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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Palestine

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Palestine, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3ec.html [accessed 23 April 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 JURISDICTION OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY)

 

 

This report differs from past reports because it reflects the fundamental changes that have occurred in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a consequence of the implementation of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) signed by the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on September 13, 1993.

In May Israel transferred most responsibilities in the Gaza Strip and Jericho area to an interim Palestinian self-governing authority, the "Palestinian Authority (PA)," pursuant to agreements between Israel and the PLO. Additional responsibilities were transferred to the PA in the West Bank between August and December. The PA exercises authority over a large Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, and more limited authority in the rest of the West Bank. Accordingly, this report discusses the policies and practices of both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority in the respective areas where they exercise jurisdiction and control.

The DOP fundamentally altered the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. This historic agreement put into motion a process designed to end their conflict and to guide negotiations over the future of the territories. The DOP provides for a 5-year transitional period in which specified responsibilities are to be transferred to the PA to permit the Palestinian people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to govern themselves.

Implementation of this process began in May, when Israel and the PLO agreed (the Gaza-Jericho Agreement) on the initial transfer of powers and responsibilities relating to the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area in the West Bank. In August the Government of Israel and the PLO agreed (the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities) on the further transfer of five areas of responsibility (education and culture, health, tourism, taxation, and social welfare) in the rest of the West Bank, excluding Israeli settlements. The transfer to the PA of responsibility for these areas was completed in December. Israel continues to be responsible for external security, internal security and public order in Israeli settlements, foreign relations, and certain other areas until an agreement on permanent status is achieved. At year's end, Israel and the PLO were continuing discussions on the modalities for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the related redeployment of Israeli security forces away from populated areas of the West Bank, pursuant to the DOP. In accordance with the DOP this election will establish a Palestinian Council to replace the PA.

The situation in the occupied territories remains complex and subject to change. Israel occupied the lands known as the "occupied territories" (the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem) as a result of the 1967 war. The international community does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over any part of the occupied territories. Israel has, however, asserted sovereignty over, and annexed, East Jerusalem. The Israeli Government has also extended its law and administration to the Golan Heights. Under Israel-PLO agreements, the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as the issue of Jerusalem, are to be addressed in subsequent negotiations.

The West Bank and Gaza legal regimes derive from Ottoman, Jordanian, Egyptian, and British law, Israeli military orders, Israel-PLO agreements, and decisions by the PA. The United States considers Israel's authority in the occupied territories to be subject to the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in time of war. The Israeli Government considers the Hague Regulations applicable, but not those of the Geneva Convention, although it states that it observes the Geneva Convention's humanitarian provisions.

Israel has governed the territories through the Israeli Civil Administration (CIVAD), a body overseen by the Minister of Defense. Most West Bank towns are governed by mayors appointed by the Israeli Government, although there are exceptions, such as Hebron, Nablus, and Bethlehem. With elections for a Palestinian Council still under negotiation, the majority of Palestinians have not yet had the opportunity to participate in a broad-based electoral process. An exception is in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian residents are eligible to vote in Israeli municipal elections. However, most Palestinians eligible to vote boycott such elections on the grounds that Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal. Israeli settlers in the territories (about 12 percent of the population there) are subject to Israeli law and are better treated than Palestinians who are subject to military occupation law. The Government's economic policies in the occupied territories favor Israeli settlers and Israeli interests in general. Under Israel-PLO agreements, Israel retains jurisdiction over settlements and settlers during the transitional period. The final status of the settlements will be addressed in future negotiations.

Israeli security forces in the West Bank consist of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); the Shin Bet, or General Security Services (GSS); the police; and the paramilitary border police. Military courts try Palestinians accused of security crimes as defined by the Government of Israel. The Palestinian Police Force (PPF) was established in May. It is responsible for security and law enforcement in Gaza and in the Jericho for Palestinians and other non-Israelis.

