Call for evaluation of Horizon 2020 on the basis of LAW TRAIN project

Started in May 2015, the LAW TRAIN project of Horizon2020 is aimed at harmonizing and sharing interrogation techniques between the different countries involved, in order to face new challenges in transnational criminality.

The project is coordinated by the Israeli Bar Ilan University and includes the participation of the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, the Federal Public Service Justice in Belgium, the Ministry of Justice of Portugal, the Civil Guard of Spain.

In addition to these public institutions, some private actors, including the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) are involved. The project, which will run until 30th April 2018, has a 5.095.687,5 € budget, half of which will be transferred to the Israeli institutions involved in the project.

At the end of August 2016, the Ministry of Justice of Portugal announced its withdrawal from the project because of its controversial nature.

In its fifth periodic review on Israel published in June 2016, the UN Committee against Torture denounced Israel’s uses of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as the use of illegal practices during interrogations by the police and prison staff, in particular against Palestinians and migrants.

The participation and allocation of funds to the Israel Ministry of Public Security through the LAW TRAIN project is unacceptable for at least two reasons :

1) one of the participating entities, namely the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, is headquartered in Occupied East Jerusalem

2) this entity is in charge of the national police and prison services, both of which are responsible for serious human rights violations, including the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment

The prohibition of torture is a peremptory norm of international law, which creates an obligation for the EU not to facilitate violations of such norms and to actively cooperate to bring violations to an end.

In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court in effect opened the door to the application of torture. It stated that, in certain cases, interrogators could apply “moderate physical pressure” on detainees. Since torture is defined as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” according to the UN Convention against Torture., this implies that certain means of torture are allowable and that interrogators who resort to them will not be prosecuted. Shortly afterwards, the Attorney General issued guidelines clarifying the cases in which interrogators could use “physical pressure” without fear of prosecution.

Thus, by their own admission, the Israeli authorities resort to the use of torture.

It is therefore not surprising that European and Palestinian civil society organizations are raising their concerns about the illegality of financing a project in which the Israeli Ministry of Public Security is actively involved. Both by reason of that entity’s location in East Jerusalem and because of its involvement in activities that are prohibited by a peremptory norm of international law, this financing is contrary to the EU’s international obligation not to give aid or assistance to Israel’s violations of international law, including inter alia Israel’s use of illegal interrogation techniques, its settlement policy, the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination, the extensive destruction and appropriation of Palestinian property and the exploitation of Palestine’s natural resources for the exclusive benefit of Israeli nationals.

In that context and given the serious human rights violations which one of the project’s beneficiaries is associated with we are calling on MEPs to:

– take concrete actions through relevant committees (ITRE, INTA) and parliamentary questions to call for an evaluation of Horizon2020

– urge the European Commission immediately to stop funding the LAW TRAIN project.

LAW TRAIN is just one example explaining why Palestinian and European civil society have been campaigning for years for the exclusion of Israel from the EU research and development funding. Despite the 2013 guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities, numerous companies involved in Israel’s violations of Human Rights will be participants in the accepted projects. At the time we write, 205 projects with Israeli participation have been approved under the Horizon 2020 framework, a number of which involving Elbit System, the Israeli military technology provider. Under the EU’s previous funding cycle FP7 framework, technologies have been developed together with Israeli institutions that likely have been used by Israel in violation of international law and human rights against the Palestinian people3. It is the case for example of Elbit System that developed technologies later used by the Israeli army during the attack on Gaza in 2014.

Read the full recommendations for ITRE committee concerning the LAW TRAIN project.

Read the full recommendations for the ITRE Committee regarding the participation of entities of the Israeli military, police and homeland security sector in Horizon2020.