COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE CONSIDERS REPORT OF ISRAEL

4 May 2016

The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the fifth periodic report of Israel on the measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture.  

Eviatar Manor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Israel placed great importance on the respect of human rights.  Fundamental human rights protections were afforded to every individual and Israel’s courts were both empowered and willing to intervene and impact public policy.  Israel’s ratification of seven core United Nations human rights conventions reflected its strong commitment.

Roy Schondorf, Deputy Attorney General for International Law at the Ministry of Justice of Israel, said that in 2010, the Government had established an independent public commission mandated to assess whether the existing mechanisms for investigating alleged violations of the laws of armed conflict met Israel’s obligations under international law.  Subsequent to its recommendations, a review team had been established, which had in turn prepared a report, currently being considered by the authorities.  The Israeli Evidence Ordinance invalidated any confession made by an accused person which had not been provided freely and voluntarily.  A juvenile military court had been established in 2009, and the age of majority had been raised from 16 to 18.  An information sheet, in Hebrew and Arabic, had to be provided to the parents of arrested minors at their place of residence. 

In the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts raised numerous questions on the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, especially against Palestinian minors, and wanted to hear more about conditions under which detainees were held and interrogated.  The territorial applicability of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was brought up.  Experts also wanted to know about the use of solitary confinement, the treatment of detainees or prisoners on hunger strike, and the rehabilitation of victims of torture and ill-treatment.  A series of questions was raised on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, and the conditions in Holot and Saharonim detention centres.  Other issues included punitive demolitions of Arab houses, the excessive use of military force in Israeli operations in Gaza, video recordings of interrogations, complaint mechanisms, and training of law enforcement and judicial officers.  

Mr. Manor, in concluding remarks, said that Israel remained committed to implementing the Convention and the concluding observations would be examined carefully and used to enhance Israel’s commitment to its obligations.

The delegation of Israel included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Population and Immigration Authority, the Israel Police, the Israel Defence Forces, and the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva.  

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 10 May at 3 p.m., to discuss follow-up to articles 19 and 22, and reprisals.

Report

The fifth periodic report of Israel is available here: CAT/C/ISR/5.

Presentation of the Report

EVIATAR MANOR, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stated that Israel placed great importance on the respect of human rights.  Fundamental human rights protections were afforded to every individual and Israel’s courts were both empowered and willing to intervene and impact public policy.  Israel’s Supreme Court had earned international respect and recognition for its jurisprudence, as well as for its independence in enforcing international law.  Israel’s ratification of seven core United Nations human rights conventions reflected its strong commitment.

Israel’s challenges had increased in light of a wave of Palestinian terror and violence which had swept the region since September 2015.  The culture of hate, often widely promoted in the Palestinian and Arab media, permeated into the homes of prospective terrorists.  While the Committee was certainly familiar with Israel’s position regarding the application of human rights treaties to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the delegation was ready to answer all questions, and was hoping that the discussion would be balanced and not totally focused on the situation in those two areas.  

ROY SCHONDORF, Deputy Attorney General for International Law at the Ministry of Justice of Israel, said that Israel took its obligations under the Convention very seriously.  In 2010, the Government had established an independent public commission mandate to assess whether the existing mechanisms for investigating alleged violations of the laws of armed conflict met Israel’s obligations under international law.  Subsequent to the Turkel Commission’s recommendations, a review team had been established, which had in turn prepared a report, which was currently being considered by the authorities.  A bill incorporating a number of serious international crimes into Israel’s Penal Law was being drafted.  The position of the Inspector for Complaints against Israeli Security Interrogators had become part of the Ministry of Justice, subordinate to the Director General of the Ministry.  A new fact-finding assessment mechanism in the Israel Defence Forces had been established in 2014, with the goal of collecting information with respect to exceptional incidents.  Two new Attorney General Guidelines clarified and strengthened civilian oversight of the military justice system.  

