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Israel: UN expert calls for probe of allegations of torture and mistreatment against Palestinian detainees

23 May 2024

GENEVA (23 May 2024) – The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, has urged the Government of Israel to investigate multiple allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against detained Palestinians since 7 October 2023.

“Persons deprived of liberty must always be treated humanely,” Edwards said. “They must be provided with all protections required under international human rights and humanitarian law, whatever the circumstances of their detention.”

Since the attacks of 7 October 2023, it is estimated that thousands of Palestinians including children have been detained. Palestinians from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and from Gaza are being held in prisons run by the Israeli Prison Service and in Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) camps.

The Special Rapporteur received allegations of individuals being beaten, kept in cells blindfolded and handcuffed for excessive periods, deprived of sleep, and threatened with physical and sexual violence. Other reports suggest prisoners have been insulted and exposed to acts of humiliation, such as being photographed and filmed in degrading poses, while prolonged use of zip-tie handcuffs has reportedly caused friction injuries and wounds.

“I am particularly concerned that this emerging pattern of violations, coupled with an absence of accountability and transparency, is creating a permissive environment for further abusive and humiliating treatment of Palestinians,” she said.

It appears that no effective measures have been taken by the Israeli authorities to investigate these allegations.

Since 7 October 2023, the growth in the prison population has exacerbated a pre-existing overcrowding problem leading to lowering of standards, the expert said.

“Official downgrading of conditions in certain places of detention is not acceptable. At all times, the minimum international standards must be adhered to,” she said.

“How we treat others during moments of crisis is a sign of how much we have internalised human rights,” she said. “No circumstances, however exceptional, can ever justify torture or ill-treatment.”

“The Israeli authorities must investigate all complaints and reports of torture or ill-treatment promptly, impartially, effectively and transparently. Those responsible at all levels, including commanders, must be held accountable, while victims have a right to reparation and compensation.”

The UN expert called on the Government of Israel to allow immediate access to international human rights and humanitarian observers to all the places in which Palestinians have been detained since the 7 October 2023 attacks.

“I am available to support the Government in reviewing detention conditions and standards of treatment, including by conducting an official visit to the country,” Edwards said.

The UN expert previously expressed her condemnation of the attacks of 7 October 2023 and called for accountability for those international crimes.

Dr. Alice Jill Edwards is the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Special Rapporteurs 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 of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Israel

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