necessary to ensure that persons deprived of liberty, competent to take informed decisions, who engage in hunger strikes, are never subjected to feeding or other medical treatment against their will, as these are practices that may amount to torture or ill-treatment.”

The Committee also raised concerns about increased practices of collective punishment carried out against Palestinians. These practices include excessive use of force by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF), at times amounting to extra judicial killings; punitive house demolitions; and the withholding of Palestinian bodies killed by ISF. It also considered that the continuous siege on Gaza Strip, and its humanitarian impact, as well as practices taking place in checkpoints placed in the West Bank violate the provisions of the Convention.

CIHRS reiterates its call to UN members States to continue taking concrete steps to bringIsrael, the Occupying power, to abide by its obligations under international law. After almost five decades of military occupation, where impunity for crimes against Palestinians is the norm rather than the exception, it is time to bring Palestinians closer to justice and human dignity, and put a stop to the widespread patterns of torture and abuse.