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On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Al Mezan calls for the protection of torture and ill-treatment victims in the OPT

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26 June 2023 |Reference 44/2023

On this day in 1987, the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), one of the key instruments in fighting torture, entered into force. To mark this historic date, the UN General Assembly designated June 26 of each year as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

In the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), Israel continues to employ torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment (CIDTP) against Palestinians. Israeli law justifies the use of torture techniques under the claim of ‘necessity’. The Israeli Supreme Court judgment of September 1999 (no. 5100/94) further clarified that, in certain circumstances, Israeli investigators can invoke ‘necessity’ as a justification if an indictment of torture or ill-treatment against them is brought before a court, thereby granting immunity to investigators for a prohibited act. In order words, the Israeli legal system not only gives state agents free rein to inflict forms of torture on Palestinians but also allows Israeli courts to hand down sentences based on evidence and confessions obtained from Palestinian suspects, prisoners, or detainees through torture or CIDTP. Clearly, such practices do not only violate UNCAT Article 2 but also the rights to due process and a fair trial enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Along with violations of the human rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, other Israeli practices and policies clearly amounting to a form of torture and CIDTP are those implemented against Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip in need of medical treatments not available in Gaza due to Israel’s 16-year illegal closure. All medical patients from Gaza who are referred to hospitals in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, must pass through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing upon obtaining an exit permit issued by Israeli authorities following a complex, discriminatory process that imposes unlawful preconditions on urgent and lifesaving treatment for thousands of Palestinians. In addition to long delays in the permit procedure, even when successful, Israel routinely places Palestinian patients and their companions under arbitrary arrest at the Erez crossing.

Similarly, years of systematic and unwarranted attacks and abuses—including the use of lethal and other excessive force, arbitrary arrest, confiscation, and destruction of properties—against farmers and fishers in the so-called ‘access restricted areas’ have placed these two categories among the poorest and most vulnerable in the Gaza Strip.

At the local level, the State of Palestine is still unable to extend its sovereignty over its territory due to Israel’s illegal occupation. On top of that, the Palestinian internal political division has undermined the aims of the Palestinian Basic Law and aspirations of establishing a unified Palestinian political, legal, and judicial system.

Since the State of Palestine ratified the UNCAT in April 2014, the provisions of the Convention have not been incorporated into Palestinian law, and torture remains a widespread practice in all areas under Palestinian control. The State of Palestine has also been considerably late to implement its obligation to establish a National Preventive Mechanism against Torture (NPM) since its accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in 2017. Moreover, the promulgation of the Law by Decree No. 25 of 2022 on the National Commission against Torture on 21 May 2022 was long late and did not take into consideration the proposals of the Palestinian civil society organizations, nor was it fully compliant with the OPCAT criteria.

While marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Al Mezan extends its solidarity to victims of torture across the globe. On this day, Al Mezan also deplores the incessant suffering of the Palestinian people due to Israeli practices amounting to torture and CIDTP that continue unabated, which constitute grave violations of international law and international humanitarian law. . Accordingly, Al Mezan calls on the international community to take concrete steps to put pressure on Israel so that it finally incorporates the absolute prohibition of torture into its legislation and guarantees redress for victims.

Similarly, Al Mezan calls on all competent Palestinian authorities to comprehensively review and amend all relevant laws in order to ensure their compliance with Palestine’s international obligations, notably those stemming from the UNCAT and its Optional Protocol. To this end, all legislative, judicial, and administrative measures must be taken to ensure that torture is criminalized.