Regulating torture in a democracy: Death and indignity in Israel

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Since 1987, Israel has publicly confronted the issue of torture when a state commission of inquiry tried to formulate guidelines for "moderate physical pressure." Shrouded in secrecy, these regulations did not restrain torture but only led to increasingly degrading practices. In 1999, Israel's Supreme Court repudiated these same guidelines and reiterated the ban on torture. Judicial directives reduced the incidence of torture but allowed interrogators to plead dire necessity and defend themselves if indicted. Responding to calls from the security establishment to regulate torture by statute, the Israeli Parliament then drafted what must be the only torture law proposed by a democratic nation. While the law remains suspended in committee, reports of torture and ill treatment are again increasing following renewed Mideast violence in October 2000. Regulation remains unresolved, while the use of torture, unequivocally banned by international law, threatens Israel's international standing and democratic fabric. Terror, however, forces a hard choice between human life and dignity that may lead democratic nations to consider torture under certain circumstances. Statutes regulating ill-treatment, however, must place torture squarely in the center of public discourse and provide for a public and multidisciplinary supervising committee.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-388
Number of pages22
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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