International Women’s day

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, 8 March, OMCT would like to express its concern over the worldwide prevalence of violence against women, and in particular over the high levels of violence against Palestinian women in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Since September 2000, the beginning of the so called Al-Aqsa intifada, human rights violations have been on the increase and have recently attained unprecedented severity in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Over the past year and a half, OMCT has regularly denounced human rights violations perpetrated by both sides involved in the confrontation, in international fora, within the framework of the Barcelona Process, as well as through urgent interventions.

OMCT is concerned that the particularly serious situation of Palestinian women has not received the attention it deserves. Therefore, OMCT’s Violence Against Women Programme has regularly denounced human rights violations against Palestinian women in its urgent appeals as well as in an alternative report to the Committee against Torture in November 2001. The intersection of discrimination on the basis of gender and ethnicity renders Palestinian women especially vulnerable to violence, at the domestic level, in the community and by the State.

According to local women’s organizations, women and girls in Israel and the Occupied Territories are subjected to threats and violence which may in some cases lead to murder in order to preserve the so-called ‘family honour’. Too often, women at risk for ‘honour’ crimes have no place to go, caught between a traditional patriarchal society and the local and national authorities, which fail to offer women sufficient protection.

Serious violations of women’s economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health, have occurred as a result of the policy of closures in the Occupied Territories. Pregnant women in labour have on numerous occasions been forced to deliver their babies at checkpoints after being prevented from passing through to go to hospital. Last week, two pregnant Palestinian women were shot at roadblocks.

OMCT has issued many urgent appeals concerning female Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. Last month, OMCT received information that the conditions for women prisoners in Neve Tirtza prison (at present there are 12 women) are deteriorating. There have been reports of beatings, and other forms of ill-treatment including prolonged periods in isolation cells, use of restraints, and the spraying of tear gas into a woman’s face while her mouth and eyes were forcibly held open. OMCT fears that since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the situation of women in the Neve Tirtza female prison has seriously deteriorated.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention against Torture, all ratified by the Israel, provide protection to women against violence and other forms of discrimination. OMCT would like to recall that States have an obligation to act with due diligence in the prevention, investigation, prosecution, punishment and reparation of violence against women irrespective of whether this violence is committed by a state official or a private individual.

For further information, or for copies of reports, please contact:

Carin Benninger-Budel or Joanna Bourke-Martignoni
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Tel.: ++41 22 809 49 39
Fax: ++41 22 809 49 29

OMCT International Secretariat, PO Box 21, 8, rue du Vieux-Billard
CH-1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland, Phone: + 41 22 809 4939, Fax: + 41 22 809 4929, Email:, web: