OverviewNGOs behind cat (4)

This week (beginning May 2), Israel is being reviewed by the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) as part of its periodic review of country compliance with the International Convention Against Torture. Five other signatories to the convention – France, Turkey, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines – are also under review during this CAT session.

NGOs (non-governmental organizations) wield significant clout at the CAT. These groups submit reports on the compliance of states to the treaty, and conduct private briefings with the Committee to discuss countries’ practices. Accredited organizations may also attend the country sessions as observers and submit additional materials to the committee regarding follow-up of committee recommendations. In turn, the official UN webpage for CAT features links to the sites of several powerful NGOs, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and FIDH (France), giving these groups free advertising and credibility not offered to others.

Ahead of this session, Israel has once again become the focus of undue and disproportionate attention from a number of NGOs that have invented new standards of torture to further their political goal of demonizing and marginalizing Israel. Many of the NGOs that submit information regarding Israel are involved in anti-Israel demonization and BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) campaigns. Moreover, the sheer number of NGO submissions regarding Israel (13) is greater than those submitted on such serial human rights offenders as Saudi Arabia (7), Turkey (6), Tunisia (7)and the Philippines (8), highlighting a disproportionate focus on Israel. (NGO Monitor provided its own submission, highlighting the abuse of the CAT process and offering recommendations to improve it.)

In addition, some of the groups that submitted materials to the CAT have been linked to terrorism. Shawan Jabarin is the director of Al-Haq and a member of the board of directors of Defense for Children International- Palestine Section. He has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan on account of his alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror organization. Similarly, Addameer Chairperson Abdullatif Ghaith was banned by Israel from travelling internationally because of his alleged membership in the PFLP.

European Funding for Submitting NGOs

Many of the NGOs that submitted statements on Israel are funded by the European Union, EU member states and other European countries.

For instance, Adalah, Al Mezan and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel received a grant of €717,994 from the EU (2013-2016) for the purpose of “Combating Impunity: Torture and CIDT Prevention, Accountability and Rehabilitation in Israel/ oPt.”

Similarly, a number of European funded Palestinian NGOs- Addameer, Al-Mezan, Al-Haq, Badil, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre, Palestinian Prisoners’ Club- presented a joint report to the CAT. Partners to this submission have received funding from Germany, Ireland, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, alongside donations from UN agencies, and church organizations.

Additionally, the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center’s submission was funded by a number of European countries and bodies and UN agencies, including the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), UN Women and the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (IHL Secretariat)- a joint funding mechanism of Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. The IHL Secretariat is a consistent funder of anti-Israel organizations that lead demonization and BDS campaigns.

Summary of NGO Monitor’s Findings

Some of the materials submitted to the CAT seek to expand the definition of torture by interpreting the treaty to include acts and policies that are not governed by it. This is frequently done through the use of Article 16 of the convention, which prohibits “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture.” This phenomenon is exemplified by an NGO complaint against Turkey which condemned the noise emitted by Turkish weapons and armored vehicles as “a form of psychological torture.”

Additionally, while not explicitly claiming violations of the convention, some submissions address issues that are entirely divorced from the purpose of the convention. For example, a Filipino NGO submitted two reports that dealt entirely with the lack of access to information on family planning, contraceptives and abortions.

This phenomenon of expansion is taken to an extreme when it comes to Israel. A number of NGOs who submitted report to the CAT characterize Israel’s housing policy, the closure of Israel’s border crossings with Gaza, settlement policy, and many other acts as “torture” and a violation of the Convention.

NGOs that submitted statements on Israel

  1. Amnesty International (click here for full background and funding information)
    • Involved in anti-Israel deligitimization and lawfare campaigns.
    • Funding: Although AI claims that it does not “accept any funds for human rights research from governments or political parties from governments or political parties,” it has received governmental funding, including from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission, the Netherlands, the United States, and Norway.
  2. Defense for Children International- Palestine Section (DCI-PS)
  3. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I)
    • Involved in lawfare campaigns.
    • Funding: 2012 budget of NIS 9,555,000 (accessed August 18, 2015)
    • Donors include the EU, European governments, UN agencies and other NGOs.
    • In 2008-2014, the New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $1,275,815 to PHR-1 (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
  4. Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
    • Involved in lawfare campaigns.
    • Funding: 2013 budget of NIS 2,847,397 (latest available; accessed August 3, 2015).
    • Donors include the EU, European governments, UN agencies, church organizations and others.
    • In 2008-2014, the New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $153,767 to PCATI (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
  5. Yesh Din
  6. Adalah
    • Involved in delegitimization and lawfare campaigns.
    • Funding: 2013 budget of NIS 5,257,223
    • Donors include the EU, European governments, UN agencies, church organizations and other NGOs.
    • In 2008-2014, the New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $1,874,656 to Adalah (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
  7. Al-Mezan
  8. Addameer
    • Involved in BDS and lawfare campaigns.
    • Funding: Does not publish financial information or donation amounts, reflecting a complete lack of transparency and accountability.
    • According to its most recently published annual report (2010), the group is funded by European governments, UN agencies, church organizations and others.
  9. Al-Haq
    • Involved in BDS and lawfare campaigns.
    • Funding: Al Haq has not released financial details or donation amounts since 2009. According to information released by donors, it received a grant of 1,000,000 NOK ($110,000) from Norway in 2014, a grant of $710,000 from the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat for 2014-2016, and EUR 80,000 from Ireland in 2013.
    • According to its website, “2014’s Partners” include European governments, UN agencies, church organizations and others NGOs.
  10. Badil
  11. Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre
  12. HaMoked
    • Involved in lawfare campaigns.
    • Funding: 2013 budget of NIS 10,376,767 (accessed August 21, 2014).
    • In 2008-2014, the New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $720,301 to HaMoked (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
    • According to its website, donors include European governments, UN agencies, church organizations and other NGOs.
  13. French-Palestine Solidarity Association
    • Involved in BDS campaigns.
  14. French Platform of NGOs for Palestine
    • Involved in BDS campaigns.
  15. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCTV)
  16. Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel
  17. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
  18. Hotline for Refugees and Migrants
  19. Palestinian Prisoners Club
  20. Action of Christians Against Torture
  21. French Human Rights League
  22. Yes Theatre
  23. The Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture

Excerpts from NGO statements on Israel Expanding the definition of torture

Gaza Policy

  • “Israel’s continued closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip is enforced by, inter alia, use of live-fire, arbitrary arrests as well as practices of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Gaza’s buffer zone, also called the “access restricted areas.” (Addameer, Al Mezan, Al Haq, Badil, JLAC and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club – citing Article 10)
  • “Collective Punishment and Closure of the Gaza Strip: These tightened restrictions form part of the on-going punitive measures imposed on the civilian population of Gaza in the context of the closure/blockade, in clear violation of the prohibition on collective penalties under IHL.” (Addameer, Al Mezan, Al Haq, Badil, JLAC and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club- citing Article 16)
  • (listed under other issues) “Since the early 2000s, Israel has been striving to isolate the Gaza Strip and sever it from the West Bank. Israel had formulated numerous procedures which variously regulate – and restrict – passage between these two areas, which form a single integral entity.” (HaMoked)


  • (Article 16) “For decades, Israel has engaged in a policy of consolidating its territorial, administrative and legal control over the OPT by setting up checkpoints, roadblocks and the Annexation Wall, in order to nurture and expand its settlement enterprise.” (Addameer, Al Mezan, Al Haq, Badil, JLAC and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club)

Return of bodies of terrorists

  • (Article 16) “The practice of retaining the bodies of Palestinians killed violates Israel’s obligations under international law. First, Israel’s practice of retaining bodies may amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” (Addameer, Al Mezan, Al Haq, Badil, JLAC and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club)

Settlements and settlers

  • (Article 16) “The increasing rate of confiscations, seizures and appropriations of land for settlements, bypass roads, the fence/wall and related infrastructure have resulted in the forced eviction of thousands of Palestinians.” (Amnesty)
  • (Articles 12, 13) “Incidents of settler violence against Palestinians have escalated in the OPT, sometimes in the presence of Israeli soldiers. Settlers enjoy impunity granted by the Israeli government which continues to deprive Palestinians of their right to self-determination, including the principle of sovereignty over land and natural resources.“ (Addameer, Al Mezan, Al Haq, Badil, JLAC and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club)

Home demolitions and housing policy

  • (Article 16) “Causing severe suffering and harm to individuals, including children, punitive home demolitions amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. As such, punitive home demolitions are prohibited by Article 16 of the Convention against Torture.The practice of punitive house demolitions constitutes cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and punishment.” (Addameer, Al Mezan, Al Haq, Badil, JLAC and Palestinian Prisoners’ Club)
  • (Article 16) “Punitive demolition of homes: In June 2014, Israel revived the practice of punitive home demolition, and has since been employing it widely in the West Bank, including annexed East Jerusalem.” (HaMoked)
  • (Article 16) “In Area C of the West Bank, planning and zoning remain under full Israeli control. The Israeli authorities have denied Palestinians meaningful participation in planning processes for decades, and have made it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits to build legally. Israel’s Civil Administration, a military body, has enforced sanctions against construction without permits in the West Bank in a discriminatory manner, demolishing thousands of Palestinian homes and other structures, while only enforcing demolition orders against a fraction of the structures without permits in Israeli settlements.” (Amnesty)

Visitation Rights

  • “Notably, the Committee has previously concluded that family visits to detainees once a month for only 30 minutes amounted to torture.” (Adalah, Al-Mezan, PHR-I)
  • “As stated in previous reports to this Committee, it should first be noted that in the case of Israel, preventing a detainee from access to counsel or family visits is clearly used as a means to exercise pressure for purposes of the interrogation. It is also a standard and systematic practice during the interrogation. In practice, this translates to the detainee being held in complete isolation from the outside world, without family visits or interactions with other prisoners.” (PCATI)
  • (Article 2) Relatives must apply to the military for an Israeli entry permit in order to visit their loved one in prison… A response to a permit application may take up to ten weeks – and in practice, sometimes much longer, and occasionally an administrative petition is needed in order to elicit a response.
  • Single-entry permits (valid for just 45 days) are not given only to people to whom the ISA ascribes – an undisclosed – “security concern” (as presented in IPR, Par. 94). Such short term permits are also given on a categorical basis to any inmate’s son or brother between ages of 16 and 35. This constitutes a mitigation of the previous harsher policy (over which petition HCJ 4048/13 was filed), whereby such sons could only visit their incarcerated parent twice a year, and brothers their sibling only once a year.
  • Between June 15 and July 13, 2014, Israel halted all family visits to prisoners from the OPT who were held in Israel, as part of the sanctions imposed on the Palestinian population in the West Bank following the abduction of three Israeli youths. (HaMoked)

Double standards- NGO reporting on other countries

As seen above, a significant portion of the NGO reporting on Israel falls outside the scope of the Convention and appears to be included in order to manufacture additional violations by Israel. In contrast, submissions  regarding Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and the Philippines focused on topics clearly covered by the Treaty: violations relating to imprisonment and detention such as abuse and beating of prisoners and criminal suspects at the hands of security services.

This double standard is exemplified by comparing Amnesty’s Israel submission with its document on Tunisia that details rampant sexual abuse of prisoners and suspects, and its Philippines report that discusses beatings of suspects at the hands of law enforcement bodies. No Amnesty submissions appear on the CAT website for Saudi Arabia and Turkey, despite the widespread use of torture in these countries.