Freedom from Torture’s statement on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Freedom from Torture is horrified at the atrocities in Gaza and Israel including mounting reports of torture by all parties since the latest hostilities commenced on 7 October.

We stand in solidarity with all people grieving for loved ones, with survivors of this appalling violence, and all those affected here in the UK and around the world.

We are appalled that one month on, hostages remain in captivity and that evidence of war crimes, including collective punishment, continues to grow.

For more than 35 years, Freedom from Torture has borne witness to the physical and mental scars of torture and helped many thousands of survivors to rebuild their lives.

We recognise and deplore the long-standing systematic use of torture by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

There is no justification for torture. Not in retaliation, not in war, not in any circumstances. Torture destroys lives and it is never, ever permitted. There are no exceptions. Those who torture must be held accountable for their actions – always. All States have a responsibility to prevent torture, whether committed under their own authority or by others.

It is imperative that when responding to these hostilities and the wider context of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the UK government upholds the rules-based international system. The principle of universality of human rights is the foundation for all human rights, including the right to be free from torture, on which all of our work as an anti-torture organisation is based.

The UK government must immediately and publicly condemn violations and abuses on all sides. We call on the UK government to bring its influence to bear to ensure all parties to the conflict comply with international humanitarian and human rights laws, including the absolute prohibition of torture in all circumstances.

Furthermore, the UK government should refrain from any actions or statements that could risk being interpreted as a green light for international crimes including torture. As it has done for other conflicts, the UK should work with the international community to ensure that perpetrators of serious international crimes, including torture, are brought to justice in line with international standards.

Many survivors of torture with whom we work are only alive today because armed conflicts in which they were caught up were brought to a halt. The UK government should work to ensure the commitment by all sides to an effective, unconditional and immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages. In an effort to avert the ever deepening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, the government must further ensure there is safe and sustained humanitarian access for all necessary medical staff and supplies.

Finally, we know from our decades of therapeutic work with survivors of torture from conflicts across the world that a durable political solution must address the complex collective inter-generational traumas across communities. We urge the UK and the wider global community to take account of this in the important peace-building work to come.