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Human Rights, torture and detention

bulletUN Resolutions
bulletGeneva Convention violations

Typically we stayed with Palestinian families and enjoyed their warm hospitality.  These were just ordinary people; all they wanted was peace and a chance to re-build their lives.  One couldn’t help being impressed by their warmth and humanity.  But they also wanted to talk, to try to exorcise their suffering.

Every family we stayed with had direct experience of detention and brutality.  To be fair, families are large, for example in Yasuf, a village of 1700 people there are just 5 families.  We listened to many accounts of their experiences, often suffering from our lack of Arabic and understanding.

I particularly remember one man’s story, where he had been detained for 15 days (there never or rarely are any charges).  The first 4 days were sleep deprivation, kept permanently awake.  Hands tied behind his back on a chair.  When he was given any food or drink he had to lap it up off the floor like a dog.  Cigarette burns are inevitable.

The night we were tear-gassed we were let into a house and after recovering taken to the back to see a woman of about 30 (not easy to judge), crippled from the waist down after a beating at a check point.  She was sitting on the floor unable to use her legs.

One young man who had worked in the Palestinian police had been detained many times.  His wrist was smashed with a rifle butt; he had burns all over his arms.  17 of his friends had been killed.  Two of them were executed in front of him, one in such a horrible way I won’t repeat it here.

We chanced on a lovely family in a village where they showed us around their courtyard, a beautifully restored and imaginative space.  It emerged that their 20 year old daughter had been seized from her University and been in prison for 6 months without charge.  She had been taken into Israel (illegal under Israeli law) so that her parents couldn’t visit.  They hadn’t heard directly from her in all that time.  We intend to try and follow up on this case, recognising that it’s only one example in thousands.  Israel’s military regulations allow detention at their discretion in renewable 6-month periods, indefinitely.

A key fear is random detention.  Palestinians have no effective rights.  They can and are simply detained.  One consequence is that it is almost impossible to get any Palestinian to take a complaint to the police.  They know it will not be pursued and anticipate retribution once the Internationals are no longer there to be witnesses.

Our mission wasn’t directed at Human Rights issues, but almost daily we read reports of Human Rights violations and the Human Rights campaign groups, including Amnesty have issued interminable accounts of Israeli Human Rights violations.  Yet there are hardly any prosecutions and whilst the International community wrings its hands it doesn’t do anything.

Legal assessment is clear that Israel is violating the provisions of the Geneva Convention, which set out the responsibilities of the occupying power, both in terms of protecting the population and their rights.  Israel dismisses these issues claiming that they apply to a war situation whilst this isn’t a war!

UN Resolutions

 In the current world political cant, UN resolutions are about the world opinion being given legality and force through the resolutions of the Security Council.  They are used to ‘legitimise’ a potential threat to Iraq, to respond to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and indeed to Bosnia.

 Resolution 242 (resolutions are up to 1441 on Iraq!) called on Israel to withdraw from all the territory it took by force in 1967.  It has been ignored for 35 years and it has been followed by numerous other resolutions, which Israel treats with equal contempt.

 Even the British Governments official position is that the UN resolutions need to be adhered to, and states its support for resolution 642 again calling for a stop on further settlement building and a negotiated settlement.  But there are no penalties for Israel flouting world opinion.


Geneva Convention on Human Rights

Israel signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Yet Israel continues to violate Articles of the Universal Declaration which prohibit:  

bulletTorture and inhuman treatment (Article 5)
bulletDenial of equal protection under the law (Article 7)
bulletArbitrary arrest, detention, or exile (Article 9)
bulletDenial of the right to return to one's country (Article 13)
bulletArbitrary expropriation of personal property (Article 17)
bulletInterference with religious worship and observance (Article 18)

Articles of the Geneva Convention which prohibit:  

bulletTorture (Article 32)
bulletCollective punishment (Article 33)
bulletAnnexation of occupied territory (Article 47)
bulletTransfer of the occupying power's own population into the occupied area [settlers and settlements] (Article 49)
bulletDestruction of property (Article 53)
bulletDenial of food and medical supplies (Article 55)
bulletExecution without fair legal process (Article 68)

·         Expropriation of land for settlements

bulletKilling civilians
bulletDemolition of house
bulletCollective punishments
bulletWater resources

It has not been revived in spite of the latest atrocities.


The UN, having accepted a prima facia case convened a conference in July 1999, but the major powers effectively removed support on the pretext that a change in Israeli government gave the opportunity for a peace process instead.  


Amnesty International endorses all these assertions of violations of human rights


Note- it seems that Israel has created an internal Israeli legal framework which either specifically avoids Geneva Convention obligations or legalises them –including torture!  Thus prosecution within Israel would probably result in acquittal, whilst the ICC cannot interfere if a state undertakes prosecution itself.  Check-mate!


Updated 13 Dezember 2009