Palestine must strengthen torture prevention measures, UN body finds
25 September 2023
GENEVA (25 September 2023) – The State of Palestine needs to improve the effectiveness of the fundamental legal safeguards against torture and ill-treatment, especially from the first moments of detention, experts from the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) concluded after their first visit.
“The delegation received full cooperation from the Palestinian authority to visit places of deprivation of liberty in the West Bank, but we regret that, despite all efforts, we were unable to visit detention facilities in Gaza,” said Daniel Fink, head of the delegation.
During its visit, from 10 to 21 September, the delegation visited 18 detention places in different locations in the West Bank, including prisons, police stations, facilities of the security forces, a psychiatric hospital and a military detention centre.
The delegation met with high-level officials, notably the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Interior, who coordinates the National Team for Monitoring the State's Commitments. The experts also had meetings with various authorities, including security agencies, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Attorney General, the Judicial Council of the Security Forces, the Independent Commission on Human Rights, involving its Gaza branch, the Bar association, civil society organisations, including those from Gaza, as well as other UN bodies.
The State of Palestine has been a party to the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol since 2014 and 2017, respectively. The Government has done much since then, including recently positive relevant amendments to the penal code. However, the delegation stated that its concerns remained, such as the implementation of legal safeguards during detention and the effective establishment of a monitory body, officially called the national preventive mechanism (NPM).
The delegation also engaged, at the technical level, with entities working on drafting legislation related to the long overdue national preventive mechanism.
“We hope that our visit will lead to the effective establishment of the preventive mechanism within a short period of time,” said the head of the delegation. “In particular, we look forward to seeing an independent body that can carry out its mandate in accordance with the State’s legal international obligations, including unannounced visits to any places of deprivation of liberty,” he added.
A confidential report will be sent to the Palestinian authority in the coming months, which the delegation encourages the State party to make public.
The SPT delegation was composed of Daniel Fink, head of Delegation (Switzerland), Abdallah Ounnir (Morocco), Carmen Comas-Mata Mira (Spain), and Hamida Dridi (Tunisia). The delegation was accompanied by two human rights officers from the Secretariat of the Subcommittee.
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The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture monitors States parties’ adherence to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which to date has been ratified by 93 countries. The Subcommittee is made up of 25 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Subcommittee has the mandate to visit States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, during the course of which it may visit any place where persons may be deprived of their liberty and assist those States in preventing torture and ill-treatment. The Subcommittee communicates its observations and recommendations to States through confidential reports, which it encourages countries to make public.