Open letter to the Israeli authorities

Press release

To the attention of : Tzipi Livni, Minister of Justice and Michael Eitan, Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Dear Sirs,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) informed by its member organisations B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture and Adalah in Israel and Al-Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Ramallah, is extremely concerned by the recent bill proposed by the Israeli Ministry of Justice which would make « special provisions for investigating security offenses of non-residents ».

FIDH considered that several provisions of the proposed law submitted by the Government to the Knesset on 31 October 2005 would violate international human rights norms to which Israel is a party. Furthermore, although the law proposal is framed as a temporary provision to be in force for one to two years, FIDH fears that these provisions, if enacted into law, may become liable to be incorporated into future legislation governing the investigation of security offences.

Indeed, the legislative proposal would allow the General Security Service to hold a non-resident suspected of committing security offenses in custody without seeing a lawyer for up to fifty days, in violation of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UN Human Rights Committee in its concluding observations on 21 August 2003 expressed its concerns with regard to the use of prolonged detention without any access to a lawyer and urged the Israeli authorities to ensure that « no one is held for more than 48 hours without access to a lawyer ». In addition, regarding the derogation from the provisions under Article 9 notified by Israel upon ratification and related to the state of emergency, the Committee was concerned about « the restrictions on access to counsel and to the disclose of full reasons of the detention. These features limit the effectiveness of judicial review, thus endangering the protection against torture and other inhuman treatment prohibited under article 7 and derogating from article 9 more extensively than what in the Committee’s view is permissible pursuant to article 4 ».

Further, the suspect could also be denied the right to be present at all but the first of the court hearings regarding the extensions of his detention for up to twenty days, and again at all but the first hearing regarding extensions of detention from the twenty-first to the fortieth days. Except for the judge attending these two hearings, a suspect would see no one other than his interrogators during forty days of interrogation.

The suspect’s presence in court at the hearings is an important guarantee against torture and abuse in conformity with Article 11 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishement ratified in Israel in October 1991 and which provides that « Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture ».

Finally, the proposed law would create a discrimination against non-residents, in violation of the provisions of article 5 (a) of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), under which States parties have an obligation to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice.

Sirs, FIDH urges the Israeli authorities to reconsider this law proposal as it allows prolonged incommunicado detention and to ensure that all amendements and legislations adopted by Israel conform with all provisions of the international human rights instruments ratified by Israel and in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). To avoid any further discrimination, FIDH recommends the observance of General comments 30 and 31 of the ICERD, respectively on non-citizens and on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and functionning of the criminal justice system (adopted on 16 August 2005).

Sincerely Yours,

Sidiki Kaba

President of the FIDH

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