UN Committee’s against Torture (CAT) 42nd session is on its way and it has recently been receiving reports from various international and local NGO as well as various other expert bodies with regards to a particular region for the purpose of assessing their compliance with the provisions of the Convention. Israel submitted its state report to the Committee on 12 December 2007 with little to no mention at all of the abuses generated by its officials in the context of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The Committee then prepared its own list of issues to be considered during the examination of the state report on 2 February 2009.
Most recently, a notable number of reports has become available on the UN OHCHR website that were submitted by different organizations as part of the UN CAT briefing process on the situation in the region, contributing to its own information sources and overall assessment of the situation in Israel and the OPT.
On the national level, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel case from 1999 when Justice Aaron Barak of the Israeli Supreme Court held that torture of any kind would not be accepted in his courtroom, has been reinvoked in light of numerous testimonies gathered by international and local human rights organizations as part of a motion for contempt of court due to the state’s failure to uphold the 1999 judgment (the proceeding in contempt of court are presently ongoing). The Israeli General Security Services (GSS/ISA), more over, have numerously commented that they use tactics that they regard as legal, especially in interrogations concerning ‘ticking bomb’ cases.
The reports submitted include:
1. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the OMCT – World Organisation Against Torture briefing on: petitions to and complaints about the role of the Israeli Supreme Court where complaining takes place “in the face of a brick wall of total official impunity for GSS/ISA torturers” (pp 1-4); different illustrations of torture and ill-treatment in the form of inter alia, incommunicado detention, sleep deprivation, slapping and blows, pulling handcuffs, etc. (pp 4-15); and violations of the Convention during the aftermath of the Gaza War of December 2008-January 2009 such as the treatment of detainees and other persons in the hands of the Israeli military (pp 16-22).
2. The Refugee Rights Program at the University of Tel-Aviv submitted a report on Israel’s non-compliance with Article 3 of the Convention on the prohibition of non-refoulement noting the: The lack of legislation, procedure or regulations which would ensure the implementation of the principle of non-refoulement (pp 2-3); Israel’s reliance on a “diplomatic understanding” with Egypt, dated June 2007, regarding the safety of the deportees (pp 12-14); and Israel’s “Coordinated Immediate Return Procedure” (pp 14-19).
3. Written Submission of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) to the Committee Against Torture at its 42nd Session on the occasion of the Periodic Review of Israel including also mention of forced evictions and house demolitions (pp 3-7); violations of the right to water and sanitation (pp 7-17); and instances of the violation of the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (Art 16 UN CAT) (pp 17).
4. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel Israel – List of concerns for UN CAT on the: general non-compliance with the convention; definition and criminalisation of torture in Israeli law; actions to prohibit torture; extradition to places where there is a risk of torture; right to complain, duty to conduct to prompt an impartial investigation by competent authorities; right to redress compensation and rehabilitation; and the use of evidence obtained by torture.
5. HaMoked – Center for the defence of the individual and Btselem report on the interrogation regimes used by the ISA, routine ill-treatment of detainees, impunity for torture and ill-treatment, and cases of torture in and outside the interrogation context.
6. Amnesty International’ updates concerning the use of the Unlawful Combatants incarceration law, the destruction of homes in Gaza in the context of the recent war, denial of medical care to the wounded and the use of Palestinians as human shields, the targeting of medical workers and the causing of severe pain through the use of weapons illegally (i.e. white phosphorus).
UPDATE: Israel has submitted its replies to the UN CAT’s list of issues produced on the basis of the report Israel submitted to the Committee in December 2007. The Committee will be examining Israel’s replies, together with the alternative reports submitted by the various NGO and expert bodies in the upcoming days (i.e. 5 and 6 May, 2009).