Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture
COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONVENTION
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture
253. The Committee considered the special report of Israel (CAT/C/33/Add.2/Rev.1) at its 295th, 296th and 297th meetings, on 7 and 9 May 1997 (CAT/C/SR.295, 296 and 297/Add.1), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.
254. The special report of Israel was submitted on 18 February 1997, pursuant to the request contained in the letter to the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, dated 22 November 1996 (see para. 25 above). It responded to a number of concerns of the Committee contained in its conclusions on the first periodic report of Israel and the Committee's reaction to certain decisions of the Supreme Court of Israel. The Committee thanks the Israeli delegation for its informative opening statement and its frank and open responses to the Committee's questions.
255. The information provided by Israel in its special report and in the opening statement of its representatives was essentially a reiteration of its position described in the initial report, namely, that interrogation, including the use of "moderate physical pressure" where it is thought that interrogatees have information of imminent attacks against the State which may involve deaths of innocent citizens, is lawful if conducted in accordance with the "Landau rules", which permit "moderate physical pressure" to be used in strictly defined interrogation circumstances.
256. It is Israel's position that interrogations pursuant to the "Landau rules" do not breach prohibitions against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as contained in article 16 of the Convention against Torture and do not amount to torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention.
257. However, the methods of interrogation, which were described by non-governmental organizations on the basis of accounts given to them by interrogatees and appear to be applied systematically, were neither confirmed nor denied by Israel. The Committee must therefore assume them to be accurate. Those methods include: (1) restraining in very painful conditions, (2) hooding under special conditions, (3) sounding of loud music for prolonged periods, (4) sleep deprivation for prolonged periods, (5) threats, including death threats, (6) violent shaking, and (7) using cold air to chill, and are, in the Committee's view, breaches of article 16 and also constitute torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention. This conclusion is particularly evident where such methods of interrogation are used in combination, which appears to be the standard case.
258. The Committee acknowledges the terrible dilemma that Israel confronts in dealing with terrorist threats to its security, but as a State party to the Convention Israel is precluded from raising before this Committee exceptional circumstances as justification for acts prohibited by article 1 of the Convention. This is plainly expressed in article 2 of the Convention.
259. The Committee is also concerned that the effect of the Hamdan decision by the Israeli Supreme Court dissolving the interim injunction was to allow some of the interrogation practices referred to above to continue and to legitimize them for domestic purposes.
260. The Committee recommends that:
(a) Interrogations applying the methods referred to above and any other methods that are in conflict with the provisions of articles 1 and 16 of the Convention cease immediately;
(b) The provisions of the Convention be incorporated by legislation into Israeli law, particularly the definition of torture contained in article 1 of the Convention, as is currently under consideration by the expert committee of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation;
(c) Israel consider making the declarations provided for under articles 21 and 22 and withdrawing its reservation to article 20 of the Convention;
(d) Interrogation procedures pursuant to the "Landau rules" in any event be published in full;
(e) Israel include information on the measures taken in response to these conclusions and recommendations in its second periodic report, which was due on 1 November 1996. That report should be submitted as soon as possible and in any event no later than 1 September 1997, in order to allow the Committee to consider it at its next session.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights