August 7, 2012
It remains clear to even the most forgiving observer of Israeli behavior that the occupation involves the routine violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law including torture and ill treatment.
In 1987, just prior to the first intifada, the Landau Commission legalized torture in Israel and gave birth to formal civil society opposition to torture and ill treatment. The UN Committee Against Torture, which monitors the implementation by state parties to the UN Convention Against Torture (including Israel) recently released 59 questions on torture and ill treatment to the Israeli authorities.
Yet torture and ill treatment continues with impunity, and this is despite a 1999 Supreme Court decision which completely prohibited it. The ruling said that torture is illegal and limited its use; but it allowed the practice under certain exceptions and did not label some of Israel's acts specifically as torture, although they were.
Torture is still systemic, accepted and practiced, by Israel's security services.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has repeatedly noted the continuation of torture and that the ISA – Israel's Security Agency -- continues to employ interrogation methods that comprise torture or ill treatment. These methods include physical and psychological methods on the use of family members against detainees under ISA interrogation.
For over a decade there have been more than 750 complaints of torture and ill treatment submitted and not one criminal investigation has ensued. The State of Israel says that it performs in-depth inquiries into these complaints, learns lessons and even takes disciplinary actions. We have seen no evidence of this.
To date no complaints have been criminally investigated by the proper authorities because no independent investigation mechanism exists in Israel. Instead, torture complaints are examined by an active ISA agent and ratified by a special attorney in the Ministry of Justice or by the attorney general. All of these case are either denied factually or justified as "ticking bomb" cases, in which case torturers are exempted from criminal liability by the attorney general. Either way, the files are invariably closed.
Over our more than 20 years of anti-torture activity we have come into contact with numerous victims of torture who have complained of physical and psychological attacks on their bodily integrity.
In fact, PCATI just submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the attorney general open an investigation into yet another complaint of a Palestinian detainee who alleged that he was seriously tortured in 2007. In spite of the "lessons learned" from the complaint by the state and its non-denial of the victim's charges, there has been no investigation and no accountability.
This situation is untenable and unsustainable, but it is reversible.
The disregard of international human rights law and international humanitarian law leaves two societies virtually vanquished and void of hope for a sustainable way to live a normal life in what can be a normal place. Ongoing violations of international law is not only a visible wall infringing on core and universal human rights, it is a barricade dividing people from peace.
The author is director of international advocacy at the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.