The Israeli Evidence Ordinance invalidated any confession made by an accused person which had not been provided freely and voluntarily.  The Committee’s previous recommendation on the establishment of a youth court for Palestinian minors in the West Bank had been fully implemented.  A juvenile military court had been established in 2009, and the age of majority had been raised from 16 to 18.  An information sheet, in Hebrew and Arabic, had to be provided to the parents of an arrested minor at their place of residence.  Parents could act on the minor’s behalf during the court’s proceedings.  The Israeli Government was strongly opposed to the so-called “price tag” acts and was committed to using all means at its disposal to combat them.  In 2013, a nationalistic motivated crimes unit had been established; it currently had 60 police officers in the West Bank.  Punishments could be doubled if the offence had been committed with racist intent.  Any association of persons using the name “price tag” or any similar derivative was deemed illegal.  

In the case of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who had been kidnapped and murdered, three Israelis, two of whom were minors, had been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment and 21 years of imprisonment, while one sentence was still pending.  For the murder of three members of the Dawabshe family in the village of Duma, a thorough investigation had been conducted and the filing of the indictments was approved by the Attorney General.  The Government was also making a genuine effort to involve civil society in the process of writing its periodic reports to human rights treaty bodies.  An innovative project aimed at enhancing the cooperation between the authorities, scholars and civil society was currently underway.  Israel had spared no effort to cooperate with the Committee and implement many of the Committee’s previous concluding observations. 

Questions by Experts

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Country Co-Rapporteur for Israel, noted that the crime of torture was not per se an offence in the Penal Law of Israel.  Israel was strongly recommended to introduce to its laws the crime of torture, as defined in the Convention.  Had Israel changed its position regarding the territorial applicability of the Convention?  

The use of restraint in custody
 during interrogation should only be done with a valid grave security reason and should otherwise be considered ill-treatment.  Was it necessary? The delegation was also asked to comment on the use of techniques by the Israel Security Agency interrogators, including immobilization in stress positions and sleep deprivation.  Was sexual violence used against prisoners considered a form of torture? 

Did the State party consider it legitimate during interrogation to use threats related to family members?  More information was needed on the guidelines given to interrogators.

A question was also asked on the videotaping of interrogations and exceptions to that rule.  How did the State safeguard against abuses in interrogations? Could the video tapes be used as evidence in court? 

The Expert asked about the definition of a security offence and what determined whether an offence was prosecuted according to civil or military law.  What was the number of persons apprehended pursuant to the military legislation and the amount of time spent between apprehension and appearance before a judge?  Information was also sought on the basic safeguards applied under military law.  What was the maximum time that a person could be held without being brought before a judge or allowed access to his lawyer? 

Mr. Modvig asked about the provision of medical services to victims of violence and torture.  Why did medical reports go to the police and not an independent investigation body?  There was information that medical doctors failed to report injuries indicating abuse.  What were the procedures and the timeline forinforming the family of an arrested person?

The delegation was asked to provide information on the increase in the number of persons subjected toadministrative detention based on secret information that was not provided to detainees and their lawyers.  How about minors in administrative detention?  How many persons had been detained under theUnlawful Combatants Law since October 2014?  The law should be repealed and administrative detention abolished.  Definitions of “act of terrorism” and “terrorist organization” were requested.

The Expert wanted to receive more information about the use of solitary confinement.  Had steps been taken to restrict the use of “separation”, which the Committee considered as very similar to solitary confinement?  It was concerning that Israel did not keep a record of its use of solitary confinement.  

Did Israel engage in forced feeding of prisoners on hunger striker and, if so, which guidelines were applied in that regard?   Were those doctors independent or employed by detention authorities?  Information was also sought on suicides and suicide attempts in isolation.

Out of 45,000 undocumented migrants currently residing in Israel, how many had applied for asylum and which proportion had received asylum?  The Expert wanted to receive an update on the status of the Holot detention facility.  When returning migrants to Egypt, how was the principle of non-refoulement ensured?  Were there any safeguards in place when returning persons to third countries or countries of origin? Statistics were asked for on the number of accepted asylum applications.  The identification of victims of torture was important to ensure that the non-refoulement principle was not violated.  What assistance and care were offered to such victims?  More information was asked on the Sharonim detention centre.   

