Israel Supreme Court demands updates on conditions in Sde Teiman prison News
Israel Supreme Court demands updates on conditions in Sde Teiman prison

Israel’s Supreme Court issued an order on Sunday demanding the government provide an update on prison conditions in the Sde Teiman detention facility, where the government has been holding Palestinian detainees from the war in Gaza. The court gave the government until June 30 to provide its update. As the court was ruling on a case related to state authority and government decisions, it issued the order as the High Court of Justice.

The order was part of a challenge from a constellation of human rights organizations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights—Israel (PHRI), and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, seeking to shut down down the prison over allegations of human rights abuses. Sde Teiman is in the Israeli desert, near Be’er Sheva, and was the focus of a CNN investigation into the treatment of Palestinians detained during Israel’s war with Hamas.

Whistleblowers from the detention center spoke to CNN, describing scenes of torture and severe human rights abuses. The whistleblowers said the facility has two sections: one where Palestinian detainees from Gaza were put under physical restraint and one where wounded detainees were strapped to their beds, put in diapers, and fed through straws. They detailed physical punishment and acts of dehumanization, with one whistleblower who worked as a medic saying “They stripped them down of anything that resembles human beings.”

CNN’s report on Sde Teiman caused outrage, with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Alice Jill Edwards urging Israel to take the account seriously:

The Israeli authorities must investigate all complaints and reports of torture or ill-treatment promptly, impartially, effectively and transparently. Those responsible at all levels, including commanders, must be held accountable, while victims have a right to reparation and compensation.

Israeli authorities announced that they would investigate the reports of abuse. They later told the Supreme Court that they were transferring detainees out of Sde Teiman and phasing out the use of the prison.

International law protects the basic rights of detainees under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). Under Article 16 of the convention, states shall prevent in their territory any act of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Israel is a party to this convention.

This is not the first case that Physicians for Human Rights Israel has brought to the Supreme Court over the Israeli government’s actions. Earlier this year, they challenged a government plan to send a group of Palestinian patients to Gaza. The Supreme Court sided with the human rights group, ordering the government to halt its plan. At the time, PHRI Director Guy Shalev said, “Unless the Israeli public opens its eyes to what is being done in its name and insists on upholding clear boundaries, this moral stain will not fade away.”

Israel has been accused of several human rights abuses in its response to the October 7 attacks in which Hamas killed more than 1,200 people—mostly civilians—and took more than 200 hostages. Israeli strikes have hit places like medical facilities and refugee camps, and human rights groups have accused Israel of war crimes. The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent a “plausible” genocide in Gaza and also issued emergency provisional measures to address the escalating humanitarian crisis. Additionally, the ICC Prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister, as well as leaders of Hamas, following his first-ever visit to the region.