Introduction The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) entered into force on 22 June 2006, as the culmination of decades of negotiations over the establishment of a worldwide system of torture prevention based on regular visits to places of detention.
( A preventive system of this nature was foreseen in the discussions from the 1970s over the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) of 1984, which entered into force on 26 June 1987, and which was ratified by Israel on 3 October 1991.
) To date, as many as 64 states have signed and 50 states have ratified or acceded to the OPCAT.
( Information accurate as of 7 April 2010.
aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-9-b&chapter=4&lang=en) Torture and various forms of ill-treatment continue to be practiced against detainees held on security charges in Israeli detention facilities, the vast majority of whom are Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
( As of March 2010, 6631 Palestinians were imprisoned in Israeli prisons, of which 8 were detained under the Illegal Combatants Law (7 of whom are from Gaza) and 237 were administratively detained.
35 were women; 337 were child prisoners, including 39 under the age of 16; and 773 were from Gaza.
See Addameer, Quarterly Update on Palestinian Prisoners, April 2010, and B’Tselem, Statistics on Palestinians in the custody of the Israeli security forces, available at: http://www.
asp) However, in response to hundreds of complaints, no criminal investigation has been opened into suspected incidents of torture and ill-treatment by Israel Security Agency (ISA) interrogators and not a single indictment has been filed.
( This is a clear breach of Article 12 of the CAT, as well as Article 14, which the Committee Against Torture has interpreted to include guarantees of non-repetition.
See The Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations on Israel, CAT/C/ISR/CO/4, 23 June 2009, para.
21 & Urra Guridi v.
8, decision delivered 17 May 2005; available at: http://sim.
nsf/17c23356d66b13c8c125685e004a9525/aa7b55baee029312c125703400509deb?OpenDocument) In parallel, Israel currently lacks a system of regular, unannounced visits to ISA detention centers by qualified, independent professionals for the purposes of preventing torture and ill-treatment, or indeed any preventative mechanism.
The OPCAT aims to help states to enforce the absolute prohibition on torture, as enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which Israel ratified on 3 October 1991.
It has the potential to be a key tool for the elimination of torture and other forms of ill-treatment in detention centers in Israel.
By signing and ratifying the OPCAT, Israel would join the growing ranks of States Parties that have embraced this new approach and committed to a culture of greater openness, cooperation and dialogue in the fight against torture.
( The Committee Against Torture also encouraged Israel to ratify the OPCAT in its 2009 Concluding Observations on Israel.
The Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations on Israel, CAT/C/ISR/CO/4, 23 June 2009, para.