Israel quizzed on torture at UN rights hearings

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The UN Human Rights Committee on Wednesday questioned Israel over whether torture had been used in interrogations of terrorist suspects.

"What are the measures put in place to guarantee that neither torture nor bad treatment are not utilised during interrogations ... to obtain confessions?" the experts asked.

In response, Israel's deputy attorney general Malkiel Blass reiterated answers already drawn up in a written document, saying that "all forms of torture are prohibited by law."

Blass however pointed to the concept of necessity defence, cited the example of an imminent bomb attack which one had no other way of averting.

"It is incumbent on the country to save the innocent," he said.

In its written reply, Israel elaborated that while the necessity defence could arise in instances of ticking bombs, it was not an authorization for the use of "physical means".

"Any future directives governing the use of (physical means) during interrogations had to be anchored in an authorization prescribed by law, and not in defences to criminal liability. To date, no such directives have been introduced," it added in its written reply.

It also pointed out that none of the investigations on complaints filed against interrogators over 2006 to 2009 had ended in criminal charges.

This meant that "no ill-treatment or torture took place during the interrogations," it argued.

However, it noted that "certain procedures and interrogation techniques were modified as a result of some of the examinations conducted."

Bana Shoughry-Badarne, spokeswoman of the Public Committee against Torture, said she was not satisfied with Israel's replies.

"Our hope is that the committee will demand that Israel reveals all cases of interrogations during which necessity defense was used and demand independent and impartial investigations in every single case," she said.

© 2010 AFP

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