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UN expert paints mixed picture of new Israeli leg.

UN rights expert paints mixed picture of new Israeli legislation

Commenting on law recently adopted by the Israeli Knesset, an independent United Nations human rights expert today welcomed amendments which have met some criticisms but said that other provisions, particularly concerning access to legal counsel for detained persons, still must be brought in line with international law.

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, issued a statement in Geneva saying he was “pleased to note that many of the criticisms voiced by different stakeholders including civil society have been addressed in the draft that was finally adopted.”

He cited in particular amendments to provisions relating to the discriminatory scope of application solely to non-residents of Israel, and those relating to the period of practical incommunicado detention. “I view this as a positive example of responsiveness to international concern.”

At the same time, he said certain concerns remain about Law 5765, which was adopted on 27 June. “The law still does not provide all the necessary procedural safeguards for individuals detained for security reasons,” he said, noting that those people can be held for up to 96 hours before being brought before a judge and may not be present in court when a decision on the extension of the detention is made during the period when he is barred from contact with a legal counsel.

“In addition, while the provisions on access to legal counsel have not been worsened by this new law, the 21 days of detention without access to legal counsel authorized by the detention law currently in force remain incompatible with international human rights law,” observed the expert, who is unpaid and works in his personal capacity.

Pointing out that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires access to legal counsel immediately after arrest, Mr. Scheinin called on the Israeli Government “to ensure that this provision is fully respected in law and practice.”

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