[Ramallah, 18 May 2009] - On 15 May 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (the Committee) concluded its 42nd session in Geneva by issuing concluding observations and recommendations on periodic reports submitted by five states, including Israel.
The Committee, which is made up of 10 independent experts, received written and oral submissions from government officials and non-governmental organisations before and during its review of Israel's Fourth Periodic Report on 5 and 6 May 2009. As part of the United Against Torture Coalition (UAT Coalition), DCI-Palestine submitted three reports [1, 2, 3] and over 150 pages of evidence [1, 2] as well as sending a representative to Geneva to give a presentation before the Committee.
Concern regarding numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations of the use of torture and ill-treatment taking place before, during and after interrogations.
Deep concern at reports that Palestinian children are detained and interrogated in the absence of a lawyer or family member and are allegedly subjected to acts in breach of the Convention against Torture in order to obtain confessions.
Concern at reports that approximately 700 Palestinian children are detained annually and are prosecuted in Israeli military courts.
Concern at reports that in 95% of cases involving Palestinian children before the Israeli military courts, conviction is obtained using confessions extracted during interrogation.
Concern that all but one of the prisons where Palestinian children are detained are located in Israel, hindering family visits. (This contravenes Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention).
Concern that administrative detention does not conform to Article 16 of the Convention against Torture (cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) because, among other reasons, it is used for inordinately lengthy periods of time and detainees are unable to challenge the evidence which is the basis for the detention.
DCI-Palestine welcomes these comments and endorses the recommendations made by the Committee, which include the following:
All allegations of torture and ill-treatment should be promptly and effectively investigated and all perpetrators should be prosecuted and, if applicable, appropriately punished.
Israeli Military Order 132 should be amended to ensure that the definition of a child is 18, in line with international standards. (Currently under Israeli military law applied to Palestinians in the West Bank, the age of majority is 16).
All child detainees held by Israeli authorities should be afforded basic safeguards, before and during interrogations, including prompt access to an independent lawyer, an independent doctor and family member from the outset of their detention.
Children should not be convicted in the Israeli military courts based solely on the evidence of a confession given during interrogation.
A youth court should be established by Israeli authorities in the Occupied Territory as a matter of priority.
Israeli authorities should make every effort to facilitate family visits to child detainees, including expanding the right of freedom of movement of relatives to travel to Israel where most children are detained.
All interrogations conducted by Israeli authorities should be video recorded as a means to prevent torture and ill-treatment.
Israeli authorities should review, as a matter of priority, its policies regarding administrative detention (detention without charge or trial) as they currently constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in contravention of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture.
The Committee also emphasised that according to the Convention against Torture, 'no exceptional circumstances' including security or a war or threat to security of the state justifies torture.
DCI-Palestine will continue to urge Israeli authorities to cease the widespread and systematic use of ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. DCI-Palestine will also continue to encourage the international community to take a more active role in this struggle to eradicate the use of these illegal practices against children, wherever they may occur.