Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Palestine

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1997
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Palestine, 30 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa191c.html [accessed 13 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
(including areas subject to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority)

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1997

 

Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem during the 1967 War. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are now administered to varying extents by Israel and the Palestinian Authority(PA). Pursuant to the May 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement, Israel transferred most responsibilities for civil government in the Gaza Strip and Jericho to the PA. The Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities of August 1994, and the Interim Agreement provided for the further transfer of civil authority to the Palestinians, including education, culture, health, tourism, taxation, social welfare, statistics, local government, insurance, commerce, industry, fuel, gas, agriculture, and labor. Israel continues to retain responsibility in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for external security, foreign relations, the overall security of Israelis, including public order in the Israeli settlements, and certain other matters. Negotiations on the final status of the occupied territories as well as of Jerusalem, borders, Israeli settlements, refugees, and other matters began in May but were immediately adjourned and did not resume by year's end. Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on January 15, 1997 to resume these talks within 60 days. According to the timetable set out in the DOP, the interim period is to conclude in May 1999.

In addition to most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, which was turned over to the Palestinians in May 1994, Israel began redeploying its forces in the West Bank and turning over major towns and villages to the PA in late 1995. Pursuant to the Interim Agreement and the "Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron," concluded on January 15, 1997, Israel redeployed its forces in Hebron. Israel continues to control some civil functions and is responsible for all security in portions of the occupied territories categorized as Zone C, which includes the Israeli settlements. The PA has jurisdiction over civil affairs and shares security responsibilities with Israel in areas known as Zone B, and the PA has control over civil affairs and security in Zone A. The PA also has jurisdiction over some civil affairs in Zone C. Accordingly, this report discusses the policies and practices of both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority in the areas where they exercise jurisdiction and control.

Israel continues to exercise civil authority in some areas of the West Bank through the Israeli Ministry of Defense's Office of Coordination and Liaison, known by Hebrew acronym MATAK, which replaced the now defunct Civil Administration (CIVAD). The approximately 150,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are subject to Israeli law and are better treated by Israeli forces than are Palestinians. The body of law governing Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled portions of the territories derives from Ottoman, British Mandate, Jordanian, and Egyptian law and Israeli military orders. In Palestinian-controlled areas, regulations promulgated by the PA are also in force. The United States considers Israel's authority in the occupied territories to be subject to the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the 1949 Geneva Convention relating to the protection of civilians in time of war. The Israeli Government considers the Hague Regulations applicable and states that it observes the Geneva Convention's humanitarian provisions.

In January the Palestinian Authority chose its first popularly elected government in democratic elections, which were generally well-conducted. An 88-member Legislative Council and Ra'ees (president or chairman) of the executive authority were elected. The PA also has an appointed cabinet of 20 ministers who oversee 19 ministries. PA Chairman Yasir Arafat continues to dominate the affairs of government and to make major decisions. Most senior government positions and positions of authority in the PA are held by individuals who are members of, or loyal to, Arafat's Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The elected 88-person Legislative Council meets frequently and discusses a range of issues significant to the Palestinian people and the development of an open, democratic society in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Pursuant to a series of agreements between the PA and Israel, the PA now also has full or partial control over major Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Israeli security forces in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip consist of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); the General Security Service (GSS or Shin Bet); the police; and the paramilitary border police. Israeli military courts try Palestinians accused of committing security crimes in Israeli-controlled areas. Members of the Israeli security forces committed human rights abuses.

The Palestinian Police Force (PPF) was established in May 1994 and includes the Palestinian National Security Force (PNSF); the Palestinian civil police; the Preventive Security Force (PSF); General Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat; the civil defense force; and the Palestinian Presidential Security Force. Several other quasi-military security organizations, such as the coast guard and military intelligence, also exercise law enforcement powers. Palestinian police are responsible for security and law enforcement for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are not subject to Palestinian security force jurisdiction. Members of the PA security forces committed human rights abuses.

The economies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are small, poorly developed, and highly dependent on Israel. The economic situation deteriorated significantly during the year as a result of closures of the territories imposed by Israel after security incidents, including several serious terrorist bombings. Both areas rely on agriculture, services, and to a lesser extent, light manufacturing. Many West Bank and Gaza workers are employed at day jobs in Israel and Jerusalem, making their employment vulnerable to disruption due to closures. The West Bank and Gaza economies were significantly damaged by a closure first imposed by Israel in 1993. In the wake of terrorist bombings in Israel in February and March and violent clashes between Israeli and Palestinian forces in September, Israel temporarily tightened the existing closure, sealing off the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israel, prohibiting most travel between towns and villages within the West Bank (the "internal closure"), denying Palestinian workers access to jobs in Israel, and hampering the flow of goods and people between Israel and the occupied territories. The "internal closure" was lifted in each case after about 2 weeks. The general closures of Gaza and the West Bank followed a pattern of being eased but then reimposed in the wake of new security threats. Partly as a result of the closures, the per capita Gross National Product of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dropped by approximately 39 percent between 1992 and 1996 (from $2,425 to $1,480.) By year's end, however, the closure had eased in important ways.

There were some improvements in the human rights situation in the territories. However, both Israel and the PA were responsible for serious human rights abuses.

Two Islamic groups, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), made a concerted effort this year to undermine the authority of the PA and restrict the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by killing Israeli civilians in a series of deadly suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ashkelon. The most serious attacks occurred in late February and early March. On February 25, two Palestinian suicide bombers struck in Jerusalem and at a road junction near the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. The Jerusalem explosion killed 25 persons, including three U.S. citizens. In Ashkelon one person was killed and 36 injured. On March 3, another suicide bomber killed 19 persons, including Palestinian and Romanian workers, and wounded 7 in Jerusalem. The following day a fourth bomber killed 14 persons--including 6 children--and injured more than 100 others at an intersection in central Tel Aviv.

In the aftermath of those terrorist bombings, Israeli authorities arrested approximately 1,000 Palestinians suspected of affiliation with extremist Islamic and secular opposition groups. Israeli authorities in some cases mistreated prisoners to obtain information on further terrorist attacks. Following the bombings, Israeli authorities demolished the homes of eight Palestinians implicated in terrorist attacks, compared with one demolition in 1995. Israel also tightened its existing closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, sealing off the territories from Israel and imposing an "internal closure." There was one credible report that an Israeli undercover unit killed a Palestinian, compared with 10 such deaths in 1995. There were also credible reports that Israeli authorities continue to abuse and torture Palestinian detainees and prisoners. At least two Palestinians died in Israeli prisons, after possibly being tortured by other Palestinians in custody for cooperating with the Israelis. Prison conditions are poor.

In its intensive efforts to counter and prevent terrorism, the Palestinian Authority used excessive force on occasion in its searches of homes, and ordered two opposition newspapers closed. In the wake of terrorist bombings, PA authorities arrested approximately 1,000 Palestinians suspected of affiliation with extremist Islamic and secular opposition groups and held all but one without charge. There were credible reports that PA authorities mistreated prisoners to obtain information on further terrorist attacks. The PA also continued to harass, detain, and abuse journalists and political activists who criticized the PA. Although the PA claims to tolerate expression of a range of views, human rights watchers say that Palestinian commentators and critics practice self-censorship out of fear that they would be harassed or punished by the PA if they criticized it. The PA strongly discourages dissenting views. There were also credible reports that the PA continues to abuse and torture detainees. Four Palestinians died in PA custody, two after having been tortured, one shot and killed by a prison guard, and one apparently have committed suicide. Prison conditions are very poor.

In September Israel's opening of a controversial tunnel near Muslim and Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and calls by the PA for mass demonstrations to protest the move sparked several days of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian security officers and civilians. Fifty-eight Palestinians (including 11 Palestinian security officers) and 16 IDF soldiers and border police officers died in the fighting. Israeli and Palestinian security forces used excessive force during the clashes. During clashes in Ramallah and Rafah, Israeli forces shot at demonstrators from a helicopter gunship and from elevated sniper positions; Israeli forces also shot persons who were trying to evacuate wounded Palestinians. Palestinian security forces in Gaza prevented the timely evacuation of wounded Israeli journalists.

