According to a statement released Thursday by the Public Committee against Torture in Israel:
A new human rights concern has been added to the already long list of appalling violations that the war in Gaza has brought, including massive civilian death and suffering, the vast majority of which have occurred in the Gaza Strip. The human rights community in Israel, the OPT and internationally has for decades documented, and expressed deep concern over Israel's violation of the absolute right of any person to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This right is enshrined in both international humanitarian law and in international human rights law. Israel is a party to the relevant treaties in both bodies of law, all of which prohibit torture and other ill-treatment in all circumstances without exception, including in the course of armed conflict.
Responding to reports that dozens of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been detained by Israeli forces during its current attacks on Gaza, that some of them have been transferred to Israel for interrogation, and that Israel has dedicated an army camp as a place of detention for "unlawful combatants", we reiterate our concern for the fundamental human rights of those detainees.
The detention facility was established by an order issued by
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on 1 January, pursuant to Israels's 2002 Unlawful Combatant Law, the legality of which was upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court in June of 2008.
The practice of transfering Gazans to Israel for interrogation may be tantamount to unlawful hostage taking.
Israel and the United States are the only two countries to recognize "unlawful combatant" as a legal category. The International Committee of the Red Cross and almost all other states reject it. The effect of this designation is to place detainees beyond the protection of international humanitarian law, as well as the ordinary protections of human rights law and criminal law.
The Israeli formulation is not as pernicious as the US version, such as pertains to the Guantanamo detainees. In Israel is at least nominal supervision of those detained by Israeli (they must be brought before a judge within 14 days) and they have right to a lawyer after 21 days. However, the detentions can effectively go on indefinitely, just as in respect of US "war on terror" detainees.
While not as calamitous in humanitarian terms as the massive killing resulting from military combat operations, many of which arise from acts constituting war crimes, it is important that these detention abuses do not slip under the radar. The detainees are highly vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment and other abuses.