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Israel must end impunity for torture and ill-treatment – UN experts

08 February 2021

GENEVA (8 February 2021) – UN human rights experts* today urged Israel to ensure accountability for torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment universally prohibited under international law.

The call comes after the Attorney-General last month ended investigations into the Israeli Security Agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against Palestinian Samer Al-Arbeed, who was detained in 2019 on suspicion of involvement in a bomb explosion.

“We are alarmed at Israel’s failure to prosecute, punish and redress the torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against Mr Al-Arbeed. Addressing such abuse is not at the discretion of the Government or the judiciary, but constitutes an absolute obligation under international law,” the experts said.

Al-Arbeed was in good health when he was arrested on 25 September 2019 after an alleged attack in the occupied West Bank in August, during which a 17-year-old Israeli girl was killed and her father and brother got injured. Within 48 hours, Al-Arbeed was hospitalised with life-threatening injuries due to ill-treatment and now suffers irreparable physical and psychological conditions.

“We are alarmed that the use of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ or ‘exceptional measures’ during questioning reportedly led to a forced confession, which the universal prohibition of torture and ill-treatment aims to prevent,” the experts said.

“Allowing individual agents the ‘necessity defence’ against criminal prosecution is a grave loophole within the Israeli judicial system which effectively excuses the coercive interrogation of persons suspected of possessing information on military operations. This misguided defence provides de facto impunity for investigative measures amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” they said.

Israeli authorities should “urgently and comprehensively review, suspend and/or repeal the necessity defence applied in criminal investigations, and any laws, regulations, policies and practices authorising, justifying, acquiescing in or otherwise leading to impunity for such grave violations of human rights”

They said States were legally responsible for torture or ill-treatment perpetrated by their agents and were duty-bound to prevent and punish such acts. Victims must receive full redress and rehabilitation.

The experts will continue to engage with the authorities and closely monitor the situation.


The experts: Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. S. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Mumba Malila, Seong-Phil Hong, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Israel

For more information and media requests, please contact: Koat Aleer (+41 22 917 9194 / [email protected]) .

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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