Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

16 July 1998


The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its review of civil and political rights in Israel, saying it was concerned about the limitless administrative detention of individuals under the state of emergency laws in that country.

In its preliminary concluding observations on the initial report presented by Israel, the Committee urged the Government to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the territories still occupied by Israel.

Israel's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Yosef Lamdan, said in his concluding remarks that for many years his country had been seeking peaceful means to end the conflict in the region. Although Israel was still in a state of war, it was trying to preserve its democracy and open society from internal and external attacks.

The Committee will issue its final recommendations on the report of Israel towards the end of the its three-week session which concludes on 31 July.

When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m., it will discuss a draft general comment on the right of movement before going into private meeting.

Discussion of Report

Committee experts, commenting on the responses provided by the Israeli delegation yesterday afternoon, said that while administrative detention during a state of emergency was in principle not in conflict with the Covenant, the real risk was that administrative detention could take the place of proper trials. Authorities saw administrative detention as an easy way to avoid a trial with full judicial protection. Since detentions were now extended almost indefinitely, this had raised serious questions under the Covenant.

One expert said the Committee was concerned about the practice and use of handcuffs and shaking during the interrogation of suspected individuals. Shaking, in particular, could damage the brain and one such incident had led to the death of an individual.

Another expert requested the delegation to provide the Committee with a full list of investigative methods used by police officers. The expert also asked the delegation if Israel was ready to allow individual complaints to be submitted to the Committee by ratifying the optional protocol to the Covenant.

The use of rubber-coated bullets against demonstrators - a practise which had cause the death of 53 persons, including children, during the last ten years - was also raised by the experts to which the delegation said the use of rubber bullets was limited to only when rioters threatened the lives of security agents. When a peaceful demonstration turned into a violent one, security agents could use rubber bullets, the delegation said.

In response to the comments and questions raised by Committee experts, the delegation said that solitary confinement and segregation were rare cases in Israeli prisons. In one case, a person detained for reasons of state security had refused to be with another person during his 12 years of confinement.

In response to a question regarding Israel's role in southern Lebanon, the delegation said that Israel did not effectively occupy that territory and had no jurisdiction over it. Thus it had no responsibility for the implementation of the Covenant's provisions. During the past fifteen years, northern Israel had suffered from cross-boundary attacks and infiltration by various terrorist factions from within Lebanon. A Lebanese militia leader, General Lahad, was responsible for military activities and prisons in the region, the delegation said.

With regard to Israel's accountability for the implementation of the Covenant in the occupied Palestinian territories, the officials said that since they had transferred power to the Palestinian Authority, the Government had less say in the internal affairs of the Authority. However, several Committee experts stressed that Israel had a de facto power in the Palestinian territories and thus was accountable to the Committee for the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant. The delegation said Israel was committed to the human rights aspects of the Geneva Conventions and had introduced safeguards to that effect.

The practice of administrative detention had decreased in recent years, the delegation affirmed, adding that its use was no more widespread. Administrative detention was not used to avert criminal procedure as alleged by some experts, the delegation added.

Furthermore, the delegation said that, as in any other country, Israel was endeavouring to abolish trafficking in women. Persons involved in such acts were brought before justice and victims were awarded compensation.

Concerning the question of the use of shaking during interrogation, the delegation said that although shaking was used in the past, the pathological results of an individual who died during investigation did not indicate that the death was caused by the use of shaking. Nevertheless, the Israeli authorities knew that no one was subjected to torture.

The Israeli Government officials, responding to the remaining written questions, said that the right of movement was somewhat restricted in certain areas for security reasons. As a sovereign State, Israel had to control those persons coming into its territory. Palestinians living in Gaza and in the West Bank were free to move within their respective territories, but while moving from Gaza to the West Bank or vice-versa, they passed through a check point controlled by Israel.

Concerning destruction of houses by Israeli army, the delegation said that this practise was aimed at protecting innocent people from the harm of explosives hidden by terrorists in some houses. The demolishing of houses belonging to terrorists followed a special procedure and any argument in favour of not carrying out the action could be reconsidered by the army officers. In other cases, houses could be demolished either for security reasons or planning schemes. Houses built without permission were also subjected to destruction, the delegation added.

With respect to the right to a fair trial, the delegation said once a person was formally charged with an offence, he or she was allowed all reasonable opportunity to communicate with a legal counsel and to meet with him in order to prepare the defence.

Further, the delegation said that in general, every person in Israel had the right to change his or her religion, and the State intervened neither in the individual's intention to adopt or change religion, nor in the decision of a particular religion to accept any person as a member.

Discrimination and racist violence were part of the reality in Israel, the delegation admitted, adding that fear and mistrust were part of the conflict in the Middle East. The Government, however, had introduced a curriculum in all public schools to teach human rights and tolerance.

Preliminary Concluding Observations

In their preliminary concluding remarks, the Committee members appreciated the readiness of the delegation of Israel to engage in a positive dialogue.

Committee members stressed the need to include the provisions of the Covenant in the domestic laws of the country and to incorporate the implementation of the Covenant in the territories occupied by Israel. Israel was responsible for the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant for all persons under its jurisdiction, including the territories occupied by its army.

The members further said that Israel could not argue that because of the Geneva Conventions, it could not implement the provisions of the Covenant in the territories occupied by its forces. The Geneva Conventions did not prevent the implementation of the Covenant in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, the experts said.

With regards to the reservation entered by Israel on the question of the state of emergency, Committee members said that that situation affected the primacy of the Covenant over domestic laws. The measures taken by the Israeli authorities by virtue of the state of emergency had undermined the Covenant. The acceptance by the Supreme Court of Israel of the use of a certain form of force during interrogation had amounted to maltreatment of suspects. The limitless administrative detention was also becoming arbitrary because of the lack of a monitoring mechanism, the experts said.
For information media - not an official record