ON TORTURE – Journal Published by Adalah, PHRI and Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights (June 2012)
“On Torture” is an edited volume of essays by Palestinian, Israeli and international legal and medical experts and practitioners based on presentations that they gave during a workshop held in Jerusalem in April 2011 entitled, “Securing Accountability for Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CIDT) in Israel: New Trends and Comparative Lessons”.
The essayists explore the history of torture in Israel, the daily challenges that practitioners face in seeking accountability for torture and CIDT in Israel, and the changing face of torture.
FULL REPORT (PDF): HERE
Drafters of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment (CAT) expressed in the preamble the desire “to make more effective
the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment throughout the world.” Building on Article 5 of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which provide that no one shall be subjected
to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT), CAT
purposefully heightened the responsibility of State Parties to prevent such acts as
well as to create and support mechanisms to punish the perpetrators. Israel ratified
CAT in 1991, and eight years later, in 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court delivered its
landmark judgment in HCJ 5100/94, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
(PCATI) vs. the Government of Israel. This ruling both revealed and outlawed various
methods of torture systematically employed by the General Security Service (GSS
or Shabak) and other Israeli security forces, overwhelmingly against Palestinian
detainees and prisoners. The welcome judgment nonetheless left grave loopholes
such as the “necessity defense” exception in cases of “ticking bombs” (i.e., the
interrogation of suspects said to be holding information against potential armed
attacks), which continue to threaten the most fundamental human rights of prisoners
This volume is a product of a joint initiative by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab
Minority Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) and
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza to further prevent and fight against
torture and ill-treatment in Israel. Towards that aim, in April 2011, the three partner
organizations convened a two-day international expert workshop in Jerusalem for
local and international practitioners on the subject of “Securing Accountability for
Torture and CIDT in Israel: New Trends and Comparative Lessons”. The participants,
who included around forty Palestinian, Israeli and international lawyers, legal experts,
medical practitioners and human rights professionals, explored the history of torture
in Israel, the daily challenges for local practitioners seeking accountability for torture
and CIDT, and the changing face of torture in Israel.
Of primary concern was whether we, as organizations and professionals, were
consistently recognizing the full range of means and methods of torture and CIDT,
whether the existing domestic mechanisms of preventing torture and ill-treatment
and of holding perpetrators accountable were sufficient, and whether and how we
could incorporate successful strategies employed in various national, regional and
international jurisdictions before Israeli courts. As such, the discussion was enriched by
the comparative perspectives of international legal and medical experts, who included
Professor Manfred Nowak, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr. Stephen
Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired Brigadier General in the Medical Corps of US Army,
and Attorney Jamil Dakwar, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human
Rights Program. The last session of the workshop provided a unique opportunity for
practitioners to discuss and analyze the lessons learned, and think creatively about
ways forward in preventing torture and CIDT and seeking accountability.
This volume brings together several presentations that were delivered during the
workshop, as well as work conducted by each of the partners during the project.
Adalah, PHR-Israel and Al Mezan have compiled and published this material with
the aim of contributing to the debate of how best to confront the manifestations of
torture and CIDT in the context of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
It is the partners’ hope that the documentation of the persistent and pervasive use of
torture and ill-treatment against Palestinian prisoners in Israel, presented alongside
international comparative lessons and strategies, will heighten the sense of urgency
among legal and medical professionals as well as the general public to demand the
end of torture in Israeli prisons and accountability for victims.
This volume does not discuss torture or ill-treatment carried out against Palestinians
by the Palestinian Authority's two governments (the Fatah-led government in
Ramallah and the Hamas-led government in Gaza). This is due to the fact that such a
debate is outside the scope of our joint work, and is in no way intended to undermine
the gravity of such acts or the suffering of the victims. Palestinian human rights
organizations based in the OPT are actively engaged in fighting torture by Palestinian
actors in the OPT.
