COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE PROVIDES CONCLUSIONS AND

RECOMMENDATIONS ON REPORTS OF ZAMBIA AND ISRAEL

Calls for Zambia to Combat Impunity for Ill-Treatment; Recommends that Israel

Make Further Efforts to End Abuses by Law-Enforcement Officials

The Committee against Torture issued conclusions and recommendations this morning on reports of Zambia and Israel, calling, among other things, for Zambia to undertake legal and other measures to address impunity for acts of maltreatment, and for Israel to take steps to prevent abuses by law-enforcement personnel and to institute effective complaint and investigative mechanisms.

On the situation in Zambia, the Committee also recommended that the Government adopt a crime and definition of torture in keeping with article 1 of the Convention and provide for appropriate penalties; that it undertake measures to ensure systematic review of interrogation methods; that it strengthen training on the prohibition of torture for law-enforcement personnel; and that it establish programmes to prevent and combat violence against women, including domestic violence.

It cited among positive developments in the country the Government's recent legal prohibition of corporal punishment, and its creation of a Human Rights Commission.

On the situation in Israel, the Committee called for review of the practice of administrative detention in the occupied territories to ensure its conformity with article 16 of the Convention; for review laws and policies to ensure that all detainees, without exception, were brought promptly before a judge and were ensured prompt access to lawyers; for an end to policies of closure and house demolition where they offended article 16 of the Convention; and for removal from domestic law of a provision that necessity could be used as a possible justification for torture.

The panel of 10 independent Experts termed as positive a 1999 Supreme Court judgement holding that the use of certain interrogation methods by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) involving the use of 'moderate physical pressure' was illegal; and a 2000 Supreme Court decision that led to the release of many Lebanese detainees on the grounds that they did not constitute a threat to national security.

Zambia presented its initial report to the Committee on 19 November, and it was further discussed on 20 November. Israel introduced its third periodic report on 20 November, and the Committee continued its review of the document on 21 November.

The two countries, as among the 126 States parties to the Convention against Torture, are required to present periodic summations to the Committee of national efforts to put the Convention's provisions into effect. Government delegations generally appear before the Committee during the consideration of such reports to answer questions and provide additional information.

This morning's meeting was the last of the Committee's two-week autumn session.

Conclusions and recommendations on initial report of Zambia

Among positive developments in Zambia, the Committee cited the country's withdrawal of its reservation under article 20 of the Convention; the enactment of the Zambia Police (Amendment) Act which provided measures to protect and monitor persons in police custody; legal prohibition of corporal punishment; and creation of a Human Rights Commission.

The Committee noted that there were factors impeding application of the Convention, including the difficulties experienced by Zambia in transition towards a democratic system of government and the significant financial and technical constraints facing the country.

Concern was cited, among other things, over continued allegations of widespread use of torture and apparent impunity for its perpetrators; delays in investigating allegations and in bringing suspects to trial; and violence against women in society, which was illustrated by reported incidents of violence in prisons and domestic violence.

Among the Committee's recommendations were that Zambia incorporate the Convention into its legal system; that it adopt a definition of torture in keeping with article 1 of the Convention and provide for appropriate penalties; that it undertake legal and other measures to address impunity; that it undertake measures to ensure systematic review of interrogation rules, instructions, and methods; that it strengthen training on the prohibition of torture for law-enforcement personnel; that it establish programmes to prevent and combat violence against women, including domestic violence; and that it enhance efforts to reduce overcrowding and improve conditions in prisons and detention facilities.

Conclusions and recommendations on third periodic report of Israel

The Committee termed among positive developments in Israel a 1999 Supreme Court judgement holding that the use of certain interrogation methods by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) involving the use of 'moderate physical pressure' was illegal; a 2000 Supreme Court decision that led to the release of many Lebanese detainees on the grounds that they did not constitute a threat to national security; provision of real time judicial review of persons under detention to the Supreme Court; and creation of a judicial commission of inquiry into the October 2000 events, which had resulted in 14 deaths.

The Committee acknowledged that a factor impeding application of the Convention in Israel was the difficult situation of unrest faced by Israel, particularly in the occupied territories, and said it understood Israel's security concerns, but reiterated that no exceptional circumstances could be invoked as justification for torture.

Concern was expressed, among other things, that the 1999 Supreme Court decision did not contain a definite prohibition of torture and that its allowance of sleep deprivation merely incidental to interrogation would make it impossible to distinguish in practice between incidental and deliberate sleep deprivation; that there were continuing allegations of use of interrogation methods by the Israel Security Agency against Palestinian detainees that were prohibited by the 1999 Supreme Court ruling; that there were allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian minors, and that there was a difference in the definition of a child in Israel (under 18 years) and in the occupied territories (under 16); that there was continued use of incommunicado detention, even of children; that there had been very few prosecutions undertaken against alleged perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment; and that there were reported instances of 'extra-judicial killings'.

The Committee recommended, among other things, that the provisions of the Convention be incorporated into the domestic law of Israel, in particular a crime of torture as defined in the Convention; that the practice of administrative detention in the occupied territories be reviewed to ensure its conformity with article 16 of the Convention; and that Israel review laws and policies to ensure that all detainees, without exception, were brought promptly before a judge and were ensured prompt access to lawyers.

The Committee also recommended — in view of numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment by law-enforcement personnel — that the Government take all necessary steps to prevent such abuses and to institute effective complaint and investigative mechanisms; that Israel desist from policies of closure and house demolition where they offended article 16 of the Convention; that it intensify human rights education and training for the Israel Security Agency, the Israel Defence Forces, the police, and doctors; that it remove from domestic law the provision that necessity could be used as a possible justification for torture; that it take legislative measures to ensure that not only a confession extorted by torture but any evidence derived from such a confession would not be admissible in court; and that Israel consider withdrawing its reservation to article 20 of the Convention and declare in favour of articles 21 and 22, allowing individual complaints to be sent to the Committee.

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Document symbol: CAT/01/38
Document Type: Press Release
Document Sources: Committee against Torture
Subject: Human rights and international humanitarian law
Publication Date: 23/11/2001