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UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR WELCOMES ISRAEL’S POSITIVE RESPONSE TO VISIT REQUEST

7 December 2006


The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, issued the following statement today from Jerusalem:

“I welcome the Israeli Government’s positive response to my request to conduct a country visit to Israel. This was indicated to me during my meeting today with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I want to thank the Government for its willingness to meet and discuss issues pertaining to my mandate. It is my hope to visit Israel in the first half of 2007.

“The State of Israel has legitimate national security concerns and is often confronted with violent attacks, including against civilians. Hence, I fully understand that it must be able to respond to terrorist acts. However, the Government’s response, including the enactment and implementation of legislation, and actual practices, must be in conformity with international law, in particular humanitarian and human rights law. If Israel resorts to the use of force, it must respect the distinction between military and civilian objectives, the principle of proportionality and the duty to prevent and minimize civilian loss of life, injury and damage to infrastructure.

“On 29 September 2006 the Special Rapporteur formally requested a visit to Israel to examine in situ questions relating to the mandate, and to formulate pertinent conclusions and recommendations with the objective of helping to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the fight against terrorism.

“The Special Rapporteur seeks to examine the impact of counter-terrorism operations on civil and political rights, such as right to life, liberty and security of the person, the prohibition against torture and other inhuman treatment, and the freedom of movement (Articles 6, 7, 9 and 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)). Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur is concerned about counter-terrorism measures that negatively impact on other rights, such as the right to housing, health and education (Articles 11, 12 and 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), as many families have had their houses destroyed by Israeli authorities, causing displacement and lack of access to other services. Israel is a party to both Covenants, and there is no justification to deviate from these international obligations. In particular, many of the specific rights under the ICCPR are non-derogable even during times of public emergency.

“On 4 July 2006 the Special Rapporteur issued a press release following the adoption of law 5765 on 27 June by the Israeli Knesset which addressed enforcement powers and detention of detainees suspected of security offences. The Special Rapporteur noted some positive changes in the final text but stated that the law does not appear to provide all necessary procedural safeguards for those detained for security reasons. For example, individuals can be detained up to 96 hours before being brought before a judge, they are not necessarily present in court when detention may be extended, and there are restrictions on access to counsel during detention. These aspects of the law are, in my view, incompatible with international human rights law.

“I am mindful that States have a duty to protect their population and to take effective measures to combat terrorism. However, sustainable results can only be achieved by promoting and protecting human rights while countering terrorism. Otherwise there is no real security for the civilian population”.

The Special Rapporteur was in Israel to attend the Minerva Biennial Conference on
Human Rights where he gave the keynote address on Terrorism and Human Rights.