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UN experts call on Israel to stop torture, inhuman treatment of Palestinians

Panel of rights experts said Israel was using a 'grave loophole within the Israeli judicial system' to defend its use of torture
Arbeed was detained in 2019 and, after being subjected to interrogation by Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service, had suffered from kidney failure and broken ribs.
Arbeed was detained in 2019, and after being subjected to interrogation by Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service, he suffered from kidney failure and broken ribs (AFP)

UN human rights experts have called on Israel to end the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against Palestinians, which they noted has been universally banned by international law.

Israel 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", the experts said in a statement on Monday.

The panel of rights experts - including Stanley Michael Lynk, special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 - said they were alarmed at the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by Israeli security forces against Palestinian Samer al-Arbeed.

Arbeed was detained in 2019 over suspicions of being involved in an attack in the occupied West Bank. In September 2019, after being subjected to interrogation by Israel's Shin Bet domestic intelligence service, he was transferred to Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital in critical condition. He suffered from kidney failure and broken ribs.

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"We are alarmed at Israel's failure to prosecute, punish and redress the torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against Mr al-Arbeed," the panel of experts said.

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

In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court submitted a ruling that forbids such torture. However, the law has a loophole in which interrogators are able to defend the use of force when there is fear of an imminent attack.

UN experts said this is a "misguided defense" that provides de facto impunity for Israeli interrogators, even when their investigative measures amount to torture or other cruel and inhuman techniques.

According to data collected by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, more than 1,200 complaints against the Shin Bet have been filed since 2001. Of those complaints, not one has gone to trial.

"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 also said that the victims of torture should be given full rehabilitation and compensation for what they had gone through.