Terrorist attacks against Israelis continued after the series of deadly bombings in February and March. In April two gasoline firebombs were hurled at an Israeli commuter bus at Beit Omar, a village near Hebron, injuring 5 people. Two Palestinians with alleged Hamas sympathies shot and killed an Israeli with American citizenship and wounded another Israeli at a settlement at Beit El in May. In November Islamic militant Mohammud Assaf, who was reportedly preparing to launch a suicide attack against Israel, was killed in the West Bank town of Qabatya, when a bomb exploded prematurely in his hands. Palestinians believed to be affiliated with extremist Islamic and secular opposition groups killed two Israelis and wounded three in attacks in the West Bank.

Israeli settlers continued to harass and threaten Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and they killed three Palestinians in 1996, whereas settlers killed four Palestinians in 1995.

The number of Palestinians killed by other Palestinians for collaborating with Israel decreased again in 1996.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were credible reports that Israeli undercover units, disguised as Palestinians, operated in Palestinian areas during 1996. In June an alleged undercover unit shot and killed a 28-year old Palestinian man outside his home in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of Jerusalem. In October three Palestinians were shot and wounded by a probable undercover unit in an incident outside of Bethlehem. In 1995 there were 10 deaths attributed to undercover units.

According to human rights organizations, undercover units have deliberately killed suspects under circumstances in which they might have been apprehended alive. Such operations normally have taken place at night when there are few eyewitnesses. Accounts of witnesses, when available, often differ from the IDF version.

Israeli authorities acknowledge that the undercover units conduct operations among Palestinians wanted for investigation, but claim that such units observe the same rules of engagement as other IDF units. They further claim that the IDF investigates all killings and allegations of misbehavior. However, human rights groups state that the investigations are not conducted efficiently and rarely lead to serious punishment. The IDF does not announce the findings of its investigations.

The IDF killed four Palestinians at military checkpoints and roadblocks at Israeli borders and inside the occupied territories in 1996. In these cases, the IDF said that the individuals were shot after they failed to obey soldiers' orders to halt.

In January armed Palestinians in a car fired on three Israeli soldiers a West Bank checkpoint near Jenin. The soldiers returned fire, killing three armed Palestinians. Palestinian witnesses largely agreed with the IDF's official account of the shooting.

In February following a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem, Israeli security forces and civilians shot and killed a Palestinian-American after he drove a rented car into a crowded bus stop in Jerusalem, killing 1 Israeli and injuring 22 others. Israeli authorities investigated the incident and determined that the man, who had a history of mental problems, acted deliberately.

In November Israeli soldiers shot amd killed a Palestinian and wounded 11 others when a protest against expansion of a West Bank settlement near Ramallah turned violent. An Israeli army spokesperson said that the protesters hurled stones at the soldiers who at first tried to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets and gunshots into the air, but later shot into the crowd when they believed that their lives were in danger. Eyewitnesses dispute that Israeli soldiers lives were in danger. Also in November, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 18-year-old Iyad Mahmoud Badran, a passenger in a vehicle that the soldiers ordered to stop. The vehicle stopped, but when it moved into reverse, the soldiers fired.

A fine of less than $0.01 (one agora) fine was passed down by a military court in November on four soldiers who confessed to having killed a Palestinian in 1993.

In January Hamas operational leader Yahya Ayyash was killed in the Gaza Strip, when a remote-controlled booby-trapped cellular telephone blew up as he was using it. Ayyash was considered the mastermind of several suicide bombings that killed and wounded dozens of Israelis in 1994 and 1995.

At least two Palestinians died in an Israeli prison after being tortured, possibly by other Palestinians. 'Abdel-Rahman 'Omar Saleem Al-Kilani, an alleged Hamas member and suspected collaborator, died while in administrative detention in Israel's Megiddo military detention center on February 1. Human rights monitors and autopsy findings suggest that several Palestinian prisoners tortured him and that he died from the resulting shock. It is unclear why he was tortured. 'Adel 'Ayed Yousef Al-Shahateet, an administrative detainee, died at Megiddo military detention center in Israel on February 15 after being tortured. There are conflicting accounts as to whether Israeli prison officials or Palestinians tortured him.

The Palestinian Authority security forces, which lack equipment and training in crowd control, used excessive force to break up demonstrations in a number of instances. In September Palestinian police in Nablus shot and killed one Palestinian and injured two while trying to stop fans from rioting during a soccer match. Palestinian police in Nablus killed one Palestinian when trying to break up a demonstration in August. In March PA police injured six persons while breaking up a demonstration in Nablus.

In 1996 four Palestinians died in PA custody, two after being tortured, one after he apparently committed suicide. A fourth was shot and killed. The PA disciplined the officers involved in three of the four deaths.

In the first case, Mahmoud Jmaiel, a 26-year-old resident of Nablus, died while in the custody of the Palestinian coast guard in Nablus in July. An autopsy revealed that Jmaiel, who was brain dead for a day before dying, had been severely tortured. The autopsy and photographs of the body revealed burns from cigarettes and a hot iron device, deep bruises, a fractured skull, and extensive bleeding in the brain. Hundreds of demonstrators marched on police headquarters in Nablus and denounced the officers who tortured Jmaiel. The city was paralyzed by a general strike, the first time this protest tactic was used against the PA. Three coast guard officials found responsible for Jmaiel's death were tried and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment by the Palestinian security court within days of the death. The Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners alleges that the three coast guard officers did not have adequate legal representation or time to prepare their case.

In a second case, there were reports that a Palestinian prisoner was killed in detention in Al-Bireh during interrogation on March 31. A PA military court in Jericho found two security officers, one a military intelligence officer and the other from the Preventive Security Service, guilty of "causing his death" and of "improper use of a weapon" in the incident.

In the third case, an elderly Palestinian man apparently hanged himself in PA custody in Ramallah after being arrested for beating to death a woman in a land dispute. The man's family initially accused the PA of torturing him. However, the PA maintained that the death had been a suicide; therefore, no disciplinary measures were taken.

In the final case, in December prison guard Assam Jalaiteh shot and killed a prisoner in Jericho. The prisoner, Rashid Fityani, was arrested in January 1995 with his brother-in-law, Salman Jalayta, on suspicion of killing a member of Hamas and cooperating with Israel. Jalayta died after 2 days in custody, apparently as a result of torture. No disciplinary action was taken against guards in that death. The prison guard who shot and killed Fityani, however, was convicted of using excessive force and sentenced to life imprisonment within days of the shooting.

Five members of the Palestinian security forces who allegedly killed suspected Palestinian collaborator Muhammad Al-Jundi in Gaza in 1995 have not yet been tried for the killing, according to the PA.

In September clashes between Israeli security forces and PA security forces and Palestinian civilians resulted in numerous deaths (see Section 1.g.).

Palestinians suspected of being members of organizations opposed to the peace process also killed six Israelis and wounded eight in attacks in the West Bank. On December 11, militants reportedly belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ambushed a car with a family of seven Israelis at a crossroad outside the village of Surda. They killed a 12-year-old Israeli boy, Ephraim Tsur, and his mother, Etta Tsur, and wounded the five other persons in the vehicle. One week later, the PA State Security Court convicted three men for these killings. The Court sentenced two of the men--Abdel Nasser Qaisi and Ibrahim Qam--to life imprisonment at hard labor. The third, Ibrahim Mussad, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for driving the getaway car. Two women were injured in a drive-by shooting near Bethlehem in August. A Palestinian with alleged Hamas sympathies stabbed and killed an Israeli soldier in Janin in January. Two Palestinians with alleged Hamas sympathies shot and killed an Israeli with American citizenship and wounded another Israeli at a settlement at Beit El in May. The Palestinian Authority arrested and is holding one of the killers, who has confessed to the killing at Beit El. Palestinian gunmen shot and killed two Israeli soldiers in January near the village of Halhoul, north of Hebron.

Israeli settlers continued to harass and attack Palestinians. In October a 10-year-old Palestinian boy died after being beaten by a settler near Bethlehem. The settler was indicted for manslaughter. In February a settler shot and wounded a Palestinian teenager. In August a settler from Jerusalem stabbed a Palestinian near Jerusalem. In December Ibrihim Abdullah Hamdan Abu Nasir was killed by a Israeli settler in Gaza in December; charges are pending.

Israel punished several settlers who attacked Arabs. One settler was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Palestinian in 1994. Rabbi Moshe Levinger served less than 5 months of a 7-month jail sentence for attacking Arabs in 1992. In February Israeli authorities arrested a Tapuah settler for allegedly shooting three Palestinians in 1995 and 1996.

Palestinian civilians killed an estimated 8 Palestinians during the year, for suspicion of collaboration with Israeli security services. In 1995, 14 Palestinians were killed for the same reason. Approximately six Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel were killed in the West Bank. Human rights organizations charge that at least two Palestinians suspected of collaboration were killed in jail by fellow Palestinian prisoners.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances attributed to either Israeli or Palestinian security services.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

International, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights groups and diplomats continue to provide credible reports that Israeli security forces were responsible for widespread abuse, and in some cases torture, of Palestinian detainees. The Landau Judicial Commission in 1987 condemned torture but allowed for the use of "moderate physical and psychological pressure" to secure confessions and obtain information. There continued to be a high number of complaints of mistreatment and torture during interrogation, especially from those suspected of belonging to Islamic groups. Interrogation sessions are long and severe, and solitary confinement is used frequently for long periods. The GSS systematically uses interrogation methods which do not result in detectable traces of ill-treatment on the victims, or which leave marks that disappear after a short period of time.

Common interrogation practices reportedly include hooding; forced standing or squatting for long periods of time; prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures; tying or chaining the detainee in contorted and painful positions; blows and beatings with fists, sticks, and other instruments; confinement in small and often filthy spaces; sleep and food deprivation; and threats against the detainee's life or family. Israeli interrogators continued to subject prisoners to violent "shaking", which in at least one case has resulted in death. The apparent intent of these practices is to disorient and intimidate prisoners in order to obtain confessions or information. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) declared in 1992 that such practices violate the Geneva Convention. Human rights groups and attorneys challenged the practice of shaking before the Israeli High Court. In a number of cases, the Court ordered the GSS to show cause for use of this method to obtain information. In many of the cases, the Court authorized the GSS to use the shaking method.

Although the Israeli Penal Code prohibits the use of force or violence by a public official to obtain information, the GSS chief is permitted by law to allow interrogators to employ "special measures" that exceed the use of "moderate physical and psychological pressure" when it is deemed necessary to obtain information that could potentially save Israeli lives in certain "ticking bomb" cases. The GSS first permitted interrogators "greater flexibility" in applying the guidelines shortly after a bus bombing in Tel Aviv in October 1994 that killed 22 Israelis. The Government has not defined the meaning of "greater flexibility." At roughly quarterly intervals, the Government has approved the continued use of "special measures," arguing that they were vital because their use had prevented terrorist attacks. In November the Government granted another 3-month extension of the "special measures" provision. In November the Israeli High Court of Justice authorized the GSS to use "special measures" against a Palestinian prisoner, and "force" to extract information from another Palestinian prisoner. In both cases, the prisoners were alleged terrorists whom the Israelis believed had information concerning imminent terrorist attacks, making these "ticking bomb" cases.

Israeli authorities maintain that torture is not condoned, but acknowledge that abuses sometimes occur and are investigated. However, the Government does not generally make public the results of such investigations. Israel conducted 60 investigations into the 83 complaints received in 1996. In the investigations conducted, the Israeli Government concluded that the findings did not justify any steps being taken against the interrogators.

Most convictions in security cases before Israeli courts are based on confessions. A detainee may not have contact with a lawyer until after interrogation, a process that may last days or weeks. The Government does not allow ICRC representatives access to detainees until the 14th day of detention. Human rights groups point to this prolonged incommunicado detention as contributing to the likelihood of abuse. Detainees sometimes claim in court that their confessions are coerced but judges rarely exclude such confessions. Human rights groups also assert that Palestinian detainees frequently fail to make complaints either from fear of retribution or because they assume that their complaints will be ignored.

There were 83 formal complaints submitted by Palestinian detainees resident in the occupied territories against the GSS for mistreatment during interrogation. Complaints of abuse are forwarded to the Department for Police Investigations at the Ministry of Justice, which investigates complaints against the GSS. During the year, there were no known cases in which a confession was disqualified because of improper means of investigation or interrogation.

Israeli authorities also frequently treat Palestinians in an abusive manner at checkpoints. In November security officers were videotaped beating and humiliating a group of Palestinian workers. Following a public outcry in Israel when the videotape was shown on television, the two policemen involved were suspended. The Prime Minister condemned the incident, calling it "unpardonable." The chief of the Israeli border police confirmed that many such incidents occur. More than 300 formal complaints were filed against border policemen, and the Ministry of Justice confirmed that complaints of violence and harassment had increased this year. According to the Israeli government, 73 cases were closed because the petitioners did not cooperate with the investigation, 47 cases were closed for lack of evidence, and 26 were dismissed as unjustified. In 33 cases border guards were prosecuted; in 14 other cases they were referred for disciplinary action; and the rest remain under investigation.

Security officers who man checkpoints often act capriciously in honoring permits and travel passes held by Palestinians. Following the election of the Palestinian Legislative Council, PA council members from Gaza were subjected to long delays and searches at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, even though they were travelling on special passes issued by Israel. In September a leading Gazan businessman who had obtained Israeli approval to travel with foreign diplomats between Gaza and the West Bank was verbally abused and forced to walk almost a kilometer through the checkpoint to rejoin the diplomats. In October a blind Palestinian with American citizenship was detained at a checkpoint for 5 hours, verbally abused, and accused of "faking" her blindness. In March IDF soldiers in the northern West Bank arrested an elderly Palestinian man tending his animals, stripped him naked, and forced him to walk home.

According to credible reports, PA security forces abused, and sometimes tortured, Palestinian detainees. Such abuse generally takes place after arrest and during interrogation. The PA does not prohibit the use of force or torture against detainees. In 1995 the Gaza Civil Police commander issued to police officers in the West Bank and Gaza a circular forbidding torture during interrogation and directing the security forces to observe the rights of all detainees. The circular, however, does not have the force of law; Palestinian security officers have not been issued formal guidelines on the proper conduct of interrogations.

PA security officials reportedly abused prisoners by hooding, beating, tying in painful positions, sleep deprivation, threats, and burning detainees with cigarettes and hot instruments. A 1995 report by the Israeli human rights group B'tselem claimed that mistreatment of detainees and improper arrest and detention procedures by the Preventive Security Service (PSS) in Jericho reflects PA policy. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and other Palestinian human rights groups denied that there is evidence of systematic abuse, but cited numerous incidents of mistreatment, especially of detainees accused of collaboration with the Israelis, affiliation with certain political or extremist groups, or the commission of crimes, such as drug dealing, prostitution, or rape. On some occasions prisoners were denied prompt and adequate medical care after being abused.

In 1996 four Palestinians died in PA custody, two after being tortured, one after he apparently committed suicide, and one was shot and killed. In August Ayman Sabbah charged from his hospital bed that he had been tortured by PA security forces after being arrested during an anti-PA protest.

Israeli settlers harassed Palestinians. For example, settlers rampaged through Arab neighborhoods in the old city of Jerusalem in June, stoned Arab cars in Beit-El in February, and shot at Palestinians in Bethlehem in February.

Prison conditions in Israeli facilities are poor. Facilities are overcrowded, sanitation is poor, and medical care is inadequate. Palestinian inmates held strikes and protests in support of a number of causes and to protest prison conditions. Prisoners in Megiddo military detention center in Israel rioted in April over their treatment during investigations into the deaths of two Palestinians who were allegedly killed by other Palestinians. Palestinians in Israeli prisons also held several strikes to protest being held in administrative detention, lack of visits by family members or lawyers, Israel's refusal to release female Palestinian prisoners, and to protest abuse by prison authorities. Israel permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, although human rights groups and diplomats encountered difficulties gaining access to specific detainees.

Prison conditions in PA facilities are very poor. Facilities are overcrowded and dilapidated. Food and clothing for prisoners is inadequate and must be supplemented by donations from families and humanitarian groups. Palestinian inmates held strikes and protests in support of a number of causes and to protest prison conditions. Palestinians who were arrested by PA authorities after a wave of terrorist bombings in February and March went on strike in April and June to protest poor prison conditions, being held in solitary confinement, and being held in administrative detention. The PA has not allocated its Ministry of Justice funds to make improvements.

The PA permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, although human rights groups encountered difficulties arranging visits or gaining access to specific detainees. In September the PA signed an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) allowing the ICRC access to PA-run prisons. The ICRC had not had access to Palestinian detention facilities and prisons since 1995. In accordance with the agreement, the ICRC began prison visits in both the West Bank and Gaza in December.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Any Israeli policeman or border guard may arrest without warrant a person who has committed, or is suspected of having committed, a criminal or security offense in the occupied territories, except for areas under exclusive PA control. Israeli soldiers may also detain Palestinians and hold them for questioning for the same reasons. Human rights groups say that the vast majority of arrests and detentions are for alleged security offenses. Persons arrested for common crimes are usually provided with a statement of charges and access to an attorney and may apply for bail. However, these procedures are sometimes delayed. Authorities issue special summonses for security offenses. Israeli Military Order 1369 stipulates a 7-year prison term for anyone who does not respond to a special summons delivered to a family member or posted in the MATAK office nearest his home address. Bail is rarely available to those arrested for security offenses. The courts treat persons over the age of 12 as adults.

Israeli authorities may hold persons in custody without a warrant for 96 hours; they must be released unless a warrant is issued. Prearraignment detention can last up to 11 days for Palestinians arrested in the occupied territories and up to 8 days for minors and those accused of less serious offenses. Authorities must obtain a court order for longer detentions--up to 6 months from the date of arrest. Detainees are entitled to be represented by counsel at their detention hearings, although the defense is routinely not allowed to hear the evidence against a suspect. Detainees must be released at the end of the court- ordered detention if they are not indicted. If there is an indictment, a judge may order indefinite detention until the end of the trial. Detainees have the right to appeal continued detention. A Palestinian administrative detainee who was arrested in 1992 for a security offense remains in detention in Israel, having had his detention orders extended eight times to enable the Government to prepare a case against him. A new administrative detention order was issued this fall against the Palestinian held since 1992.

Although a detainee generally has the right to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible, in security cases authorities may delay access to counsel for up to 15 days. Higher-ranking officials or judges may extend this period. Access to counsel is routinely denied while a suspect is being interrogated, which sometimes can last several weeks. Authorities must inform detainees of their right to an attorney and whether there are any orders prohibiting such contact. In April Israeli authorities agreed to let lawyers visit two Palestinians suspected of involvement in a bus bombing in Jerusalem after they had been in prison for nearly 1 month, according to press reports.

A number of factors hamper contacts between lawyers and their clients in Israeli prison and detention facilities. Human rights groups charge that authorities sometimes schedule appointments between attorneys and their detained clients, only to move the clients to another prison prior to the meeting. Authorities reportedly use such tactics to delay lawyer-client meetings for as long as 90 days. Israeli regulations permit detainees to be held in isolation during interrogation. The closure of the occupied territories, which was tightened after a series of terrorist bombings in Israel and Jerusalem in February and March, and again after Palestinian-Israeli clashes in September, also makes it difficult for lawyers to gain access to clients in prison inside Israel. According to the Mandela Institute, in February Israel began allowing only Palestinian lawyers with East Jerusalem identity cards and licenses issued by the Israeli Bar Association or by an official Israeli governmental body such as MATAK or the former Civil Administration to visit detainees in Israeli prisons.

Israeli authorities claim that they attempt to post notification of arrest within 48 hours. In February the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the State to ensure that the families and attorneys of security prisoners are notified immediately that an arrest has occurred, the location of the prisoner, and whether the attorney may meet his client. Palestinian suspects are nonetheless often kept incommunicado for several days after their arrest.

Palestinians generally locate detainees through their own efforts. Palestinians can check with their local ICRC office to determine whether it has information on the whereabouts of a family member. A senior officer may delay for up to 12 days notification of arrest to immediate family members, attorneys, and diplomatic officials. A military commander may appeal to a judge to extend this period in security cases for an unlimited time.

Israeli district military commanders may order administrative detention (detention without trial) for up to 12 months without formal charges. Administrative detention orders may be extended. Many Palestinians administratively detained over the past 2 years have had their detention orders renewed repeatedly with no meaningful chance of appeal.

There were 270 Palestinians in administrative detention in Israel at year's end, compared with 220 at the end of 1995. Administrative detainees are usually held in the Megiddo prison. The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, and the Defence for Children International report that at least six children below the age of 16 are being held in administrative detention and have had their orders extended.

Evidence used at hearings for administrative detentions is secret and unavailable to the detainee or his attorney. Lawyers report that during hearings to appeal detention orders, the detainee and defense lawyer are required to leave the courtroom when secret evidence is presented. Israeli authorities maintain that they are unable to present evidence in open court because to do so would compromise the method of acquiring the evidence, which is often provided by informers whose lives would be jeopardized if their identities were known. Detainees may appeal detention orders, or the renewal of a detention order, before a military judge.

There were no deportations for security reasons in 1996.

At year's end, an estimated 3,800 Palestinian prisoners and detainees were incarcerated in Israeli prisons, military detention centers, and holding centers, a decrease from 4,900 incarcerated in 1995. The Israeli Government routinely transfers Palestinians arrested in Israeli- controlled areas of the occupied territories to facilities in Israel, especially Megiddo military detention center near Afula. In May Israel closed the Ketziot detention camp in the Negev desert and transferred its detainees to other prisons in Israel.

Families, human rights organizations, and lawyers have encountered barriers trying to gain access to Palestinian detainees and prisoners held in facilities in Israel as a result of closures of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Family visits to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails have sharply declined. Only immediate family members, including siblings under the age of 16, are allowed to visit relatives in facilities in Israel. Family members with security records are barred from visiting. Transferring of prisoners between facilities also makes it difficult for families, lawyers, and human rights organizations to locate and visit detainees. Due to travel restrictions, the ICRC suspended its family visits program to detainees in Israeli prisons several times during the year.

Israeli security forces conducted several mass arrests of Palestinians in response to acts or threats of violence against Israelis. Israel arrested approximately 1,000 Palestinians suspected of affiliation with Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after a series of suicide bombings in February and March. Of these, approximately 100 were still being held in administrative detention at year's end.

The PA does not have a uniform law on administrative detention, and security officials do not always adhere to the existing Gazan and West Bank laws. Gazan law, which is not observed in the West Bank, stipulates that detainees held without charge be released within 48 hours. Gazan law allows the Attorney General to extend the detention period to a maximum of 90 days during investigations. Human rights organizations and the PA Ministry of Justice assert that PA security officials do not always adhere to this regulation. Five members of the Palestinian police force were detained in Gaza without charge for several months in an internal dispute. Prevailing West Bank law allows a suspect to be detained for 24 hours before being charged. The Attorney General can extend the detention period.

PA authorities generally permit prisoners to receive visits from family members, attorneys, and human rights monitors, except for prisoners held for security reasons. PA security officials are not always aware that lawyers have a right to see their clients. In principle, detainees may notify their families of their arrest, but this is not always permitted.

In 1996 the several PA security services had overlapping or unclear mandates. Although only the civil police are authorized to make arrests, other security services reportedly do so as well. The operating procedures and regulations for conduct of police in the various services are not well developed and have not yet been made available to the public.

There are many detention facilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip administered by the overlapping PA security services, a situation that complicates the ability of families, lawyers, and even the Ministry of Justice, to track detainees' whereabouts. Security services including the Preventive Security, General Intelligence, military intelligence, and the coast guard have their own interrogation and detention facilities. In general, these services do not, or only sporadically, inform families of a relative's arrest. Most PA security officers remain ignorant of proper arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures as well as basic human rights standards. Approximately 450 Palestinian security officers from various security organizations in the West Bank were trained in basic human rights practices and principles in 1996 by Palestinian human rights groups.

PA security forces continued to arbitrarily arrest and detain journalists, political activists, and human rights advocates, who criticized the PA, such as Iyad Sarraj and Bassim Eid (see Sections 2.a. and 4).

Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank arrested approximately 1,000 Palestinians in the wake of the suicide bombings in early 1996 and in response to pressure to crack down on terrorism. The majority of arrests were conducted without warrants, and approximately 150 individuals arrested in February and March remain in detention without being charged.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Palestinians accused by Israel of security offenses in Israeli- controlled areas of the occupied territories are tried in Israeli military courts. Security offenses are broadly defined and may include charges of political activity, such as membership in outlawed organizations. Charges are brought by military prosecutors. Serious charges are tried before three-judge panels; lesser offenses are tried before one judge. Defendants have the right to counsel and to appeal verdicts to the court of military appeals, which may accept appeals based on the law applied in the case, the sentence, or both. The right of appeal does not apply in all cases and sometimes requires court permission. The Israeli military courts rarely acquit Palestinians of security offenses, but sentences are sometimes reduced on appeal.

Trials are sometimes delayed for several reasons: Witnesses, including Israeli military or police officers, do not appear; the defendant is not brought to court; files are lost; or attorneys fail to appear, sometimes because they have not been informed of the trial date or because of travel restrictions on Palestinian lawyers. These delays add pressure on defendants to plead guilty to avoid serving a period of pretrial detention that could exceed the sentence. In cases involving minor offenses, an "expedited" trial may be held, in which a charge sheet is drawn up within 48 hours and a court hearing scheduled within days.

By law most Israeli military trials are public, although access is limited. Diplomatic officials are allowed to attend military court proceedings involving foreign citizens, but there have been delays in gaining admission. Most convictions in military courts are based on confessions.

Evidence which is not available to the defendant, his attorney, and occasionally the judges may be used in court to convict persons of security offenses. There is frequently no testimony provided by Palestinian witnesses because, Israeli authorities maintain, Palestinians refuse to cooperate with the authorities. Physical and psychological pressures and reduced sentences for those who confess make it more likely for security detainees to sign confessions. Confessions are usually spoken in Arabic, but translated into Hebrew for the record because, authorities maintain, many Israeli court personnel speak Arabic but few read it. Palestinian detainees seldom read Hebrew and therefore sign confessions that they cannot read.

Crowded facilities and poor arrangements for attorney-client consultations in prisons hinder legal defense efforts. Appointments to see clients are difficult to arrange, and prison authorities often fail to produce clients for scheduled appointments. The temporary tightening of the closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip following terrorist bombings in February and March and violent Israeli-Palestinian clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September significantly decreased contact between lawyers and clients in jails in Israel.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip accused of security and ordinary criminal offenses are tried under Israeli law in the nearest Israeli district court. Civilian judges preside and the standards of due process and admissibility of evidence are governed by the laws of Israel, not military occupation decrees. Settlers convicted in Israeli courts of crimes against Palestinians regularly receive lighter punishment than Palestinians convicted in Israeli courts of similar crimes against either Israelis or other Palestinians.

The PA inherited a court system based on structures and legal codes predating the 1967 Israeli occupation. The Gaza legal code derives from British Mandate law, Egyptian law, and PA directives and laws. Pre-1967 Jordanian law applies in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank. Bodies of law in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have been substantially modified by Israeli military orders. According to the DOP and the Interim Agreement, Israeli military decrees issued during the occupation theoretically remain valid in both areas and are subject to review pursuant to a specific procedure. The PA is undertaking efforts to unify the Gaza and West Bank legal codes, but it has made little progress.

The PA court system in general is recovering from years of neglect. Judges and staff are underpaid and overworked and suffer from lack of skills and training; court procedures and record-keeping are archaic and chaotic; and the delivery of justice is often slow and uneven. Judges suffer from a lack of police protection. The ability of the courts to enforce decisions is extremely weak, and there is administrative confusion in the appeals process.

In June lawyers representing 10 Bir Zeit students arrested in March without a warrant by the PA for having suspected links to Hamas petitioned the PA to charge or release the students. In August the West Bank High Court of Justice in Ramallah demanded that the PA release the students for lack of cause. Senior PA officials, including Chairman Arafat and the Attorney General, ignored and failed to enforce the order in a timely fashion. According to a lawyer who represented the students, most of them were released more than a month after the order was handed down.

The PA Ministry of Justice appoints all civil judges for 10-year terms. The Attorney General, an appointed official, reports to the Minister of Justice and supervises judicial operations in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

In 1995 the PA established state security courts in Gaza and the West Bank to try cases involving security issues. Three military judges preside over each court, which applies civilian law. A senior police official heads the state security court in Jericho, and three judges preside over it. There is no right of appeal, but verdicts may be either ratified or repealed by the PA chairman, Yasir Arafat. According to the PA, during the year, the PA State Security Court handed down sentences to 12 defendants, ranging from a few years in prison to death. There are 10 Palestinians sentenced to death, but none of the sentences have been carried out. According to a press report, Chairman Arafat commuted the death penalties issued by PA courts.

Normal limits on the length of prearraignment detention do not appear to apply to suspects held by a PA security court. Defendants are brought to court without knowledge of the charges against them or sufficient time to prepare a defense. Defendants are represented by court- appointed lawyers. Court sessions often take place on short notice, sometimes even in the middle of the night, at times without lawyers present, all violations of a defendant's right to due process. In some instances, security courts try cases, issue verdicts, and impose sentences in a single session lasting several hours. Terrorists who murdered an Israeli settler and her young son were arrested, tried, and convicted shortly after the crime.

Local and international human rights groups have criticized the PA state security courts, arguing that they are subordinate to the power of the executive and that subordination undermines the independence of the judiciary and violates defendants' rights to a fair and open trial. The PA Ministry of Justice has no jurisdiction over the security courts, according to the PA Attorney General.

The Palestine Center for Human Rights reported that as of April, 83 persons suspected of collaborating with Israel were in PA detention. PA facilities held 150 political prisoners at year's end.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Israeli military authorities in areas of the West Bank under their control may enter private Palestinian homes and institutions without a warrant on security grounds when authorized by an officer of the rank of lieutenant colonel. In conducting searches, the IDF has forced entry, and has sometimes beaten occupants and destroyed property. Israeli authorities say that forced entry may lawfully occur only when incident to an arrest and when entry is resisted. Authorities say that beatings and arbitrary destruction of property during searches are punishable violations of military regulations, and that compensation is due to victims in such cases. According to the Israeli Government, information on the claims against the Ministry of Defense for damages caused as a result of IDF actions has not yet been collected.

In September IDF soldiers forced their way into the West Bank appartment of a Palestinian-American family during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators. The IDF forced the family members out of their apartment, roughed them up, hitting and pushing them, and pointed guns at them. When the family was allowed back into the apartment 3 days later, they found that the soldiers had smashed windows, destroyed furniture and clothing, and fouled the apartment with excrement. The family was later compensated by the Government.

Israeli security forces may demolish or seal the home of a suspect, whether the owner or tenant, without trial. The decision to seal or demolish a house is made by several high-level Israeli officials, including the Coordinator of the MATAK (formerly Civil Administration) and the Defense Minister. Owners of houses ordered demolished have 48 hours to appeal to the area commander; a final appeal may be made to the Israeli High Court. A successful appeal generally results in the conversion of a demolition order to sealing. After a house is demolished, military authorities confiscate the land and prohibit the owner from rebuilding or removing the rubble.

Israeli authorities demolished eight homes for security reasons in 1996, compared with one in 1995. They also sealed one apartment, making it uninhabitable, compared with one partial sealing in 1995. The authorities carried out demolition orders issued in 1995 on the homes of 3 suicide bombers. In addition, authorities demolished the homes of five individuals implicated in suicide bombings, including one Palestinian involved in the 1995 bombing of a bus in Jerusalem who was tried and sentenced by the Palestinian Authority. Israeli authorities sealed the apartment of a suicide bomber after the High Court of Justice ruled that demolishing the apartment would harm other apartments in the building. Human rights groups report that Israeli security forces blew up five of eight houses that were demolished, in many cases damaging surrounding homes. Israel compensated the owners of the damaged homes in some cases.

Many human rights groups criticize the sealing or demolishing of homes because such acts target innocent families and children. The Israeli High Court has stated that the goal of such demolitions is to deter terrorists. An Israeli security official told the Israeli press that blowing up a home had a greater psychological effect than demolishing it using nonexplosive methods.

Owners may apply to regional military commanders for permits to rebuild or unseal their homes. Since 1994 the Israeli Government has allowed the opening or rebuilding of homes sealed or demolished as a result of security offenses committed by a family member after that person has been released from prison. Each former prisoner must apply for a permit to rebuild or unseal a home, which the Government may deny. In 1996 the Government allowed one home to be unsealed.