The economies of the West Bank and Gaza are small, poorly developed, and highly dependent on Israel. Both areas rely on agriculture, services and to a lesser extent light manufacturing. Many West Bank and Gazan workers are employed at day jobs in Israel. The West Bank and Gazan economies have been adversely affected by the occupation, the Palestinian uprising known as the intifada, the Gulf War and the resulting cutoff of Arab funding, and tensions caused by continued terrorist incidents.

There were clear improvements in the human rights situation in the occupied territories in 1994. With progress on implementation of the DOP, Palestinians are acquiring more opportunities to participate in political and economic decisions that affect them. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and Jericho has reduced the frequency of large-scale confrontations and unrest. The nighttime curfew that had been imposed on the Gaza Strip since 1987 is no longer in effect. In addition, Israel released several thousand Palestinian prisoners, for much of the year held fewer Palestinians in administrative detention, eased restrictions on freedom of expression, relaxed enforcement of restrictions on public gatherings, and made some improvements to prison conditions. There were no deportations for the second straight year and a substantial decrease in the number of house sealings. Moreover, Israel and the PLO have for the first time established channels and procedures for dealing with a variety of their differences over political, economic, and security matters.

At the same time, there were credible reports that during 1994 Israel mistreated, and in some cases tortured, Palestinians during arrest and interrogation. According to these reports, Israel also utilized undercover units in possible extrajudicial killings. Military courts imposed harsh sentences on Palestinians. Discriminatory policies on land and resources use and trade, and limits on freedom of movement remained in place. There were also restrictions imposed on the ability of Palestinians in the territories to travel to Israel. During the period covered in this report, Israeli civilians and military personnel were the targets of repeated lethal terrorist attacks. Israel also imposed periodic and often sustained closures, which were designed to meet Israel's security needs, but which did have a severe impact on the Palestinian economy in the territories.

The PA assumed authority in Gaza and Jericho only in May. It is difficult to assess fully the PA's human rights record for the period under review (May to December). Because of its recent establishment, the process of institution-building, especially of the judiciary, has been slow. There have been credible reports that the Palestinian Police Force (PPF) has mistreated detainees. The PA stated that it would investigate incidents of mistreatment. Members of the PPF reportedly committed at least one extrajudicial killing, that of a detainee in custody. Although individuals were charged with misconduct in this case, none has been brought to trial. The PPF has also used excessive force on occasion, such as in November, when at least 16 persons were killed and hundreds wounded in an effort to quell an armed demonstration at Gaza's Filistin Mosque. There were also limitations on press freedom. In July the PA banned the distribution in Gaza and Jericho of An-Nahar, an East Jerusalem daily, purportedly because the paper took a pro-Jordanian line. In November the PA temporarily stopped distribution in Gaza of four newspapers that provided accounts of demonstrations against the PA to which the Gaza police chief, speaking on behalf of the PA, objected.

Both Palestinian and Israeli opponents of the DOP have resorted to violence as a means to derail the agreement. A number of extremist groups, specifically the Islamic Resistance (Hamas) and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), made a concerted effort to undermine Israeli-PLO negotiations by killing Israelis and discrediting the authority and effectiveness of the PA. A terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv in October, for example, killed 22 Israelis. There were also acts of violence committed by Israeli settlers, including killings and the destruction of property. In several instances, security forces took little or no action to halt settler attacks. In February a settler extremist killed at least 29 Palestinians worshipping at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Following this attack, the Israeli Government began to implement in March strict measures to control extremist settler violence against Palestinians. Israel remained obligated under international occupation law to ensure, as far as possible, public order and the safety of the civilian population in the occupied territories. Violence in the territories also included killings of Palestinians by other Palestinians because of alleged collaboration with Israel.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Credible sources report that Israeli undercover units, disguised as Palestinians, killed at least 13 Palestinians. This is a decrease from the 27 Palestinians reported killed by undercover units in 1993. The Government does not publish its guidelines on the conduct of undercover operations in the occupied territories.

The mission of these undercover units appears to be to arrest activists suspected of committing serious crimes. Human rights organizations charge that undercover units deliberately kill suspects under circumstances in which the suspects might have been apprehended alive. Authorities acknowledge that the undercover units conduct operations among Palestinian activists, 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 result in the imposition of serious punishment. The IDF does not announce the findings of its investigations.

A Palestinian free-lance journalist recorded on videotape an apparent incident of extrajudicial killing in September. The tape depicts an Israeli soldier firing a bullet into the head of a Palestinian, Nidal Tamimi, who reportedly tried to stab a soldier in Hebron. Tamimi was lying on the ground with a gunshot wound in the chest.

In March an Israeli undercover unit reportedly opened fire without warning on six masked members of the Fatah Hawks Organization, four of whom were armed, at the Jabalya Refugee Camp in Gaza, as they reportedly stopped cars and handed out political pamphlets. In May credible sources reported that an Israeli undercover unit shot two Palestinians, one a Hamas fugitive, without warning, after they had disembarked from a bus in Al-Ram near Jerusalem. Human rights groups demanded an independent investigation into the Jabalya incident and what they termed the shoot-to-kill policies of the undercover forces and the IDF. According to the Judge Advocate General's office, at year's end the incident was still under investigation.

According to the Government, Palestinians killed 23 Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 52 within Israel; the 1993 figures were 49 and 14, respectively. The worst incidents were an October bus bombing in Tel Aviv that killed 22, and bombings in Afula and Hadera in April that killed 12.

Israeli settlers killed 37 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994, compared to 14 in 1993. Most of these resulted from a single incident in February when an Israeli settler extremist killed at least 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. In the other instances, the IDF reportedly took little or no action to halt attacks. After the Hebron massacre, Palestinians and many human rights groups questioned whether the IDF adequately protects Palestinians in the occupied territories. In the wake of the incident, the Israeli Army shot and killed over 20 Palestinians and wounded many more during unrest associated with the massacre. The Government later appointed an independent commission of inquiry which found that there was a near total absence of law enforcement against settler violence in the territories. The commission called for more stringent on-site security measures and a clarification of the rules governing the use of deadly force against Jewish settlers in extreme circumstances.

During the inquiry, Army officers testified to confusion about the rules on firing at Israeli citizens during confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis. They stated that most soldiers would not fire on settlers, even if they attacked Palestinians. The inquiry revealed what human rights groups termed a double standard regarding the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian residents of the occupied territories.

In a report on settler violence published in March, the Israeli human rights group B'tselem stated that, since the beginning of the intifada in 1987, only one Israeli settler had been convicted of murdering a Palestinian, even though 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli civilians. The report concluded that the settlers appeared to be in mortal danger in only four cases. Later in the year, another settler was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Human rights groups note that Palestinians often fail to report cases of settler violence because they fear being labeled as collaborators with Israeli authorities and retribution by settlers. These groups claim that police investigations of settler violence are often superficial, delayed, and rarely lead to arrests or sentencing. In October, the Israeli press reported that West Bank military commander Major General Ilan Biran asked the police and the Attorney General's office to speed up 88 criminal cases pending against settlers. Biran charged that the police and the courts inefficiently process army complaints against settlers. For this reason, the IDF maintains it must restrict the movements of violent settlers by issuing administrative orders to confine them to their neighborhoods or villages or to deny them entry to specific sites, such as the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Approximately 35 Israeli settlers fall into this category.

Figures compiled from a number of sources indicate that Palestinians killed 65 Palestinians in 1994, most often because of alleged collaboration with Israeli security services, but also in disputes between political factions, or street gangs, or in personal feuds. The PLO leadership pledged in 1994 that it would try to halt the killings of "collaborators." The number of such killings has declined in the past few years: there were 79 killings in 1993 and 149 in 1992. However, there were reports that the PA sought to persuade Israeli Arabs to refuse to allow families of collaborators to resettle in Israel.

The PA police also reportedly committed at least one extrajudicial killings. Farid Jarbou', a taxi driver, was arrested by the PA police as a suspected collaborator with the Israeli security services, and detained at the Gaza Central Prison where he was reportedly beaten during interrogation. Jarbou' died in detention on July 5, reportedly from injuries sustained during interrogation. After an investigation by the PA Department of Justice, four Palestinian police officials were arrested in connection with Jarbou's death. They have been released pending trial.

In August members of the Palestinian preventive security force (PSF) shot and killed Nidal Al-Khuli, a security officer, in a confrontation with members of another Palestinian security service in the West Bank town of Tulkarem. In September PSF officers killed another PSF officer during a confrontation with members of Hamas in Gaza. The PA police arrested the security officers responsible for the killings; at year's end, they were awaiting trial.

b. Disappearance

There were no confirmed reports of any disappearances attributed to either Israeli or Palestinian security services in 1994.

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 indicating that Israeli security forces are responsible for widespread abuse, and in some cases torture, of Palestinian detainees, including those who possess U.S. citizenship. According to the reports, such abuse takes place immediately after arrest and during interrogation. Common practices reportedly included hooding; forced standing; tying the detainee in contorted positions; prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures; blows and beatings with fists, sticks, and other instruments; confinement in a small and often filthy space; sleep and food deprivation; threats against the detainee's family; and threats of death. The apparent intent of these practices is to disorient and intimidate prisoners, and to obtain confessions or information. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) declared in 1992 that such practices violate the Geneva Convention.

Several Israeli settlers, arrested in 1994 for suspected membership in a new underground terrorist organization, claimed they were tortured after arrest. An investigator from the Attorney General's office was unable to substantiate their assertion that security guards hooded, and "otherwise tortured" them in "rat-infested cells."Israel's Criminal Code prohibits torture. Authorities maintain that torture is not condoned in the occupied territories, but acknowledge that abuses sometimes occur and are investigated. However, the Government does not generally make public the results of such investigations. In June Human Rights Watch published a report based on courtroom testimonies and on interviews with 36 Palestinians interrogated since June 1992, their defense attorneys, Israeli soldiers, and GSS agents. The report concluded that torture and mistreatment perpetrated by Israeli security services are "not isolated excesses" but "a pattern that could persist only with the acquiescence of the Government of Israel."After 40 Israelis were killed in several terrorist attacks by the extremist group Hamas, the GSS decided in November to allow interrogators "greater flexibility" in applying the guidelines established by the 1987 Landau Judicial Commission, which condemned torture but allowed for "moderate physical and psychological pressure" to secure confessions and obtain information. The Government has not defined the meaning of "greater flexibility." The decision will be in effect for 3 months, after which it will be reviewed.

Most convictions in security cases before Israeli courts are based on confessions. An attorney is not allowed to meet with a client until after interrogation, a process that may take days or, in some cases, weeks. The Government does not allow representatives from the ICRC to have access to detainees until the 14th day after arrest. Human rights groups point to this prolonged incommunicado detention as contributing to the likelihood of abuse. Detainees often claim in court that their confessions were coerced, but judges rarely exclude such confessions. Human rights groups assert that Palestinian detainees often fail to lodge complaints either from fear of retribution or because they assume their complaints will be ignored.

In January the Knesset (Parliament) ruled that the Ministry of Justice, instead of the GSS, would investigate complaints against GSS interrogators. Complaints against Israeli soldiers are investigated by the IDF. According to the Israeli Government, in the period between January and September, 14 soldiers were indicted on allegations of improper behavior, 4 of which were counts of negligent manslaughter. In those cases, eight convictions have so far been obtained. The remainder of cases are awaiting trial. Of the aforementioned convictions, penalties handed down have ranged from demotions in rank to imprisonment.

The Israeli Central Prisons Authority closed the Nitsan Isolation Section of Al-Ramleh Prison in 1994 because of its poor conditions and moved the prisoners to other prisons. The prisoner population at Ketziot Military Detention Camp, the object of a 1993 legal petition due to its poor conditions, has fallen to about 820 in 1994 from 4,900 in 1993. Some problems concerning prison conditions, however, remain unresolved from 1993. The Israeli Supreme Court has yet to rule on a petition filed in 1993 by prisoners of Hebron Prison protesting the lack of water for toilet and bathing facilities.

In May Israeli security forces relinquished the administration of detention facilities in Gaza and Jericho to the PA. The physical conditions at these facilities do not meet minimum international standards. Food and clothing for prisoners are inadequate and must be supplemented by donations from families and humanitarian groups. The PA has not allocated its Ministry of Justice adequate funds to make improvements. Credible sources have reported that Palestinian security officials have abused prisoners at the Gaza Central Prison. PA officials acknowledge such abuse. In July the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen's Rights (PICCR) recommended that PA prison administrators implement the basic international standards for the treatment of prisoners, including ensuring that prisoners have the rights to legal counsel and humane treatment. In August the PICCR observed that prison authorities had implemented most of the recommendations for changes in procedures and that the treatment of prisoners had improved (see Section 1.a. on the death of Farid Jarbou'). Other Palestinian human rights groups have reported that abuse of Palestinian detainees continues in Jericho and Gaza prisons and that several irregularities have been reported in courtroom proceedings there.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Any Israeli soldier may arrest without warrant a person who has committed, or is suspected of having committed, a criminal or security offense in the territories, except for the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. The vast majority of arrests are for alleged security offenses. Persons arrested for common crimes are usually provided with a statement of charges and access to an attorney, and they may apply for bail. However, these procedures are sometimes delayed. Authorities reportedly issue special summonses for security offenses. Israeli military order 1369 stipulates a 7-year prison term for any person who does not respond to a special summons delivered by a family member or posted in the civil administration office nearest his home address. Bail is rarely available to those arrested for security offenses. The courts treat persons over age 12 as adults. Persons may be held in custody without a warrant for 96 hours and then released unless a warrant is issued. Military orders were amended in 1994 to shorten the period of prearraignment detention to 11 days for Palestinians arrested in the occupied territories. The previous maximum prearraignment detention was 18 days. A ruling in 1992 shortened this period for minors and those accused of less serious offenses, such as stone throwing, to 8 days. 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. They 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.

Although a detainee generally has the right to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible, authorities may delay access to counsel for up to 15 days in security cases. Higher ranking officials or judges may extend this period an additional 75 days for the same reasons. Authorities must inform detainees of their right to an attorney and whether there are any orders prohibiting such contact. 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 also permit detainees to be held in isolation from family and other detainees during interrogation.

Israeli authorities claim that they attempt to post notification of arrest within 48 hours. However, Palestinian suspects are sometimes kept incommunicado for several days after their arrest by Israeli authorities who do not inform the family of the detainees' whereabouts. Palestinians assert that they generally locate the detainee through their own efforts. Notification to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General of detained American citizens of Palestinian origin has almost always been by the detainee's family. The ICRC attempts to help by telephoning families with information received from prison officials. A senior officer may delay for up to 12 days notification of arrest to immediate family members, attorneys, and consular 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 without formal charges. The use of administrative detention continued in 1994, but at a lower level than in previous years. An estimated 220 Palestinians were in administrative detention at year's end, compared to 277 at the end of 1993. Detention periods range up to 6 months and are renewable. Israeli officials state that administrative detention is used only when IDF legal advisors determine that there is sufficient evidence to detain a person and that the evidence has been corroborated by two sources.

Evidence used at hearings for administrative detention is secret and unavailable to the detainee or his attorney. 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. However, human rights monitors contend that administrative detention is often used when evidence against a suspect would not stand up in court.

Detainees may appeal detention orders, or the renewal of a detention order, before a military judge. At the hearing, defense attorneys may question security service witnesses concerning the general nature of the evidence. The Supreme Court may review rulings by military judges and examine secret evidence.

There were no deportations in 1994.

Since the signing of the DOP in September 1993, the Government has released 5,477 Palestinian prisoners, according to statistics from the Mandela Institute for Prisoners. Of these, 4,500 were released over a period of several months after Israel and the PLO signed the Gaza-Jericho Agreement in May.

At the end of 1994, an estimated 6,050 Palestinian prisoners were incarcerated in Israeli administered prisons, military detention centers, and holding centers, a significant drop from the 1993 figure of 9,573. Of these, 2,450 were in military detention centers and the others were in facilities administered by the Israeli Central Prisons Authority. Since the beginning of the intifada in 1987, the Government has routinely transferred Palestinian detainees from the occupied territories to facilities in Israel, especially to the Ketziot detention camp in the Negev Desert and Megiddo Prison near Afula, notwithstanding Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. As of September 1, nearly half (2,912) of the Palestinian prisoners were being detained in Israel.

The Palestinian police in Gaza conducted several mass arrests in response to acts or threats of violence against Palestinians and Israelis. These arrests were conducted without warrants against groups whose members have engaged in violence. In most cases, Palestinian authorities released detainees without charge within the 48-hour limit stipulated by Gaza law, although some suspects remained in custody longer. The PA's Ministry of Justice requires that all detainees held beyond the 48-hour limit must be formally charged, but acknowledges that some detainees are held longer without change. Gazan law allows the Attorney General to extend the detention period to a maximum of 90 days during investigations. According to the PA's Ministry of Justice, 20 opposition members were in detention as of September 1. Authorities generally permit prisoners to receive visits from family members and attorneys, except for prisoners held in the Gaza Central Prison security wing. In principle, detainees may notify their families of their arrest.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Palestinians accused of non-security offenses are tried publicly in local courts by Palestinian judges appointed by Israeli officials, except where jurisdiction has been transferred by military order. At the beginning of the intifada in December 1987, the intifada leadership ordered Palestinian police and judges to resign. This weakened the ability of the courts to enforce decisions. Since then, Palestinian courts in the West Bank have functioned sporadically.

Palestinians accused by Israel of security offenses are tried in Israeli military courts. Security offenses are broadly defined and may include charges of political activity, such as suspected 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. Israeli military courts rarely acquit Palestinians of security offenses, but sentences are sometimes reduced on appeal. Trials are 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, in some cases reportedly because they have not been informed of the trial date. 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. Consular officers 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. There is practically 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 contribute to the likelihood that security detainees will sign confessions. Confessions are usually spoken in Arabic, but recorded in Hebrew because, authorities maintain, while many Israeli court personnel speak Arabic, few are able to write it.

Crowded facilities and poor arrangements for attorney-client consultations in prisons hinder legal defense efforts. Palestinian attorneys report that appointments to see clients are difficult to arrange, and that prison authorities often fail to produce clients for scheduled appointments. 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 not governed by military occupation law. Settlers convicted in Israeli courts of crimes against Palestinians regularly receive lighter punishment than Palestinians convicted of 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, Egyptian, and some locally generated law. Jordanian law applies in Jericho. However, this body of law has been substantially modified by Israeli military orders. According to the DOP and the Gaza-Jericho 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. Until that is completed, the PA will keep in place existing civilian court structures in Gaza and Jericho. There is also a military court with about 600 cases pending from Israeli arrests and prosecutions.

The PA's Ministry of Justice supervises the eight judges in the Shari'a religious courts in Gaza. They adjudicate divorce cases almost exclusively. Jericho's court system was separated from the Ramallah District in September. Appeals from the Jericho courts are referred to the Gaza Court of Appeals. At the end of 1994, no controversial cases--including those of opposition members detained during roundups--had been brought to trial.

The PA Ministry of Justice appoints all judges for 10-year terms. The Attorney General, an appointed official, reports to the Minister of Justice and supervises judicial operations in both Gaza and Jericho. The Chief Justice dismissed a woman judge in Gaza shortly after assuming office, reportedly on the grounds that such positions were not appropriate for women. She was subsequently reinstated.

In Jericho, in addition to the civilian court system governed by pre-1967 Jordanian law, the PA maintains a security court which is constituted under the PLO's 1979 revolutionary conduct code. Jericho's security court is presided over by a senior officer of the Palestinian police. The prosecutor, also a Palestinian police officer, investigates disciplinary complaints involving all branches of the Palestinian Police Forces in Jericho. He has also conducted investigations of security-related incidents in Jericho, although the suspects implicated in those incidents were civilians. Normal limits on the amount of time individuals may be detained before being brought before a court do not appear to apply to suspects held by the security prosecutor. In the case of three youths accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a tourist bus, the security prosecutor reportedly held the suspects in detention for approximately 2 months while the incident was investigated by the local Palestinian intelligence branch. The suspects, who had confessed to the charges at the time they were first detained, were ultimately turned over to the civilian court for sentencing.

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

Israeli military authorities in the West Bank 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 used forced entries, and has sometimes beaten occupants and destroyed property. Undercover units have also engaged in destructive and violent behavior during searches, as well as harassment of families of wanted Palestinians. Israeli authorities claim that forced entry may lawfully occur only when incident to an arrest and when entry is resisted. They maintain 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. The Government does not provide information regarding such compensation.

Authorities sealed 5 houses in 1994 for security reasons, a sharp decline from 27 houses sealed in 1993. Security forces may demolish or seal the home of a suspect, whether he is the owner or tenant, without any trial. The decision to seal or demolish a house is made by several high-level Israeli officials, including the coordinator of the 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 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.

In November part of a house was demolished by military order for security reasons after an appeal to the Israeli High Court was rejected. This was the first house demolition, albeit partial, since 1992. The home was the residence of the Palestinian responsible for the October bus bombing in Tel Aviv and belonged to his parents. Many human rights groups maintain that the sealing or demolishing of homes is a form of collective punishment because such acts target families and children.

Owners may apply to regional military commanders for permits to rebuild or unseal their homes. In 1994 the Government processed 94 requests to open sealed rooms and houses; 61 applications were approved. In June the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence began a campaign to reopen many homes sealed during the occupation. At the Center's urging, activists and family members opened 130 of more than 350 sealed houses before they were arrested. Authorities resealed several of the homes. In December the Israeli Government decided to allow the opening or rebuilding of homes sealed or demolished as a result of security offenses committed by a family member who had been released from prison. Each former prisoner must apply for a rebuilding or unsealing permit after which the Government will approve or reject the application. Israeli security services sometimes monitor mail and telephone conversations. The authorities sometimes interrupt telephone service and electricity to specific areas. In Gaza and Jericho, the existing law requires that a chief prosecutor issue warrants for entry and searches of private property. These requirements were ignored in October, when the Palestinian police conducted a sweep of several districts in the Gaza Strip to search for a kidnaped Israeli soldier. Homes were searched without the consent of their owners; in some cases, the police forcibly entered premises, destroying doors and windows. Palestinian human rights groups and political leaders protested the police's conduct, but the PA did not officially respond.

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

Section 1.a. provides information on Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers, and Israelis killed by Palestinians. Many of these victims were deliberately targeted; however, others were killed, or injured, by the excessive use of force. Extremists associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad were responsible for most of the lethal attacks on Israelis.

Estimates vary on the number of casualties caused by use of excessive force in the occupied territories. Figures compiled from a number of sources indicate that 108 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, a decrease from the 184 killings in 1993. Killings continued at rates in the West Bank similar to the frequency in the previous year. Estimates of the number of Palestinians wounded also vary; IDF figures report that 925 Palestinians were wounded in 1994, as of December 26, as compared to the IDF estimate of 890 wounded between January and September 1993. Human rights groups estimated that 2,487 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli security forces in 1994, a decrease from the 1993 estimate of 4,120. Palestinians killed 23 Israeli soldiers and civilians in the occupied territories, a decrease from the 49 killed in those areas in 1993. The number of deaths within Israel, however, increased from 14 in 1993 to 52 in 1994. Estimates of Israeli wounded were about 427. Extremists associated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were responsible for most of the lethal attacks on Israelis.