How about the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which the United Nations Secretary-General had described as collective punishment?  Were there plans to lift the blockade?

SAPANA PRADHAN-MALLA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Israel, raised the issue of training and inquired whether medical personnel, forensic experts and public prosecutors were included.  Were training sessions regularly conducted and had there been any evaluation of their effectiveness? 

The delegation was asked to provide information on the implementation of the Istanbul Protocol

The Expert asked about the problem of trafficking in human beings, noting that very few cases had gone for investigation.  The State party had invested significant resources in combatting violence against women, but he wanted to know about interim protection measures and access to justice mechanisms, especially for the migrant population.  Were there any plans in place to increase shelter facilities?  How about assistance provided to women in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?

Palestinian minors
 reportedly continued to be detained and interrogated in the absence of family members and lawyers, said the Expert.  Blindfolding and chaining them to beds were also reported.  Who monitored those detention centres, she asked.  

Conditions in detention facilities
 were also brought up.  There were reports of sexual harassment of women prisoners.  Could the number of prisoners, desegregated by gender and ethnicity, be provided?  Did the size of facilities meet the provisions of the Istanbul Protocol?  

Ms. Pradhan-Malla noted that there might be lack of accountability for the excessive use of force, which might lead to impunity.  Torture and ill-treatment were reportedly most often perpetrated during the arrest, transport to the place of detention and interrogation.  How many complaints of torture and ill-treatment had been received during the reporting period and how many of them had been investigated?

More details were asked on the use of force during the military operations in Gaza in 2012 and 2014.  Was there any possibility for the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories to present claims for damage for the losses they incurred? 

The Expert regretted the lack of rehabilitation programmes for asylum seekers, who also did not have access to health care, except for emergency care.  They were not provided with work permits and there was no other support system in place either.  

The Expert asked for an update regarding the measures taken so that statements received under torturewere not used in court. 

Did the delegation believe that demolitions of houses of those who carried out attacks against Israelis would diminish violence?  Family members and neighbours were also affected by such actions.  Was any compensation provided to those families whose houses were demolished?

Which measures had the State party taken to address settler violence?  

Another Expert noted that the state of emergency had been in place since 1948.  Israel’s policies, nonetheless, had to be in line with its international obligations.  The dogma of “defence necessity” provided for the possibility of torture, the Expert observed.  According to the Convention, exceptional circumstances could not be invoked as a justification of torture.  In 1999, the Supreme Court had prohibited the use of torture, but the State party had a discretionary power in that regard, if there was an imminent threat. 

Some sources reported that detainees’ rights were not fully respected.  What was the status of the reform of the relevant legislation at the moment?  Fighting terrorism seemed to be used as an excuse for not investigating offences.  How many investigations had been conducted?  

A question was also asked about defenders of human rights and non-governmental organizations.  Did the civil sector have access to places of detention?  Criticism had also been heard regarding freedom of expression, particularly with regard to the organization Breaking the Silence

The issue of the territorial application of the Convention was brought up by an Expert, who said it was extremely limited.  That allowed the authorities to engage in activities prohibited by the Convention, which included forcible transfers of the population.  The concept of jurisdiction did not depend on the unilaterally understood definitions, but on international law.  Why, and on what basis, was the holistic application of the Convention denied across the entire territory?  Israel believed that the two legal regimes were completely distinct.  

Another Expert noted the colonial-style occupation which was recognized as such by international law.  The State party regrettably did not cooperate very well with Special Procedures and investigative mechanisms set up by the Human Rights Council. 

He emphasized that punitive demolitions were in contradiction with international law. 

The Committee believed that the State party had to explicitly criminalize torture.  Forced feeding in detention centres also amounted to torture, the Expert said.  

What measures did the State party plan to take to stop the systematic discrimination and mistreatment of young Palestinians?  The most effective measure to resolve the situation was to provide the Palestinians with the right to self-determination, the denial of which was a human rights violation.  The Expert asked to which degree Arab Israelis were present in State institutions, and in particular the police force. 