Part I consists of a collection of essays based on the expert presentations at the
workshop. Attorney Lea Tsemel, a leading lawyer in the fight against torture in Israel
and a founder of PCATI, provides a brief history of the legal struggle against torture
and ill-treatment in Israeli prisons. This history, in many ways, traces the trajectory
of Attorney Tsemel’s career as a human rights lawyer over the last decades. Dr.
Rouchama Marton, the founder of PHR-I, contributes an important piece revealing
the involvement of Israeli physicians in the torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian
detainees, as well as the individual, social and political mechanisms that make this
sort of conduct by physicians possible. In his keynote address, former UN Special
Rapporteur on Torture Professor Manfred Nowak acknowledged the universal nature
of torture and CIDT. Having spent six years documenting the torture and ill-treatment
of prisoners worldwide, Professor Nowak draws comparisons and conclusions from
his work globally and offers next steps in the struggle against torture. Attorney Jamil
Dakwar extends the comparative legal conversation and focuses on the paradigm
shift of 9/11 and the response of human rights lawyers and other professionals to
hold the United States accountable for the torture and abuse of non-US citizens at
Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and other horrific sites around the world.
The volume then returns to domestic concerns with Attorney Irit Ballas investigating
regimes of impunity in Israel that effectively prevent the defense of victims of
torture. Attorney Bana Shoughry-Badarne broaches critical concerns of Israeli legal
practitioners in addressing the seemingly insurmountable challenges left by the
loopholes of the 1999 Supreme Court decision. The partners are particularly concerned
with the torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian minors, and Attorney Gerard Horton
offers sobering reflections on this trend. Part One closes with the keynote address of
Dr. Stephen Xenakis, who reminds us of the responsibility of the individual to speak
out against torture despite the consequences.
Part Two brings together a series of documents based on work conducted over
the course of the three-year joint project of Adalah, PHR-Israel and Al Mezan. This
section first presents excerpts from a Supreme Court petition that was submitted
by Adalah in December 2010 on behalf of the partners and PCATI challenging a new
law that exempts the GSS/Shabak from the duty to make audio or video recordings
of detainees suspected of committing security offenses (HCJ 9416/10, Adalah v. The
Ministry of Public Security). The petition argues that audio and video recordings of
these investigations act as a crucial safeguard against torture and CIDT and as a
means of uncovering the truth. As of this writing, the petition remains pending before
The next text is a psychiatric expert opinion on the subject of coerced false confessions
of Palestinian children written by Graciela Carmon, M.D., a child and adolescent
psychiatrist and member of PHR-Israel’s Board of Directors. Dr. Carmon analyzes the
effects of Israeli Shabak and police interrogations on the behavior and mental state of
Palestinian children and adolescents, and investigates the psychological, developmental
and social factors that may lead them to make false confessions. The expert opinion
was submitted to an Israeli Military Court in the case of A.A., a 14-year-old Palestinian
boy who was detained, interrogated and indicted for throwing stones.
The following piece provides extensive new data gathered by Al Mezan’s field workers
on human rights violations perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip between May 2009
and April 2011. The field review demonstrates how the Israeli-imposed blockade
of Gaza is being enforced through policies and practices that violate the absolute
prohibition of torture and CIDT enshrined in international law. It argues that the use
of such practices and policies is particularly prevalent against Palestinians from the
Gaza Strip, where Israel continues to exercise a very high level of effective control and
to implement a blockade.
The volume concludes with a review by Professor Lisa Hajjar of the University of
California – Santa Barbara of a new book on Palestinian political prisoners, entitled,
Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel, edited by Attorney Abeer Baker and
Dr. Anat Matar of Tel Aviv University.
The partners wish to thank all of our colleagues who contributed their expertise
both during the workshop as well as to this volume, including the Public Committee
Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Defence for Children International – Palestine.
We are also grateful for and acknowledge the valuable contributions of the following
organizations to the lively discussions during the workshop: The Association for
Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Addameer, Al Haq, B’Tselem, HaMoked, Treatment and
Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC), the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC), Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF), UNICEF, and the United Nations Office
of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNOHCHR). Finally, we wish to thank
the European Union for its generous support of this project, which has strengthened
our collective efforts to combat the torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians.