OMCT welcomes conclusions of UN Committee against Torture on Israel

LAW, PCATI and OMCT welcome the Conclusions and Recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture and commend the Committee’s courage in defending the crucial right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee took a firm stand against attempts to erode these rights in the name of ‘the fight against terrorism’ and reiterated that ‘no exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture.’

The three organizations had jointly submitted to the Committee comprehensive reports covering many issues relevant to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories under the UN Convention against Torture, in particular, Israel’s treatment of Palestinian detainees including children, and Israel’s policies of closure, house demolitions and destruction of agricultural land.

At the Committee sessions in Geneva, Israel continued to argue that the Landau interrogation methods did not constitute torture or even cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, but were merely ‘unpleasant.’ LAW, PCATI and OMCT were extremely concerned by Israel’s misinterpretation of crucial provisions of the Convention and its complete disregard of the previous findings of the Committee, which has repeatedly stated that these methods amount to torture. On 6 September 1999, the Landau interrogation methods were outlawed by the Israeli High Court. In an attempt to legitimise the use of practices and policies which amount to torture and other ill-treatment, the Israeli delegation presented, among others, the following arguments:

  • Claims that in exceptional circumstances (‘ticking bomb cases’) it would be justified to use force to in order to extract information from suspects when the Convention against Torture clearly and specifically prohibits torture under any circumstances;

  • Claims that the Convention against Torture is inapplicable to situations of armed conflict and that only international humanitarian law applies to such situations, when Israel consistently also claims that humanitarian law does not apply to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and when the Convention against Torture specifically refers to situations of war.

  • Claims that cruel, inhuman and degrading methods, such as house demolitions and closures, are not used as collective punishment and that therefore these were acceptable under international law in general and under the Convention in particular, when such policies have clearly lead to the suffering and even death of innocent civilians.

    In view of the above, LAW, PCATI and OMCT are pleased that the Committee has firmly rejected Israel’s judicial justification of acts prohibited under the Convention, expressed concern at ‘numerous allegations of torture and other ill-treatment,’ as well as at Israel’s other policies amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment including administrative detentions, house demolitions and closure, and recommended legislative, administrative and practical changes to address these concerns.

    At the end of a week in which five Palestinian children were inadvertently killed in consequence of Israel’s policies of what it calls ‘targeted killings,’ the three organisations note with satisfaction the Committee’s expression of concern over such policies.

    While welcoming the Committee’s Conclusions and Recommendations LAW, PCATI and OMCT would nevertheless wish to underline certain issues where the Committee’s Conclusions fall short of what, the organisations believe, would have been necessary to ensure full compliance with the Convention against Torture:

  • The Committee’s reference to ‘real time judicial review of persons under detention to the Supreme Court’ as a ‘positive aspect’ is unwarranted in view of the fact that Palestinian detainees held incommunicado for days and weeks have no means of contacting the outside world, let alone the Supreme Court, to complain of torture or other ill-treatment

  • The Committee’s reference to the fact that ‘since 1994, the responsibility for investigation of complaints against the Israel Security Agency (ISA) has been transferred to the Ministry of Justice’ as a ‘positive aspect’ is unwarranted in view of the fact, admitted by the Israeli delegation, that all such complaints are referred by the Ministry of Justice to be investigated by an ‘ISA’ agent and its conclusions are based solely on that agent’s reports. Since 1994, not a single GSS agent has been criminally charged of ill-treating a detainee, which is clear evidence that a system of full impunity for ‘ISA’ agents is at work.

  • The Committee’s assertion that ‘Israeli policies of closure…may, in certain instances, amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,’ is unnecessarily circumspect, in view of the fact that not ‘certain’ but hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, including children, the sick, the wounded, the elderly and women in labour have clearly suffered under these deliberate policies, and dozens have died. For this reason LAW, PCATI and OMCT consider that the suffering caused by Israel’s policy of closure, e.g. on the sick, effectively amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

  • Similarly, the Committee’s assertion that ‘Israeli policies on house demolitions…may, in certain instances, amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ is unnecessarily circumspect, in view of the fact that many hundreds of Palestinian homes have been demolished in the last year alone, either to punish a whole neighbourhood or to punish the family of a suspected person, both in violation of international law and clearly causing suffering not to ‘certain’ but to thousands of innocent men, women and children.

    LAW, PCATI and OMCT encourage other UN treaty-bodies as well as other mechanisms to follow the steps of the Committee against Torture in condemning Israel’s policies of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and to take further steps to ensure that such policies are halted immediately.

    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: