U.N. expert on torture examines treatment of Palestinian detainees

By Thomson Reuters Mar 8, 2024 | 7:43 AM

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations expert on torture said on Friday she was investigating allegations of torture and mistreatment of Palestinian detainees in Israel, and was in talks to visit the country.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Dr Alice Jill Edwards said she had recently received allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians being detained in the Israeli-occupied West Bank or as a result of the conflict in Gaza, where Israel is fighting the ruling Palestinian Hamas movement.

“I’m looking into that as we speak and carrying out a fact-finding investigation,” said Edwards, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“I’m calling on … Hamas, the state of Palestine, Israel to put their torture tools down, to really have a focus on peace and a prospect of living side-by-side as neighbours in the future.”

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli diplomatic mission in Geneva.

The U.N. human rights office says it has received numerous reports of mass detention, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of Palestinians in northern Gaza by the Israeli military, and has recorded the arrests of thousands in the West Bank.

The Israeli military has said its operation in Gaza is designed to “dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities” and rescue hostages captured by Hamas in the attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 that triggered the conflict.

Edwards said she had also raised allegations of mass murders and mutilations of hostages and sexual violence against them with Palestinian authorities through the Palestinian Permanent Mission in Geneva.

She said she had, however, received “a disappointing reply” that “showed no empathy for those individuals who were subject to terrible atrocities on the 7th of October”.

The mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel says Palestinian militants killed around 1,200 Israelis and abducted 253 on Oct. 7. The health ministry in Gaza says Israel has killed almost 31,000 Palestinians in its retaliatory offensive.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Kevin Liffey)