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End impunity for torture, UN experts urge Israel

GENEVA

UN human rights experts urged Israel on Monday to end torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment universally prohibited under international law.

The demand comes after Israel’s Attorney-General last month ended investigations into Israeli Security Agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against Palestinian Samer Al-Arbeed, detained in 2019 on suspicion of involvement in a bomb explosion.

“We are alarmed at Israel’s failure to prosecute, punish and redress the torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against Mr. Al-Arbeed,” experts said. “Addressing such abuse is not at the discretion of the government or the judiciary, but constitutes an absolute obligation under international law.”

The experts include Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel punishment; S. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Leigh Toomey, the Chair-Rapporteur and members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“Allowing individual agents the ‘necessity defense’ against criminal prosecution is a grave loophole within the Israeli judicial system which effectively excuses the coercive interrogation of persons suspected of possessing information on military operations,” they said.

The experts said it was a “misguided defense” that provides de facto impunity for investigative measures amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

“Israeli authorities should ‘urgently and comprehensively review, suspend and/or repeal the necessity defense applied in criminal investigations, and any laws, regulations, policies, and practices authorizing, justifying, acquiescing in or otherwise leading to impunity for such grave violations of human rights,” said the experts.

They said that states are legally responsible for torture or ill-treatment perpetrated by their agents and were duty-bound to prevent and punish such acts.

Victims must receive full redress and rehabilitation.

Al-Arbeed was in good health when he was arrested Sept. 25, 2019, after an alleged attack in the occupied West Bank the previous month, during an Israeli girl, 17, was killed and her father and brother injured.

Within 48 hours, Al-Arbeed was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries due to ill-treatment and now suffers irreparable physical and psychological conditions.

“We are alarmed that the use of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ or ‘exceptional measures’ during questioning reportedly led to a forced confession, which the universal prohibition of torture and ill-treatment aims to prevent,” the experts said.

“Addressing such abuse is not at the discretion of the government or the judiciary, but constitutes an absolute obligation under international law,” they said.

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