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Al Mezan welcomes the publication of the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol in the Palestinian Official Gazette

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27 September 2023 |Reference 61/2023

Al Mezan welcomes the publication of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol in the Palestinian Official Gazette on 25 September 2023, effectively becoming part of Palestinian law. Another three amendments published in the Gazette amended the British Mandate Penal Code No. 74 of 1936 (applicable in the Gaza Strip), the Penal Code No. 16 of 1960 (applicable in the West Bank), and the 1979 Palestinian Revolutionary Penal Code to meet the standards set by the Convention Against Torture.

Through these amendments, Palestinian criminal law now incorporates the definition of torture set out in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and that of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and establishes penalties varying in amount between those for misdemeanors and felonies. This applies to any civil servant or public official who commits an act of torture, orders its commission, participates in it, or refrains from stopping it.

As foreseen in Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture, Palestinian law now stipulates that no exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification for torture whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency. The adopted amendments also provide for the courts and tribunals to make decisions on the rehabilitation of victims of torture and ill-treatment and to grant them fair compensation, not to accept extenuating reasons and excuses, not to allow sentences to lapse, and to prevent the expulsion, extradition or surrender of individuals to a foreign state if there are real or reasonable grounds to believe that they are at risk of torture.

With this step, the State of Palestine finally fulfilled the international obligations arising from its accession to the Convention Against Torture on 2 April 2014 and its Optional Protocol on 29 December 2017. Moreover, it finally ensures the implementation of the constitutional principles enshrined in the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003, particularly Article 10, which states that human rights and fundamental freedoms shall be protected and respected, and Article 13, which prohibits duress and torture.

Al Mezan calls for these provisions to be fully implemented, thereby putting an end to the practice of torture in Palestine, holding perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment accountable, and guaranteeing victims' right to justice and compensation. For that to happen, Al Mezan calls upon all Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to implement the provisions of the Convention Against Torture, its Optional Protocol, and the recently adopted amendments, and to review the draft law by decree establishing the national preventive mechanism so as to ensure its independence and consistency with the provisions of the Optional Protocol.

Lastly, we equally call for all other treaties ratified by the State of Palestine to be incorporated into and enforced through domestic law, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.