UN expert urges probe of torture of Palestinian prisoners

It is estimated that thousands of Palestinians, including children, had been detained since the Gaza war erupted on Oct. 7 [Getty/file photo]

A UN rights expert on Thursday called on Israeli authorities to investigate allegations of torture and abuse of detained Palestinians since the start of the Gaza war on October 7.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, said she had received allegations of abuse against Palestinians held in prisons run by the Israeli Prison Service and in Israeli military camps.

She pointed to estimates that thousands of Palestinians, including children, had been detained since the war erupted.

Edwards told AFP she had been carrying out a “thorough review for the past two months” based on multiple sources, but that her investigation was continuing.

In a statement, she described receiving allegations of cases where prisoners were beaten, held in cells blindfolded and handcuffed for long periods, deprived of sleep, and threatened with physical and sexual violence.

There were also reports suggesting that prisoners had been subjected to humiliating treatment, including being photographed and filmed in degrading poses, she said.

Edwards, who is an independent rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who does not speak on behalf of the United Nations, said did not have enough information to determine whether the alleged abuse might be systemic.

She said she had raised the issue with Israeli authorities, and had asked them to investigate and to allow “access to international human rights and humanitarian observers”, and to herself.

“It’s very important that there are independent inspections,” she said, expressing concern about an “emerging pattern of violations”.

She urged Israeli authorities to “investigate all complaints and reports of torture or ill-treatment promptly, impartially, effectively and transparently”.

Edwards also insisted that those responsible, at all levels, “must be held accountable”.

Edwards has previously issued statements demanding accountability for the multitude of alleged crimes committed during Hamas’ October 7 attack inside Israel which resulted in more than 1,170 people dying, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. Around 250 hostages were also taken, 124 of whom remain in Gaza.

Hamas says the attack came in response to Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian land and continued aggression against the Palestinian people, including the blockade of Gaza.

Israel’s brutal offensive has killed at least 35,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry. Thousands more are believed to be buried beneath the rubble.

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