Ratification of the Optional Protocol
 by Israel was raised by two Experts.  Had there been a change in the State party’s position not to do so?  

Police could be temporarily exempted from audio and video recordings of investigations, another Expert noted.  What had happened in July 2015, when the exemption had been meant to expire?  What were the real issues at stake to preventing audio and video recordings and keeping of such files? 

A question was asked about asylum seekers being prevented from accessing health care and accepting paid work.  Several detention centres for undocumented migrants were reported to have reached full capacity.  Was it true that migrants could be kept in those centres for up to 12 months?

Did every detainee have access to the complaints mechanism, asked the Expert?  Who conducted investigations in such cases – was it prison and police officers who investigated complaints against their peers? 

An Expert brought up the issue of training for the police and Israel Defence Forces.  To what extent was such training compulsory?  Was the assistance of the United Nations envisioned for some of that training?

For the past half century, Israel had been operating two separate legal systems in the Occupied Territories, making distinction between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.  Numerous Palestinian children were held in Israeli custody every month.  More detailed information was requested on the legal grounds for having the two different regimes for Israelis and Palestinians.

How was it possible that the Supreme Court was the court of first instance?  Did that not overburden the system?  More details were asked in that regard.

The Expert wanted to hear more details about the three Israelis arrested for the murder of the Palestinian teenager.  What was the current status of the investigation into their alleged abuse in detention?    

The delegation was asked about the number of those arrested for “price tag” activities.

How many African and other migrants were held in Holot and Saharonim detention centres?  Who was in charge of monitoring those facilities, and had anyone been held responsible for failing to uphold certain standards? 

More information was sought on the status of the investigations into Israel Defence Forces’ use of force in the Gaza operations in 2014.  What steps were being taken to strengthen the independence of investigators looking into the behaviour of the Israeli Defence Forces?

A question was also asked on shelters for the victims of domestic violence.

Another Expert asked about the inappropriate treatment by Israel of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories Richard Falk.

A large number of people had been killed by the police in extrajudicial killings, with some police officers saying that the force had been used in self-defence.  How about the release of the bodies of 12 Palestinians still kept in Israeli morgues?

The Expert also wanted to know about the military or legal rationale of keeping Palestinian minors in detention.  There was a discrepancy between them and Israeli minors, for whom the age of legal responsibility stood at 18.  

An Expert asked about the causes of hunger strikes in Israeli prisons and wondered whether measures other than forced feeding had been considered. 

A question was asked about steps taken by the State party to combat impunity.

The issue of cell space per prisoner was brought up and the delegation’s comment was requested.  

The Committee also wanted to know about the application of the rule of redress and how many cases of rehabilitation and reparation had actually been granted by the Israeli authorities.

Did Israel support or was planning to support the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture

The delegation was asked to provide information on the number of prisoners in Israeli prisons, including Palestinians and Palestinian minors.         

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said the actions of the Government in all places that Israel controlled as a governmental authority were consistent with the provisions of the Convention.  The delegation would respond to all questions posed by the Committee, regardless of any issue relating to the applicability of the Convention.

Regarding the legal regimes in Israel and the West Bank, it was explained that the former was governed by the law enacted by the Knesset.  In the West Bank, the military court system in place was fully consistent with the requirements of international law. 

Just the previous day, a court had sentenced one of the three murderers of Muhammed Abu Khdeir to life imprisonment and an additional 20 years to be served concurrently. 

The Inspector for Complaints against the Israel Security Agency Interrogators was conducting fruitful dialogues with the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations.  Testimonies from those complainants who were detained in the Israeli prison system were generally taken within the facilities.  Interrogators were not allowed to use threats against family members as a method of interrogation.   Interrogators were subject to both internal and external supervision and review, including by the High Court of Justice.  

