DIGNITY Urges ICC Prosecutor to Address Torture and SGBV Committed by Israeli Officials

DIGNITY welcomes the International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, and Head of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) Yahya Sinwar, Commander-in-Chief of the military wing of Hamas Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri and Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh. This is not just an important step in combating impunity. This is a historic development towards ensuring justice for the thousands of victims and accountability for those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the situation in the State of Palestine.  

While this is a crucial step in the fight against impunity for atrocity crimes, we note that torture and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) are not among the charges against Israeli officials. Yet, several organisations have provided documentation to the ICC Prosecutor of the extensive evidence of torture and ill-treatment committed by the Israeli authorities, including prior to 7 October 2023. Such practices have been documented for decades against Palestinians across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Gaza, East-Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Recently UNRWA released a report highlighting the various forms of ill-treatment they have documented following their interview with more than 1500 released detainees in Gaza, many amounting to torture.

DIGNITY’s partner The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), have also documented torture and other forms of ill-treatment in Gaza. Based on interviews with 34 Palestinians recently released from Israeli custody, our joint analysis showed several instances of torture and SGBV during arrest, detention and interrogation. The torture and ill-treatment included prolonged blindfolding and handcuffing, repeated beatings, use of electric shocks, sleep deprivation, threats, being forced to watch family members being buried alive while crying and asking for help, and several instances of SGBV, notably forced nudity, threats of rape, and physical violence while naked. To see the full list of the main forms of ill-treatment identified, please see below this article.

DIGNITY urges the ICC Prosecutor to investigate all the allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including SGBV, as crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Israeli officials against all Palestinians across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, since 2014. We also call on the ICC Prosecutor to investigate such acts in the context of the allegations of genocide in light of the proceedings before the International Court of Justice.

We also urge all ICC member states to fully cooperate with the Court in good faith to help ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Finally, we call on states to publicly support the application for arrest warrants and to execute the arrest warrants, if issued.   

Summary of the main forms of ill-treatment identified

  • Men being compelled to undress and remain in their underwear while handcuffed and blindfolded;
  • Mothers being coerced into abandoning their young children, including a breastfeeding mother;
  • Being hit, kicked, or punched at the time of the arrest, including while naked;
  • Being forced into stress positions while naked;
  • Experiencing humiliation and insults;
  • Being forced to watch others being ill-treated, such as watching family members being buried alive while crying and asking for help;
  • Experiencing other forms of psychological violence, such as being subjected to a mock execution; being forced to dance while in underwear and being photographed;
  • Being exposed to dogs for intimidation.
  • Being provided limited or insufficient access to vital and basic necessities such as food, water, bathrooms, bedding, beds, and clothing;
  • Being held in overcrowded cells;
  • Being prohibited to communicate among detainees;
  • Restrictions on religious practice, including prohibition to pray.
  • Being left handcuffed and blindfolded for the entire duration of their detention;
  • Being repeatedly kicked and beaten with weapons and batons, including while naked;
  • Spending all day in stress positions, standing or kneeling without being able to move;
  • Being subjected to insults, humiliations, intimidations, threats (e.g. threats of death and torture), and sleep deprivation;
  • Being denied or provided limited medical assistance;
  • Being physically punished for requesting food, water, or medicine;
  • Being physically punished in case of complaints, failing to comply with orders, or attempts at movement, including beatings and stress positions, being hung by the hands and feet.
  • Using dogs on detainees, day and night, to intimidate, humiliate, and/or inflict physical pain;
  • Watching others being ill-treated/killed, such as watching the execution of a co-detainee during transfer and his body being thrown out of the truck and the death of two co-detainee due to the lack of medical assistance;
  • Experiencing other forms of psychological and physical violence, such as being put in a tent outside naked in the cold while being suffocated with gas; being pulled by the hair and dragged on the floor like dogs; being forced to undress by soldiers who then stepped on their bodies while laughing and speaking Hebrew; or having food tossed at them.
  • Interrogations while handcuffed and/or blindfolded, and in certain instances, completely naked;
  • One case of leg amputation caused by excessively tight leg cuffs;
  • Strip-searches before and after interrogation sessions;
  • Beatings;
  • Using electric shock;
  • Forced to remain in stress positions, including being hung by the hands for hours;
  • Being subjected to insults, humiliations, and threats (e.g. threats of death, torture, and the destruction of their homes);
  • Being subjected to loud music;
  • Exposure to cold: being left with other detainees with fans and air conditioning set to a cold temperature.
  • Blackmailing of detainees and threats to kill the detainees and their family members in case no information is provided.
  • Forced nudity in front of others, including family members and neighbours, without any distinction of gender and age;
  • Left for extended periods of time handcuffed, blindfolded and in their underwear;
  • Some reported being coerced into dancing while in their underwear and being photographed;
  • Being subjected to beatings and other forms of physical violence while naked, in some cases blindfolded and handcuffed;
  • Violence to the genitals;
  • Threats of rape;
  • Being exposed to cold while naked and wet.
  • Forced nudity in front of male and female soldiers;
  • Repeated strip-searches;
  • Being forced to remove hijab;
  • Touching of sensitive areas of their body, including private parts;
  • Being asked questions about virginity and marital status;
  • Having naked male detainees piled on a women, while being photographed and laughed at;
  • Being subjected to insults related to their gender/sex;
  • Reproductive violence/violence against women in a reproductive capacity (e.g., being forced to stop milk production or being denied access to sanitary pads or given limited supplies);
  • Being stepped on by soldiers while naked and being laughed at;
  • Threats of rape;