Five years after ratifying the UN Convention against Torture, Palestine still lag behind in its commitment to fighting torture. In this context, IRCT member Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) has consistently been calling on the State to take concrete measures to prevent torture and to provide survivors with the necessary support to rebuild their lives.
Palestine has taken several important steps in recent years to deepen its engagement with international human rights mechanisms. Since 2014, the government has acceded to 14 of the 18 United Nations human rights treaties, including the Convention against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol.
Despite this progress, the government has been slow to comply with the ensuing CAT obligations. As part of its UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) review, the government was required to submit its national report to outline the domestic anti-torture framework in May 2015. However, it took until June 2019 for the government to finally send it in, thanks to the concerted efforts of civil society organisations.
“The submission of the State report to the UNCAT review was a major milestone,” said Dr Khader Rasras, Executive Director of TRC. “It is the first time ever that the State can enter into a dialogue with international experts and local partners to find the best way to eradicate torture in our society.”
Over the past two years, TRC Palestine has consistently been advocating and providing technical support to the government to ensure to engagement with the UNCAT. For Palestinian anti-torture NGOs, the effective participation of the State in international human rights mechanisms is no trivial matter; it has practical effects on their daily work.
For example, Palestine still has no specific anti-torture legislation that defines and criminalises torture while providing redress for its victims. Furthermore, despite concerted efforts from civil society organisations, the government has consistently delayed its plans to establish a National Torture Prevention Mechanism (NPM).
Data collected by TRC shows that their clients face a wide range of physical and psychological problems as a consequence of their trauma. Many clients struggle to find work, to socialise or even to carry out basic day-to-day functions. “This is why we need a law to provide redress to survivors,” said Dr Rasras. “And, as an urgent priority, we need to establish an NPM so that we can effectively put an end to future cases of torture.”
“We appreciate the progress that has taken place over the past five years and understand that in the context of the occupation, it is not always easy. But signing treaties is not enough, we need the State to effectively engage with the treaty bodies in order to fully realise the rights enshrined in them.”
Following a month-long national campaign, TRC Palestine hosted a high-level anti-torture conference on 1 July 2019. The event discussed how the Palestine could better honour its international obligations and prevent torture nationally. It brought together over 100 participants from civil society organisations, international experts, law enforcement agencies, ambassadors as well as the Minister of Justice and a representative of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Using the innovative Anti-Torture Database, TRC Palestine has been systematically collecting, storing and analysing data on patterns of torture over the past three years. The findings have been used to advocate for the rights of survivors of torture in Palestine.