Even in extenuating circumstances, the interrogator was not authorized by law to use exceptional measures.  A criminal investigation could be launched upon a reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed, based on the existing evidence that had been gathered.  So far, such complaints had not amounted to prosecutions as there had been no evidentiary infrastructure to justify it.   The Office of the Inspector would be additionally strengthened by the end of 2016, which should decrease the backlog of cases.  For the first time, representatives of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel had been allowed to be present in a meeting between the Inspector and a complainant.  

On the issue of hunger strikes, a delegate said that there were concerns that a hunger strike or the damage it might impose on one’s life could lead to an escalation in the already delicate security situation.  The amendment to the Prisons Ordinance Law, approved in 2015, had not yet been utilized, although several long and life threatening hunger strikes had taken place.  If there was a written opinion of a physician that there was a substantial risk for the life of a prisoner, and with the approval of the Attorney General, an appeal could be made to the President of the District Court so that medical treatment could be provided to the prisoner.  The Court had to consider the opinion of the relevant Ethics Committee and hear the prisoner or his representative.  

Regarding recording of interrogations, it was explained that there was a temporary provision that recording was not applied in investigations related to security offences.  The list of security offences was available in the penal law.  The petition against the temporary provision was still pending.  The recommendation was being considered to have cameras in all Israel Security Agency Interrogators’ rooms, which would be broadcast to a control room, regularly and in real time. 

In 2015, the arraignment of three persons had been postponed for no longer than 48 hours and none had been postponed furthermore.  In several cases, the delegation said that lawyers had been actively engaged in terrorist activity by using their accessibility to prison facilities.  There was currently no final definition of the term “terrorist organization”.

The delegation emphasized that no discrimination of children on any ground by the authorities was allowed in Israel.   Twenty-two new police stations would be built in Arab towns, and many new police officers, mostly Arabs, were about to join the police forces.  The Israeli police included 13 per cent of Arab officers, which would soon increase.  The Unit for Nationalistically Motivated Crimes had been established in 2013, to address nationalistic crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank.   So far, 410 investigations had been opened, leading to 135 indictments. 

All kinds of complaints against wardens were investigated.  Prisoners could complain through various channels.  Seventy-two cases had been handled in 2015, 15 of which had been recommended for indictment.  

In 2014 and 2015 each, 11 women had been murdered by their spouses; compared to previous years, the numbers were decreasing.  The police were carrying out significant efforts to specialize investigators in that regard.   Prevention officers were available in various districts of Israel.  There were also several child protection centres in place.

Regarding access to medical care, a delegate stressed that physicians working in prison facilities performed their duties as required by the Israeli law and by the universal rules of medical ethics.  Prisoners might be examined by private physicians at their own expense.  Efforts had been made to better accommodate the needs of female prisoners, and pregnant women prisoners were granted special treatment and delivered in civilian hospitals.  There was an effort to keep a strict distinction and separation between minors and adult prisoners.  

Solitary confinement
 was one of the available punitive measures, used for short and limited periods of time, with a maximum of 14 days only.  During such confinement, prisoners maintained regular contact with officials in the ward.  Separation, on the other hand, was not a punitive measure but rather a preventive procedure.  The conditions provided in separation were similar to the conditions provided to all other prisoners.  As of today, one per cent of all prisoners – 17,392 – were kept in separation.  There were currently 587 minors in prisons, 218 of whom were Palestinian residents, of whom 207 were security prisoners.  Prison staff members were authorized to conduct different kinds of searches on all prisoners, including visual examination of the naked body.  In 2014, there had been 10 cases of prisoner suicide, and in 2015 three such cases.

The High Court, composed of 15 judges, heard approximately 1,500 petitions in the first instance, per year.  The Court played a pivotal role in protecting human rights for which it was widely recognized.   The Government accepted that the bodies of terrorists should be returned to their families, but sometimes that could be delayed due to security concerns.             

On the issue of house demolitions, the delegation explained that they had the purpose of deterrence of future perpetrators, the efficiency of which had been proven.  Between 2005 and 2014, no such demolitions had taken place, save for two exceptions.  Now, deterrence served as an important and essential tool in preventing terrorist attacks.  In a number of cases, the High Court had quashed or adjusted demolition orders. 