Israeli security services sometimes monitor the mail and telephone conversations of Palestinians, Israelis, and foreigners. The authorities sometimes interrupt telephone and electricity service to specific areas. In January electricity in villages near Janin was interrupted for several days after a Palestinian killed an Israeli soldier there.

In the Gaza Strip and PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, the PA requires the Attorney General to issue warrants for entry and searches of private property. These requirements are sometimes ignored in Palestinian police sweeps for security suspects. PA police have searched homes without the consent of their owners. In some cases, police have forcibly entered premises and destroyed property. In March Palestinian security forces searched the homes of journalist Rabi' Hussein Rabi and his brother and father without a warrant because they were believed to be affiliated with Hamas. Palestinian security in the Gaza Strip destroyed property during searches of private property and the Islamic University in Gaza in March.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

IDF regulations permit the use of live ammunition only when a soldier's life is in immediate danger, to halt fleeing suspects, to disperse a violent demonstration, or to fire on an "individual unlawfully carrying firearms." According to policy, soldiers should direct fire at the legs only and may fire at a fleeing suspect only if they believe that a serious felony has occurred and they have exhausted other means to apprehend the suspect. It is forbidden to open fire in the direction of children or women, even in cases of severe public disorder, unless there is an immediate and obvious danger to a soldier's life. However, Israeli soldiers and police sometimes used live ammunition in situations other than when their lives were in danger and sometimes shot suspects in the upper body and head.

On September 25, Yasir Arafat called for a general strike and marches to protest the opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in Jerusalem. However, after the Palestinian reaction spiraled into spontaneous acts of violence and confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, intense gun battles erupted between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, causing Israeli and Palestinian casualties.

Both sides used excessive force. According to the PA Ministry of Health and human rights groups, 58 Palestinians were killed (including 11 security officers). Fifteen of those Palestinians killed were children under age 18, according to Defense for Children International. Sixteen Israeli soldiers died of wounds from live fire, according to the Israeli Government. The fatalities from this one incident exceeded the number of Israelis and Palestinians killed in violent confrontations in all of 1995.

Palestinian sources contend that Israeli forces in Ramallah and Rafah fired on demonstrators and Palestinian security personnel from helicopter gunships and from elevated sniper positions. Israel also used nonlethal means to disperse rioters, including batons and tear gas. Israeli security forces fired on and killed medical personnel and civilians while they were evacuating wounded. One Palestinian nurse was shot and killed in Gaza while evacuating wounded persons. Palestinian security forces prevented medical care from reaching a wounded Israeli journalist in the Gaza Strip.

In the face of violence, the PA promptly took steps to improve command and control of its forces. During the fighting, the head of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank traveled with his Israeli central command counterparts to the scenes of the fighting to restore order and discipline. Before the fighting ended, the PA instituted a new procedure barring protests in proximity to Israeli checkpoints. This procedure greatly reduces the possibility of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters. Palestinian security forces reinforced existing instructions to their units forbidding the use of firearms without prior approval and have not hestitated to discipline those guilty of weapons infractions.

During and following the September disturbances, the PA provided protection for and assisted in the evacuation of Israeli security forces stranded at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus.

During the year, extremist Palestinians also killed 4 Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank and PA areas and 58 people in terrorist bombings in Israel (see Section 1.g. of the Israel report).

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Israeli Government generally respects freedom of speech in the occupied territories, but prohibits public expressions of support for Islamic extremist groups, such as Hamas, and other groups avowedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Continuing a policy it began in 1994, the Israeli Government generally did not enforce its prohibition on the display of Palestinian political symbols, such as flags, national colors, and graffiti, acts which are punishable by fines or imprisonment. In May, however, the IDF raided an elementary school in Hebron and beat pupils for flying a Palestinian flag, according to press reports.

Overall, censorship of specific press pieces continued to be low. Israeli authorities continue to monitor the Arabic press for security- related issues. Military censors review Arabic publications in Jerusalem for material related to the public order and security of Israel and the territories. Reports by foreign journalists are also subject to review by Israeli military censors for security issues, and the satellite feed used by many foreign journalists is monitored.

Israel sometimes closes areas to journalists, usually in conjunction with a curfew or security incident. Israeli authorities have denied entry permits to Palestinian journalists travelling to their place of work in Jerusalem during closures of the territories.

The IDF requires a permit for publications imported into the occupied territories. Imported materials may be censored or banned for anti- Semitic or anti-Israeli content. Possession of banned materials is punishable by a fine and imprisonment. In 1996 Israel refused to allow publications into the Gaza Strip when it tightened its closure of the occupied territories after terrorist bombings in February and March.

Israel closed for 6 months at least six colleges, universities, and recreational and welfare institutions in Jerusalem and Israeli- controlled areas of the West Bank in March after a series of terrorist incidents. Israeli authorities claimed that the institutions served as centers of Hamas activity. In September Israel extended the closure orders on Hebron University, Hebron Technical Institute, and Islamic institutions. These closure orders were lifted in December in anticipation of IDF redeployment in Hebron.

Educational institutions in the West Bank and Jerusalem also closed for periods of time as a result of internal closures in the West Bank that Israel imposed after terrorist attacks in the spring and after clashes between Israeli security forces and PA security forces and Palestinians in September. These closures disrupted the operations of colleges, universities, and schools because significant numbers of students and staff could not travel to the schools from neighboring towns and villages. Following terrorist bombings in the spring, Israeli security forces arrested hundreds of Gazan students in the West Bank and returned them to Gaza. At years' end, Gazan students are still denied travel and residence permits to attend West Bank colleges and universities.

The PA has a generally poor record on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, although it professes to tolerate varying political views and criticism. PA chairman Arafat enacted a press law in 1995 prior to Palestinian elections that Palestinian journalists criticize for not adequately protecting press freedoms. In a report issued in September 1995, Reporters Without Frontiers, a Paris-based journalists' rights group, charged the PA with resorting to "pressure, harassment, arrests, and suspensions" to stifle the independence of the press. It labeled the PA Press Law as restrictive, because it prevents criticism of the police and permits the seizure of newspapers that do so. The Israeli human rights group B'tselem reported that Palestinian journalists now practice self-censorship to avoid antagonizing the PA. Editors readily admit that they practice self-censorship to avoid being shut down by the PA.

PA officials imposed restrictions on the press in several instances, including closing some opposition newspapers. PA authorities do not permit criticism of Yasir Arafat or his policies or style of government. Twice in 1996, the PA arrested and detained human rights activist Iyad Sarraj for criticizing the PA and Yasir Arafat. On May 18, Palestinian policemen arrested Sarraj for investigation for "slander" based on comments Sarraj made to a Western journalist that were critical of arbitrary arrest and torture committed by PA authorities. Sarraj was released on May 26, and wrote a letter to Arafat reiterating his views. On June 9, police arrested Sarraj again. Sarraj alleged that he was beaten in custody. He was released from custody on June 26. In May the PA Preventive Security Force in Gaza pressured a journalist and his editor to reveal the source of a newspaper article on corruption in the Preventive Security Force. Also in May, PA Chairman Arafat fired a Voice of Palestine talk show host for allowing a caller to criticize the Palestinian security services. In Gaza PA authorities took a radio show off the air after the host complained that PA officials were driving luxury cars. In February and March, Palestinian authorities closed al- Watan and al-Istiqlal, the press organs of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They have not been allowed to reopen by year's end. In September the PA shutdown the weekly independent Jenin allegedly because its editor criticized the policies of the Jenin municipality and the local trade organization. In August PA authorities prevented the distribution of books by one of Arafat's most vocal critics, Edward Said.

The PA has authority over all levels of education in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There were no reports of PA interference with academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Israeli military orders ban public gatherings of 10 or more people without a permit, but authorities relaxed enforcement after the signing of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993. According to the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Israeli authorities began to enforce this order more vigorously in response to Palestinian demonstrations held in 1996 over land issues in the West Bank.

Private organizations are required to register with the Israeli authorities, though some operate without licenses. The authorities permit Palestinian charitable, community, professional, and self-help organizations to operate unless their activities are viewed as overly political or opposed to the DOP.

PA officials maintain that they do not impose restrictions on freedom of assembly, although they do require permits for rallies, demonstrations, and many cultural events. These were rarely denied. In Gaza police approval is required for "political" meetings at several specific large meeting halls. Written permission is also required for buses to transport passengers to attend political meetings. In West Bank cities, the PA requires permits for outdoor rallies and demonstrations and prohibits calls for violence, a display of arms, and racist slogans. In December the PA issued permits to a number of rejectionist groups (Hamas, PFLP, DFLP) to celebrate their anniversaries on the condition they demonstrate peacefully and not advocate violence. At a Bir Zeit University rally Hamas supporters burned an Israeli bus in effigy, an act that suggested support for bus bombings. The PA reportedly approached Bir Zeit University officials to review security procedures for the rally.

There were periodic complaints during the year from Palestinian political parties, social, and professional groups, and other non- governmental organizations that the PA tried to limit their ability to act autonomously.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Israeli Government respects freedom of religion and does not ban any group or sect on strictly religious grounds. It permits all faiths to operate schools and institutions. Religious publications are subject to the publications laws (see Section 2.a.). The IDF temporarily closed three mosques in the West Bank for security reasons for several months. In April the IDF closed a mosque in the West Bank town of Burqa for security reasons and in May closed mosques in Qabalan and A-Ram for 6 months after finding "inciteful material" in them, according to human rights monitors and press reports.

The PA does not restrict freedom of religion.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Occupied Territories, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Israel requires that all West Bank and Gaza residents obtain identification cards to qualify for permits to enter Israel and Jerusalem. However, Israel sometimes denies applicants ID cards and permits with no explanation, and does not allow effective means of appeal. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are sometimes prohibited from entering PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, and they require written permits from Israel to travel to the Gaza Strip. Residents of the Gaza Strip are rarely able to obtain permission to travel to the West Bank. Israel and the PA have yet to establish "safe passage" to facilitate travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as set out in the Interim Agreement.

Israel continued to apply its policy begun in 1993 of closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response to terror attacks. A closure was applied on February 25, following suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Ashkelon. During "normal" closure conditions that prevailed for most of 1996, any Palestinian holding a Gaza or West Bank identity card was required to obtain a permit to enter Israel or Jerusalem. Palestinian workers employed in Israel were prohibited from entering Israel to work for a significant portion of the year. Most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip encountered difficulty obtaining permits to work, visit, study, obtain medical care, or attend religious services outside of the West Bank or Gaza. Israeli authorities do not permit Gazans to bring vehicles into Israel and rarely permit West Bank vehicles to enter Jerusalem or Israel.

As a security precaution, Israel also routinely tightens closures on the West Bank and Gaza during major Jewish or Muslim holy days, as well as during times of political sensitivity for Israel or the Palestinian authority, such as during the Israeli elections in May.

Twice in 1996--in the spring following terrorist bombings in Israel and Jerusalem, and after Palestinian-Israeli clashes in September--Israel imposed a total closure of the West Bank and Gaza as well as an "internal closure" on West Bank towns, isolating areas under PA control by preventing travel between them. The "internal closure" imposed in the spring, the first time such a closure was used, lasted for about 2 weeks, as did the second. Israeli government officials acknowledged that closures have limited effectiveness as a security measure; since at least 1994, all known perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Israel were not in possession of valid permits but were nonetheless able to enter Israel.

The tightening of these restrictions significantly hampered the flow of food, medicine, students, doctors, and patients into and out of the occupied territories, and seriously disrupted normal commerce. Human rights groups report that in February and March at least seven ill Palestinians, including three babies, died because they were unable to travel to hospitals in Jerusalem or Israel. Another Palestinian child died at an Israeli checkpoint while awaiting permission to enter Israel for medical treatment. Emergency cases were handled on an ad hoc basis throughout the September-October crisis. By year's end, more trucks and day laborers were permitted to enter and leave the territories.

Israel continues to impose periodic curfews in areas of the West Bank under its jurisdiction largely in response to security incidents, in anticipation of incidents, or as part of ongoing security operations. Israeli settlers are generally free to move about during curfews, while Palestinian residents are confined to their homes. Following clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian security forces and civilians in September, Hebron was put under a 20-hour per day curfew that lasted for 10 days. Palestinians periodically were allowed out of their homes for brief periods of time to buy food and other necessities.

The Government restricted travel for 21 Israeli settlers, prohibiting them from entering sensitive locations in the West Bank. The Yesha Council, an umbrella group of settler organizations, estimates that six Israelis were placed under administrative detention during the year.

The Israeli Government requires all Palestinians resident in areas under its control to obtain permits for foreign travel and has restricted the travel of some political activists. Bridge-crossing permits to Jordan may be obtained at post offices without a screening process. However, the fear of losing one's residency is an obstacle to travel. Palestinian males between the ages of 16 and 25 who cross into Jordan must remain outside the occupied territories for 9 months. Restriction on residence, tourist visas, reentry, and family reunification apply only to Palestinian residents of the occupied territories. Israeli authorities sometimes refuse to renew the laissez-passers of Palestinians from the occupied territories who live or work abroad, on the grounds that they have abandoned their residences.

The Israeli Government ordinarily does not permit Palestinians who obtain foreign citizenship to resume residence in Jerusalem; nor does it permit those who acquire legal residency abroad, or who remain outside Jerusalem for over 3 years, to resume their residency. Such persons are permitted to return only as tourists and are sometimes denied entry entirely. No such restrictions are applied to Israeli citizens.

Israel enforced these residency restrictions in Jerusalem with greater stringency in 1996, according to human rights groups and foreign diplomats. In 1996 approximately 2,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem had their residency permits revoked, or were told by Israeli officials they could not retain their resident status if they traveled out of the country or if they did not renounce citizenship or residency in another country. The Israeli Government has denied that greater enforcement of the Jerusalem residency requirements reflects a concerted policy to decrease the Arab population in Jerusalem. The Government explained in September that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are not losing their residency status as a result of more rigorous enforcement of the Jerusalem residency requirements and that Israel had not changed its policies. The Government, however, has not yet responded to requests by foreign diplomats to explain why it revoked Jerusalem residency permits in several dozen individual cases, which apparently did not contradict Israeli policy.

Israeli authorities also place restrictions on family reunification. Most Palestinians who were abroad before or during the 1967 war or who have lost their residence permits for other reasons, are not permitted to reside permanently with their families in the occupied territories. Israeli security also singles out young (often unmarried) Palestinian males for harsher treatment than other Palestinians, citing them as more likely to be security risks. They generally are prohibited from working in Israel.

The MATAK usually denied permanent residency in the occupied territories to the foreign-born spouses and children of Palestinian residents, and to nonresident mothers. The Government usually issued temporary residency permits to persons in these categories.

The PA generally does not restrict the travel of Palestinians in Gaza and PA cities in the West Bank. During clashes with Israeli security in September, PA authorities placed Nablus under a temporary curfew. Passports and identification cards for the residents of PA areas are issued by the PA. PA authorities issued travel documents freely to male Palestinians, and the PA Ministry of Civil Affairs rescinded this past summer the law requiring women to show the written consent of a male family member before issuing them a travel document (see Section 5).

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Palestinian residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem chose their first popularly-elected government on January 20. They elected an 88-member Palestinian Legislative Council and the head of the Executive Authority of the Council. Voter turnout was high, about 75 percent of the estimated 1 million registered voters. Yasir Arafat won almost 89 percent of the vote in a two-person race for chief executive of the Council. Some 700 candidates ran for Council seats. Council members were elected in multi-member electoral districts. As many as 35 of the elected members were independent candidates or critics of Arafat and his Fatah faction. The Council convened on March 7 and proceeded to elect their officers. International observers concluded that the election could be reasonably regarded as an accurate expression of the will of the voters, despite some irregularities.

Most Palestinians in Jerusalem do not recognize the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Jerusalem; less than 7 percent of Jerusalem's Palestinian population voted in 1993 municipal elections. No Palestinian resident of Jerusalem sits on the city council.

Women are underrepresented in government and politics. There are five women in the 88-member Council, and two women serve in ministerial-level positions.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Many local groups--Israeli, Palestinian, and international--monitored the Israeli Government's human rights practices. The Israeli Government normally cooperates with human rights organizations; officials normally agree to meet with human rights monitors. The Israeli Government permits them to publish and hold press conferences.

