UN urges Israel to investigate alleged torture

Committee pushes for probe into treatment of Palestinian detainees during Operation Cast Lead.

Gaza detainees 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gaza detainees 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel should investigate the secret detention facility known as 1391, halt punitive housing demolitions, investigate Operation Cast Lead and improve its treatment of security detainees, the United Nations Committee Against Torture said on Friday in Geneva. "[Israel] should ensure that all allegations of torture and ill treatment by detainees in Facility 1391 be impartially investigated, the results made public and any perpetrators responsible for breaches of the convention be held accountable," the committee said. It made these statements in an 11-page document issued at the end of its fourth periodic review of Israel's compliance with the UN's Convention Against Torture. Israel is one of seven countries under review this year. The others are Chad, Chile, Honduras, New Zealand, Nicaragua and the Philippines. The committee last reviewed Israel in 2001 and is expected to do so again in 2013. In a report submitted to the committee and during testimony given on May 5 and 6, Israel said that since September 2006, Facility 1391 had not been used for detentions. Even prior to the hearing at the start of May, the committee had expressed concern about reports that Israel was operating the detention facility in an undisclosed location, where detainees had no access to legal counsel or the Red Cross. Israel said that all allegations of torture at the facility had been investigated and no grounds for criminal proceedings were found, adding that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had not used the facility for several years. However, the UN committee was not satisfied and asked for further investigation into the matter. In addition, it said, "The state party should ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its control in the future, as a secret detention center is per se a breach of the convention. The state party should investigate and disclose the existence of any other such facility and the authority under which it has been established." Turning to the issue of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF's 22-day military operation this past winter in Gaza, the report chastised Israel for failing to protect the area's civilian population. "Insufficient measures were taken by the state party to protect the civilian population of the Gaza Strip," the committee said. It added that Israel should not have used phosphorous weapons in densely populated areas. "Israel should conduct an independent inquiry to ensure a prompt, independent and full investigation into the responsibility of state and non-state authorities for the harmful impact on civilians, and to make the results public," said the committee. But the bulk of the report addressed the committee's concern that Israel was mistreating its security detainees, even though a 1999 Israeli law prohibits torture. Specifically, it asked Israel to report back in a year regarding what it perceived as a lack of immediate legal counsel and judicial proceedings for detainees, as well as improper use of force by security personnel. It also expressed concerns about Israel's policy of immediate deportations for those who enter the country illegally and said it wanted a status report within a year. Finally, it called on Israel to stop punitive housing demolitions and asked it to report to the committee next year on that issue as well.