In 2010, the Knesset had approved an amendment allowing that persons who entered Israel illegally could be detained for up to one year.   In 2014, a new amendment had entered into force, providing that such persons could be detained for up to three months; such persons could spend up to 12 months at the Holotfacility.  The Saharonim facility provided social, educational and medical services; there were currently 400 detainees there, who could be visited by the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations. 

The principle of non-refoulement had been enshrined in Israeli case law since 1995.  Deportation orders should not be carried out unless authorized by senior officials.  Israel had safe country arrangements, approved by the Attorney General; the life and freedom of individuals should not be at risk in those countries.  Eritreans and Sudanese were given an option of being relocated to a safe third country.  There were no known cases of violations of the principle of non-refoulement.  Israel did not deport them to their countries of origin, but they were issued permits which de facto allowed them to be employed. 

The military court system in the West Bank heard both ordinary criminal cases and cases involving security officials.  The system was a separate unit within the Israel Defence Forces.  The right to due process in the military court system was strictly upheld.  Defendants, for example, had the right to an attorney of their choice and proceedings were translated into Arabic.  Hearings were public.  Israeli citizens who committed offences in the West Bank were generally tried in accordance with the Israeli criminal law.  The detention period before seeing a judge was maximum 48 hours for ordinary crimes and 96 hours for security offences.   

Several cases of mistreatment of detainees had been investigated and had led to significant jail time for convicted soldiers.  The Military Police operated a command and control centre to provide information to families as to the whereabouts of persons arrested. 

Administrative detention
, used as a preventive measure, was not employed when a security risk could be addressed by other legal alternatives, especially criminal prosecution.  Eighty-eight per cent of administrative detainees were held for a period of less than one year; only 12 minors were currently held in administrative detention, some of them were detained based on credible information indicating their intention to execute terrorist acts.

Israel no longer exercised control and had no governmental or actual authority over the Gaza Strip, which was currently under the control of Hamas.  Some 800 truckloads were allowed to enter Gaza every day.  No humanitarian aid was prevented from entering Gaza.  The Israeli Government’s report on the 2014 Gaza conflict showed that the Israeli Defence Forces had explicitly ordered the targeting of lawful military objectives only.  Twenty-five criminal investigations had been ordered to be launched regarding alleged misconduct by the Israeli Defence Forces. 

Responding to the questions on training, the delegation that the Police Education and Information Division and the School of Military Law ran various educational programmes and training sessions for their respective target groups.  Prison officers and wardens underwent regular training, which included topics such as the prevention of the use of force and the rights and liberties of prisoners.  Immigration personnel were trained on issues related to refugees and asylum seekers.  

The Israeli legal system allowed Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to submit civil suits to courts in Israel; there were currently 196 Palestinian plaintiffs.    

The delegation informed that there had been a significant decrease in the number of cases of trafficking in persons for the purpose of prostitution.  More than 50 training sessions for public officials took place every year.   Every trafficking victim received a rehabilitation year in designated shelters.  In Israel, the activities of prostitutes were not criminalized, as they were viewed as victims.  

Since September 2015, Israel had been facing a wave of terrorist attacks on a daily basis; 27 per cent of the assailants were Palestinian youth under the age of 18.  There were a number of cases of gruesome murders committed by minors, who were inspired by hateful incitement in the Palestinian media and social networks.   The security forces faced complex situations trying to thwart minor attackers while trying not to harm them. 

The severity of crimes committed by Palestinian minors created special challenges for the judicial system.  Minors needed to be indicted separately from adults and had to be held separately from adults.  

It was difficult to provide information on the exact future definition of the crime of torture, as the bill was being currently drafted. 

Follow-up Questions

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Israel, wanted to know about the number of complaints filed with the Inspector for Complaints.  He also asked about the use of restraint during interrogations.  Which methods of interrogation were considered torture and banned by the authorities? Persons on hunger strike, while they enjoyed their full wits, should not be force fed, stressed the Expert. Video tapes of interrogations should be allowed to be used as evidence in courts.   