However, some individual human rights workers have been subjected to interference. A fieldwork coordinator for the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq was arrested and detained without charge in February. A blind Palestinian-American human rights worker was detained at the Gaza border, interrogated, and prevented from presenting a human rights training session in Gaza.

Many local human rights groups--mostly Palestinian--as well as several international human rights organizations, monitored the PA's human rights practices. The PA generally cooperates with these organizations and PA officials normally meet with their representatives. Many of the Palestinian human rights organizations work behind the scenes with the PA to overcome alleged abuses in certain areas. They also publish criticism if they believe that the PA is not responding adequately to private entreaties.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operates in the PA areas under the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed in September between the ICRC and the PLO. The memorandum accords the ICRC access to all detainees held by the PA and allows regular inspections of prison conditions. Despite this memorandum, and an earlier one, the ICRC had not visited PA detention facilities since 1995. In September the PA signed an agreement with the ICRC allowing the ICRC access to PA- run prisons. The ICRC began prison visits in both the West Bank and Gaza in December in accordance with the agreement.

The PA police twice arrested and detained for several days the chairman of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen's Rights, Iyad Sarraj, for criticizing the PA and its human rights practices (see Section 2.a.). In January Palestinian security forces arrested and held B'tselem field worker Bassam Eid for several hours without specifying why he was being held. In September 1995, the head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force in Jericho had labeled Eid "an agent of the Israeli police."

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Under the complex mixture of laws and regulations that apply to the territories, Palestinians are disadvantaged under Israeli law and practices compared with the treatment received by Israeli settlers. This includes discrimination in residency, land and water use, and access to health and social services.

Women

The problems of rape, domestic violence, and violence related to "family honor" have gained greater prominence, but public discussion is generally muted. Victims are often encouraged by relatives to remain quiet and are themselves punished or blamed for the "shame" that has been brought upon them and their families. Women's groups seek to educate women on these problems, but women's rights advocates claim that few resources are available to shelter the victims of violence. They also maintain that society has not been receptive to providing counseling or outreach services to victims of problems that they see as more widespread than is acknowledged. There are no reliable statistics available on family violence or other forms of violence against women.

Palestinian women in the Israeli-controlled areas of the occupied territories and in the Palestinian Authority areas endure various forms of social prejudice and repression within their own society. Because of early marriage, girls frequently do not finish the mandatory level of schooling. Cultural restrictions sometimes prevent them from attending colleges and universities. While there is an active women's movement in the West Bank and Gaza, attention has only recently shifted from nationalist aspirations to women's issues such as domestic violence, education, employment, and marriage and inheritance laws.

There are no laws providing for women's rights in the workplace. Some Palestinian women work outside the home. Women are underrepresented in most aspects of professional life. There are almost no women in decisionmaking positions in the legal, medical, educational, and scientific fields. However, a small group of women are prominent in politics, medicine, law, teaching, and in nongovernmental organizations.

Personal status law for Palestinians is based on religious law. For Muslim Palestinians, personal status law is derived from Shari'a (Islamic law). In the West Bank and Gaza, Shari'a law pertaining to women is part of the Jordanian Status Law of 1976, which includes inheritance and marriage laws. Under the law, women inherit less than male members of the family. The marriage law allows men to take more than one wife, but few do so. Women are permitted to make "stipulations" to protect them against divorce and questions of child custody. However, only 1 percent of women take advantage of this section of the law, leaving most women at a disadvantage when it comes to divorce or child custody. Following legal protests, the PA Ministry of Civil Affairs this year rescinded a law requiring women to obtain the written consent of a male family member before it would issue them a travel document.

Children

While the PA provides for compulsory education, it does not provide specific health services for children. Current British Mandate, Jordanian, and military laws, from which West Bank and Gaza law is derived, offer protection to children under labor and penal codes. While there is no juvenile court system, judges specializing in children's cases generally sit for juvenile offenders. In cases where the child is the victim, judges have the discretion to remove the child from a situation deemed harmful. However, the system is not advanced in the protection afforded children.

There is no societal pattern of abuse of children, either among Israelis or Palestinians.

People with Disabilities

There is no mandated accessibility to public facilities in the occupied territories under either Israeli or Palestinian authority. Approximately 130,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are disabled. Some Palestinian institutions care for and train disabled persons; their efforts, however, are chronically underfunded. According to a report by the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, many Palestinians with disabilities are segregated and isolated from Palestinian society; they are discriminated against in most spheres, including education, employment, transportation, and access to public buildings and facilities.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Labor affairs in the West Bank came under Palestinian authority with the signing of the Interim Agreement in September 1995. Until a new law being drafted by PA authorities comes into effect, labor affairs in the West Bank are governed by Jordanian Law 21 of 1965, as amended by Israeli military orders, and in Gaza by PA decisions. The law permits workers to establish and join unions without government authorization. The earlier Israeli stipulation that all proposed West Bank unions apply for a permit is no longer enforced. No new unions were established in 1996. Israeli authorities have previously licensed about 35 of the estimated 185 union branches now in existence. There are almost 30 licensed trade unions in the West Bank and 6 in Gaza.

Palestinian workers in Jerusalem are governed by Israeli labor law. They are free to establish their own unions. Although the Government restricts Jerusalem unions from joining West Bank trade union federations, this restriction has not been enforced. Palestinian workers in Jerusalem may simultaneously belong to unions affiliated with a West Bank federation and the Israeli Histadrut labor federation.

West Bank unions are not affiliated with the Israeli Histadrut federation. Palestinian workers who are not resident in Israel or Jerusalem are not full members of Histadrut, but they are required to contribute 1 percent of their wages to Histadrut. Negotiations between Histadrut and West Bank union officials to return half of this fee to the Palestinian union federation were completed in 1995. Histradut did not return half of the fee.

Palestinians who work in Israel are required to contribute to the National Insurance Institute (NII), which provides unemployment insurance and other benefits. Palestinian workers are eligible for some, but not all, NII benefits. According to the Interim Agreement, Palestinians working in Israel will continue to be insured for injuries occurring in Israel, the bankruptcy of a worker's employer, and allowances for maternity leave. The Government of Israel agreed to transfer the NII fees collected from Palestinian workers to the PA, which will assume responsibility for the pensions and social benefits of Palestinians working in Israel. Implementation of this change is still underway.

The great majority of West Bank unions belong to the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The PGFTU acted as the informal coalition in the completion of the negotiations with Histadrut regarding workers' fees. The reorganization of unions under the PGFTU is intended to enable the West Bank unions and Gaza unions to better represent the union members' interests; the reorganization had not yet been finalized at year's end.

An estimated 86,000 workers are members of the GFTU, the largest union bloc. The PGFTU estimates actual organized membership, i.e., dues- paying members, at about 30 percent of all Palestinian workers, and is working to add more.

No unions were dissolved by administrative or legislative action this year. Palestinian unions seeking to strike must submit to arbitration by the PA Ministry of Labor. If the union disagrees with the final arbitration and strikes, a tribunal of senior judges appointed by the PA decides what, if any, disciplinary action is to be taken. There are no laws in the territories that specifically protect the rights of striking workers, and, in practice, such workers have little or no protection from employers' retribution.

The PGFTU has applied for membership in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

A majority of workers in the occupied territories are self-employed or unpaid family helpers in agriculture or commerce. Only 35 percent of employment in the territories consists of wage jobs, most with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the PA, or in municipalities. Collective bargaining is protected. Labor disputes are adjudicated by committees of 3 to 5 members in businesses employing more than 20 workers.

Existing laws and regulations do not offer real protection against antiunion discrimination. One industrial zone is being developed in the Gaza Strip.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There is no forced or compulsory labor in the occupied territories.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum working age in the West Bank and Gaza is 14. This order is not effectively enforced, and underage workers are employed in agriculture and in some West Bank and Gaza factories. Work hours for young workers are not limited.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is currently no minimum wage in the West Bank or Gaza area. In the West Bank, the normal workweek is 48 hours in most areas; in Gaza the workweek is 45 hours for day laborers and 40 hours for salaried employees. There is no effective enforcement of maximum workweek laws.

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Labor is responsible for inspecting work places and enforcing safety standards in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Ministry of Labor says that newer factories and work places meet international health and safety standards but that older ones fail to meet minimum standards.

Search Refworld

Countries