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Israel Uses Torture, Detention, and Hostage-taking to Violate Civil and Political Rights

In Israel's Record of Occupation: Violations of Civil and Political Rights, released today, Human Rights Watch offers detailed evidence of Israel's violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)'s prohibition against the use of torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and treatment, as well as violations of the ICCPR and the Fourth Geneva Convention's prohibition against arbitrary detention and hostage-taking. Israel's use of torture, arbitrary detention, and hostage-taking were among twenty-one violations and areas of concern addressed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its first review of Israel's implementation of the ICCPR, which ended 31 July 1998. The full text of the Human Rights Committee's "Concluding Observations" on Israel is included in the report.

While other U.N. expert bodies have evaluated Israel's fulfillment of its obligations under human rights treaties prohibiting discrimination against women, racial discrimination, and torture, the Human Rights Committee's review marks the first time Israel has reported on the full range of civil and political rights guaranteed by international law. Several of the Human Rights Committee's findings are also relevant to Israel's implementation of rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which is to be reviewed during the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights' November 16 to December 4, 1998 session. Israel's submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1990/5/Add.30) is also incomplete, in that it does not report on implementation of that convention in all the territories Israel controls.

Human Rights Watch calls on Israel to implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee, as well as the earlier recommendations of the U.N. Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the U.N. Committee Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Given the extremely serious nature of many of the violations identified by the Human Rights Committee, Israel should give special priority to immediately ending its practice of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during interrogation and detention, and its discriminatory practices in regulating housing, family reunion, and residency rights.

Human Rights Watch calls on Israel to:

  • Immediately end the practice of torture, amend domestic law to be consistent with the covenant’s prohibition of torture, including adopting a definition of torture consistent with international law, and make public the guidelines governing interrogation procedures;
  • Immediately end the practice of holding detainees as hostages, both inside Israel and in the territories under its control. Persons held as “bargaining chips” should be immediately released;
  • Immediately end the practice of arbitrary or prolonged administrative detention, and revise its laws to ensure that all detainees are guaranteed at minimum the right to prompt and effective judicial review of the lawfulness and conditions of their detention; the right to receive an explanation of one’s rights upon arrest in one’s own language or soon thereafter and to be informed of the specific, detailed, and personalized reasons for the deprivation of liberty; the right of immediate access to family, legal counsel, and a medical officer; and the right to be released and seek compensation if the detention is arbitrary or unlawful

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