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From the field

Israel's Contempt for Fundamental Legal Principles

B'Tselem to the UN Human Rights Committee: End Israel's Contempt for Fundamental Legal Principles

Today, for the first time, the UN Human Rights Committee will examine a report submitted by the Israeli government on its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Members of the Committee will question the Israeli delegation and make concluding observations.

This session provides a unique opportunity for an expert committee to examine Israel's human rights practices. B'Tselem's Executive Director, Mr. Eitan Felner, is attending the session to brief the Committee members on the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories.

"What renders Israel's abuses unique throughout the world," said Mr. Felner, "is the relentless efforts to justify what cannot be justified." B'Tselem's briefing to the Human Rights Committee emphasizes three egregious examples of Israel's attempt to legitimize blatantly illegal acts:

  • Routine Torture - Israel's General Security Service (GSS) routinely employs interrogation methods which constitute torture, including forceful shaking; slaps, kicks and blows; prolonged sleep deprivation; and tying detainees in painful positions for prolonged periods of time. On several occasions in which detainees have petitioned the High Court of Justice, the State has acknowledged and justified the use of many of these methods. Even more disturbing, Israel's High Court of Justice has explicitly allowed the GSS to cover detainees heads with a sack, deprive them of sleep and to use physical force, thereby granting a cloak of legality to torture.
  • Lebanese Administrative Detainees as Human Bargaining Chips - Israel's High Court of Justice recently approved the administrative detention of Lebanese nationals as "bargaining chips" in negotiations for the return of missing Israeli soldiers. The taking of hostages is a patently illegal act under international law. Now Israel - usually at the forefront of the international struggle against terrorism - has granted legitimacy to one of the trademarks of terrorist groups around the world.
  • Extra-judicial Execution - Israeli security agents have illegedly been responsible for killing suspected terrorists, both in the Occupied Territories and throughout the world. Following the failed assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mesh'al in Jordan, senior Israeli officials publicly acknowledged and justified Israel's policy to assassinate terrorists claiming that in its uncompromising and just war against terrorism, Israel will not refrain from killing suspected "guerilla leaders... wherever they are." This assassination policy indicates blatant contempt for fundamental legal principles of the rule of law and due process.

B'Tselem also provided the Committee with information on a range of Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories which violate articles of the Covenant:

  • Settlements in the Occupied Territories and Israel's control over land and water deny Palestinians the right to self-determination and control over natural resources (article 1);
  • Israel's settlement policies have created a dualist, and highly discriminatory legal and administrative system in the Occupied Territories. This system distinguishes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers, so that ethnic identity determines the extent to which a person may enjoy or be denied rights in violation of articles 1, 2 (1, 3); 5 (2); and 26.
  • The right to a remedy (article 2) is in jeopardy given a government proposed-bill to deny compensation to those injured or killed by illegal actions of the Israeli security forces in the Occupied Territories.
  • Israel's Ministry of Interior has revoked the residency of thousands of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, denying them the right to live in their homes and receive the social benefits to which they are entitled in violation of articles 3, 12, 13 and 26;
  • Israel's policy of allowing soldiers to use lethal force in non-life-threatening situations has resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, including small children, and constitutes a violation of Article 6.
  • The increasing use of rubber-coated metal bullets to disperse demonstrations is of particular concern;
  • Israel holds some 90 Palestinians in administrative detention, without trial, for periods up to four years, in violation of articles 4 and 9;
  • The freedom of movement of the 2.7 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip movement is severely curtailed in violation of article 12.