COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 339th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Monday, 18 May 1998, at 3 p.m.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONVENTION (continued)
Second periodic report of Israel (continued)
This record is subject to correction.
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONVENTION (agenda item 7) (continued)
Second periodic report of Israel (continued) (CAT/C/33/Add.3)
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee
1. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr. Lamdan, Mr. Shaffer and Mr. Galilee (Israel) resumed their places at the Committee table.
2. The CHAIRMAN, speaking in his capacity as Country Rapporteur, read out the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee concerning the second periodic report of Israel:
"1. The Committee considered the second periodic report of Israel (CAT/C/33/Add.3) at its 336th and 337th meetings, held on 14 and 18 May 1998 (CAT/C/SR.336 and 337) and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations:
2. Israel signed the Convention on 22 October 1986 and deposited its ratification on 3 October 1991. The Convention entered into force in Israel on 2 November 1991. Upon ratification Israel made a reservation in respect of articles 20 and 30. Israel has not declared in favour of articles 21 and 22. This second periodic report was due on 1 November 1996 and was received on 6 March 1998.
3. Israel had presented a special report (CAT/C/33/Add.2/Rev.1) at the Committee's request, and the Committee's conclusions and recommendations included the recommendation that the second periodic report of Israel be presented for consideration at the November session, 1997, of the Committee against Torture. The second periodic report was prepared in accordance with the general guidelines concerning the form and contents of such reports.
B. Positive aspects
4. Israel has embarked upon a number of reforms such as the creation of the Office of Public Defence, the creation of the Kremnitzer Committee to recommend oversight of police violence, amendments to the Criminal Code, ministerial review of several security service interrogation practices and the creation of the Goldberg Committee relating to the rules of evidence.
5. The genuine dialogue that engaged the Committee against Torture and the Israel delegation.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the provisions of the Convention
6. Israel points to the state of insecurity with which it copes, but the Committee notes that pursuant to article 2 (2) this cannot justify torture.
D. Subjects of concern
7. The continued use of the "Landau rules" of interrogation permitting physical pressure by the General Security Services, based as they are upon domestic judicial adoption of the justification of necessity, a justification which is contrary to article 2 (2) of the Convention.
8. Resort to administrative detention in the Occupied Territories for inordinately lengthy periods and for reasons that do not bear on the risk posed by releasing some detainees.
9. Since military law and laws going back to the mandate pertain in the Occupied Territories, the liberalizing effect of the reforms referred to in paragraph 3 above will not apply there.
10. Israel's apparent failure to implement any of the recommendations of this Committee that were expressed with regard to both the initial and the special report (see documents A/49/44, paras. 159-171 and A/52/44, paras. 253-260).
E. Conclusions and recommendations
11. Israel expressed concern that this Committee had not set out its reasoning for its conclusions and recommendations on Israel's special report in extenso. Of course, the dialogue between a State and the Committee forms part of the context within which the Committee's conclusions and recommendations are made. However, in order to ensure that there is no room for doubt, the following reasons are the basis of the Committee's finding that its conclusions and recommendations (see document A/52/44, paras. 260 (a)-(d)) on the Israel special report should continue to form part of its conclusions and recommendations on this report:
(a) Since the State party admits that it applies force or "physical pressure" to those in the custody of its officials it bears the burden of persuading the Committee that such force or pressure offends neither articles 1 or 2 nor article 16 of the Convention.
(b) Since the State party admits to hooding, shackling in painful positions, sleep-deprivation and shaking detainees (through its delegates and courts, and supported by the finding of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture: E/CN.4/1998/38, at para. 121) the bare assertion that it is "not severe" is not in and of itself sufficient to satisfy the State's burden and justify such conduct. This is particularly so when reliable evidence from detainees and independent medical evidence made available to Israel reinforce the contrary conclusion.
(c) Given that Israel itself asserts that each case must be dealt with on its own "merits" but that, for matters of security, material particulars of the interrogation cannot be revealed to the Committee, it follows that the conclusions of breach of articles 1, 2 and 16 must remain.
12. Accordingly, the Committee reaffirms its conclusions and recommendations on Israel's initial and special reports:
(a) Interrogations applying the methods referred to above are in conflict with articles 1, 2 and 16 of the Convention and should cease immediately;
(b) The provisions of the Convention should be incorporated by legislation into Israeli law, particularly the definition of torture contained in article 1 of the Convention;
(c) Israel should consider withdrawing its reservations to article 20 and declaring in favour of articles 21 and 22;
(d) Interrogation procedures pursuant to the "Landau rules" should in any event be published in full.
13. The practice of administrative detention in the Occupied Territories should be reviewed in order to ensure its conformity with article 16.
14. The Committee would be remiss if it did not acknowledge that the Israeli delegation initiated upon this occasion a genuine dialogue that revealed Israel's unhappiness with the present situation (without acknowledging any breach of the Convention) and its desire to cooperate with the Committee. The Committee, in its turn, respects Israel's right to present its position, even if the Committee disagrees with its reasons and conclusions, and expresses the genuine desire to continue the dialogue and to resolve the differences between Israel and itself."
3. Mr. LAMDAM (Israel) expressed surprise and deep disappointment regarding the conclusions, which appeared at first sight to be a reiteration of the substance of the previous year's conclusions with a certain modulation of tone and some recognition of Israel's dilemmas.
4. During its oral presentation, the delegation had cooperated extensively with the Committee, responding to all questions asked and offering wide-ranging information to the effect that Israeli law totally prohibited the use of torture and that the High Court of Israel ensured that interrogation procedures and all treatment of detainees remained within permitted guidelines, in conformity with the law. Israel had hoped that the Committee would utilize the opportunity of the review process to enter into a substantive dialogue, rather than to make arbitrary determinations, without regard to the authoritative testimony submitted to it.
5. He welcomed the Chairman's effort to focus on the material concerns of the Committee and to avoid politicization.
6. He wished, however, to take the opportunity to draw attention to the very fundamental difference in interpretation of the intent of article 1 and article 16 of the Convention. Israel believed that its judicial system, which prohibited outright the use of torture, was in conformity with the Convention; many questioned why Israel should continue to submit to the review process, almost like a sacrificial lamb going to the altar, while the difference of legal interpretation remained unresolved.
7. It appeared that Israel was being held to a higher standard than many other countries, possibly because its judicial system was more open than most and that, somewhat exceptionally, detainees could appeal to the High Court while their interrogations were in progress. The members of the Committee were invited to consider whether the transparency of the Israeli system and the openness with which it related to the Committee had not prompted a double standard.
8. It was simply not serious for the Committee to submit some 70 questions in the morning and expect, by the afternoon, to receive considered and in-depth replies which were supposed to serve inter alia as the basis for the Committee's conclusions. Moreover, it might reasonably be concluded that many of the questions were being asked for the sake of asking, and perhaps also for the gallery.
9. Finally, he wondered whether it was appropriate that the role of rapporteur should be taken by a member of the Committee who had already decided, when Israel appeared before the Committee the previous year, that Israel used methods amounting to torture in interrogating suspected terrorists. The implied comparison, made by the same rapporteur and another member of the Committee, with the experience of the Jewish people during the Holocaust was deeply offensive, unmerited and unacceptable.
10. The CHAIRMAN thanked the Israeli delegation for the spirit of cooperation they had displayed; they had set the stage for a new spirit of dialogue.
11. The delegation of Israel withdrew.
The meeting was suspended at 3.20 p.m. and resumed at 3.40 p.m.