Could the delegation provide information on the number of minors in solitary confinement?  

A question was asked whether body cavity searches could be conducted without consent. 

The Expert stressed the importance of identifying victims of torture among asylum seekers.   With so few asylum applications accepted, there was a concern if victims were truly identified or if they were subject to refoulement.  

SAPANA PRADHAN-MALLA, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Israel, asked whether the right of families to take bodies of their killed members for final rites was considered a terrorist threat, and why so.  That was the right under humanitarian law.

How was it decided that a person was a potential terrorist and a decision made on his house demolition

Concern was raised over solitary confinement of Palestinian minors.  Could their cases be transferred to juvenile courts?  

Another Expert raised the issue of jurisdiction and the applicability of the Convention and believed that the State could not make an independent judgment regarding the applicability.  The principle of international legality ought to be given priority.   How could the State party justify rejecting the opinion of the International Court of Justice?  

A question was asked on the exact time frame within which persons needed to be informed of the reason for their arrest.  

Was there an evolution on the position of Israel regarding accepting individual communications under Article 22 and withdrawing reservations under Article 21?

An Expert expressed concern over exceptional measures which seemed to legitimize torture under certain circumstances.  There could be no exception to applying torture.   

Doctors checking up on detainees
 reported to the Ministry of the Interior, while it was recommended that they reported to the Ministry of Health.

The Expert said that he was shocked by the fact that punitive demolitions were justified by their effectiveness.   That was a form of torture, he said. 

Eritrea
 could not be considered safe, stressed the Expert and asked for further clarification regarding non-refoulement to that country.

A question on the deceased individuals that the State party did not want to return to their families was raised by another Expert.  Every religion asked for respectful burials.  

Israel was an Occupying Power in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the situation which was covered by a number of international instruments.  Palestinians were people who were under occupation, she stressed.              

The delegation was asked to clarify the room space per person in migrant detention centres.  Were there any rehabilitation programmes for migrants who had been torture victims?  A question was also asked on the exact number of prisoners in Israeli jails

If a person was under UNRWA protection, could they also seek protection in Israel, particularly from amongst the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community?  

Replies by the Delegation
 

Israel was not returning Eritreans and Sudanese nationals to their countries.  Instead, they were all given temporary protection; if someone’s asylum was accepted, his status would be upgraded.  Some Eritreans did consciously choose to return home.  There was non-refoulement of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons either.  Same-sex relationships were not illegal in the Palestinian territories.   

The exact space allocated to Holot residents was 4.5 square meters per person. 

It was clarified that the notification given to the family of an arrested person should be done as soon as possible, while the arrested person ought to be informed immediately. 

There was no protocol in place for body cavity search.  

The higher number of prisoners quoted by an Expert probably included prisoners serving community service sentences or those under house arrest.

The Government conducted periodic reviews regarding the Optional Protocol; for the time being it was not considering ratifying it as there would not be much added value.  Israel’s legal system provided enough opportunities for redress to individuals and groups.

Regarding the legal regimes, the delegation said that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had never been annexed, but Israel was running the former in line with international law. The Israeli law thus did not apply in the West Bank.  Israel believed that it applied the provisions of the Convention in the Occupied Territories regardless of the form.  All minors tried in the West Bank were tried in the juvenile court, said the delegation.

The increase in the number of prisoners in administrative detention was in direct correlation with the current situation with the high level of terrorist attacks.

It was explained that there were mechanisms in place to provide support to refugees and asylum seekers who had been victims of torture.

Regarding the return of bodies, the current policy of Israel was to return them subject to arrangements being made for safe funeral proceedings.  At times, funerals had turned into violent situations, constituting a risk to additional people.

Concluding Remarks
    

EVIATAR MANOR, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that today and the following day Israel was marking Holocaust Memorial Day, the day on which it was reminded of the cruelty human beings could display towards each other.  Israel remained committed to implementing the Convention and wished to reassure all present that the concluding observations would be examined carefully and used to enhance Israel’s commitment to its obligations. 

For use of the information media; not an official record

CAT16/009E