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Israel: Fear of the legalization of torture

, Index number: MDE 15/079/1999

In October 1999, a bill was introduced into Israel's parliament, which would allow the General Security Service to torture or ill-treat detainees during interrogation. If the bill passes, Israel would be in breach of the the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it ratified in 1991.

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 15/79/99
UA 308/99 Fear of the legalization of torture 29 November 1999
ISRAEL/OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
In October 1999, a bill was introduced into Israel’s parliament (the Knesset),
which would allow the General Security Service (GSS) to torture or ill-treat
detainees during interrogation. If the bill, which was signed by over 40 of
120 Knesset members, passes, Israel would be in breach of the object and purpose
of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment, which it ratified in 1991. It would also be in breach
of various other international treaties, such as the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The bill - draft Criminal Procedure (Powers and Special Interrogation Methods
for Security Offences) Law - would authorize GSS interrogators to use "special
interrogation methods", including "physical pressure on ... [the] body" where
there was a reasonable suspicion that a person had information which, if
immediately revealed, could prevent danger to human life or state security.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Until September 1999, Israel was the only state in the world in which torture
or ill-treatment was officially sanctioned. For years the GSS systematically
tortured thousands of Palestinian "security" detainees during interrogation.
In 1997 and 1998 the UN Committee against Torture declared that various GSS
interrogation methods constituted torture and contravened Israel’s obligations
under the Convention against Torture.
In September, Israel’s High Court ruled that the systematic use of various
interrogation techniques by GSS interrogators was illegal. The techniques,
which were used in combination, included: violent shaking; shabeh, where
detainees are shackled to low sloping chairs in contorted positions for extended
periods and forced to listen to loud music; gambaz, where detainees are forced
to crouch for extended periods; excessive tightening of handcuffs; and sleep
deprivation. The court did not rule out the ad hoc use of such methods in extreme
circumstances. Following the High Court decision, the GSS reportedly ceased
using these techniques. If passed the bill would nullify the High Court decision.
The Convention against Torture requires Israel to legislate to prevent acts
of torture. In an attempt to do this a bill - the draft Penal Code (Amendment
- Prohibition of Torture) Law was submitted to the Knesset in October which
would make the infliction of torture, as defined in the Convention, a criminal
offence.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
English, Hebrew or your own language:
- emphasising to the Knesset members below that the Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment requires Israel
to "take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures
to prevent acts of torture";
- stating that, while you abhor deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on
civilians, the Convention against Torture states that "no exceptional
circumstances whatsoever ... may be invoked as a justification of torture";
- expressing grave concern that the draft Criminal Procedure (Powers and Special
Interrogation Methods for Security Offences) Law, proposes to authorize the
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GSS to use torture or ill-treatment in breach of Israel’s obligations under
international law;
- expressing concern that this law attempts to reverse the High Court’s September
1999 ruling that the GSS’ use of certain interrogation methods constituting
torture or ill-treatment is illegal;
- urging the Knesset members below to vote against it and to encourage other
Knesset members to do likewise;
- urging them to vote instead for the draft Penal Code (Amendment - Prohibition
of Torture) Law and to encourage other Knesset members to do likewise.
- urging them to do everything in their power to ensure the Knesset incorporates
the provisions of the Convention against Torture into Israeli law, as
recommended by the UN Committee against Torture in 1997 and 1998 and to encourage
other Knesset members to do likewise.
APPEALS TO:
Ophir Pines MK
Leader of One Israel in the Knesset
The Knesset
Kiryat Ben Gurion
Jerusalem 91950
Israel
Telegrams: Ophir Pines, Jerusalem, Israel
Faxes: + 972 2 652 1599
Salutation: Dear Mr Pines
Reuven Rivlin MK
Leader of the Likud in the Knesset
The Knesset
Kiryat Ben Gurion
Jerusalem 91950
Israel
Telegrams: Reuven Rivlin, Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel
Faxes: + 972 2 652 1599
Salutation: Dear Mr Rivlin
Yitzhak Vaknin MK
Leader of Shas in the Knesset
The Knesset
Kiryat Ben Gurion
Jerusalem 91950
Israel
Telegrams: Yitzhak Vaknin, Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel
Faxes: + 972 2 652 1599
Salutation: Dear Mr Vaknin
Yuli Edelstein MK
Leader of Yisrael B’Aliyah in the Knesset
The Knesset
Kiryat Ben Gurion
Jerusalem 91950
Israel
Telegrams: Yuli Edelstein, Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel
Faxes: + 972 2 652 1599
Salutation: Dear Mr Edelstein
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and copies of appeals to diplomatic representatives of Israel accredited to
your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 10 January 1999.

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