UN expert: Israel’s security measures not in compliance with international law

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin

An independent United Nations expert on safeguarding human rights while fighting terrorism is to visit Israel at the invitation of its Government, possibly during the first half of next year.

“I want to thank the Government for its willingness to meet and discuss issues pertaining to my mandate,” the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, said today after meeting senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem.

“The State of Israel has legitimate national security concerns and is often confronted with violent attacks, including against civilians. Hence, I fully understand that it must be able to respond to terrorist acts. However, the Government’s response, including the enactment and implementation of legislation, and actual practices, must be in conformity with international law, in particular humanitarian and human rights law,” he added.

Mr. Scheinin, who was in Israel to attend the Minerva Biennial Conference on Human Rights where he gave the keynote address on Terrorism and Human Rights, said Israel must respect the distinction between military and civilian objectives, the principle of proportionality and the duty to prevent and minimize civilian loss of life, injury and damage to infrastructure.

In July, Mr. Scheinin noted that a newly adopted Israeli law on security offences contained some positive changes but did not appear to provide all necessary procedural safeguards for those detained. For example, individuals can be detained up to 96 hours before being brought before a judge, are not necessarily present in court when detention may be extended, and there are restrictions on access to counsel during detention.

“These aspects of the law are, in my view, incompatible with international human rights law,” he said in today’s statement. “I am mindful that States have a duty to protect their population and to take effective measures to combat terrorism. However, sustainable results can only be achieved by promoting and protecting human rights while countering terrorism. Otherwise there is no real security for the civilian population.”

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid, independent experts who report to the UN Human Rights Council.