Israeli security forces killed 15 Palestinians under the age of 16 in 1994. Information on the results of the investigations of these incidents was not available. Human rights groups report that the IDF killed 19 people--including at least one Israeli--at military checkpoints since the closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in March 1993. These individuals were killed for fleeing, or failing to halt, at the checkpoints. Human rights groups maintain that incidents could have been avoided and called for an investigation into military practices at the checkpoints. After the killing of a Palestinian at a checkpoint in September, the IDF said it would revise the open fire orders at checkpoints.

IDF regulations permit the use of live ammunition only when soldiers' lives are 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 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 and women, even in cases of severe public disorder, unless there is an immediate and obvious danger to a soldier's life.

In practice, soldiers, police, and undercover units used live ammunition in situations other than when their lives were in danger (see Section l.a.) and often shot suspects in the upper body and head. Soldiers, police, and undercover units also injured many bystanders, including children, by live fire, rubber bullets, or beating while pursuing suspects.

In 1994 a reserve soldier testified to B'tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, that as part of his military training, he was taught to shoot at a hypothetical suspect, in this case someone who had thrown a Molotov cocktail, without giving any warning, and to fire additional shots in the suspect's head as he lay on the ground.

The IDF continued using heavy weapons to destroy houses believed to be the hiding place of security suspects. An estimated 12 houses were destroyed by antitank missiles during such operations. There are no statistics on the number of damaged homes. The IDF apologized and offered compensation to an UNRWA senior staff member whose house was demolished by antitank missiles in April 1994.

In July an IDF unit raided the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, apparently searching for a group of armed men distributing Islamic Jihad leaflets on the hospital premises. The IDF unit reportedly interrupted medical procedures, intimidated staff, patients, and visitors, reportedly beating some of them and damaged property. The Government of Israel expressed regret for any damage or harm raised by the search. The incident remains under investigation. Human rights groups claimed that on two instances in 1994, Israeli soldiers used children as shields to protect themselves from stonethrowers.

The Palestinian Police Force used excessive force to quell a demonstration at Gaza's Filistin Mosque on November 18. According to Gaza-based human rights organizations, the demonstration's sponsors did not request a permit. The confrontation resulted in the deaths of at least 16 persons and left hundreds wounded. The PPF arrested hundreds of demonstrators in the wake of rioting that followed the clash. Most were released without charges within a few weeks. The PA established a commission, which at year's end, was still investigating the incident.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Israeli Government generally respects freedom of speech in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, but prohibits public expressions of support for Islamic extremist groups, such as Hamas, and other groups avowedly dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. The Government eased other restrictions during the year. It did not enforce the prohibition on the display of Palestinian political symbols, such as flags, national colors, and graffiti, acts which are punishable by fines or imprisonment.

Overall, censorship of specific press pieces decreased during the year. However, citing security reasons, Israeli authorities continue to restrict the Arabic press. Military censors review all Arabic publications in East Jerusalem for material related to the public order and security of Israel and the occupied territories. Israeli authorities prohibited the distribution of the PLO-affiliated Al-Awdah publication for several months in 1994. In August the Ministry of the Interior ordered the closure of the Hamas-affiliated East Jerusalem weekly Al-Bayan. In addition, an Arab press in Hebron was closed in November by the Israeli authorities for 1 year on charges of printing inflammatory material against the peace process. Reports by foreign journalists are also subject to review by Israeli military censors for security reasons, and the satellite feed used by many foreign journalists is monitored. Some journalists have reported that their stories arrived at their filed destination with a blank segment in the text.

Some areas continue to be closed to journalists, usually in conjunction with a curfew or security incident. After the Hebron massacre in February, the IDF temporarily denied entry permits to Palestinian journalists, preventing them from attending their places of work in East Jerusalem.

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. According to the IDF, publications supporting Palestinian nationalism are not censored or banned unless they advocate violence. Possession of banned materials is punishable by a fine and imprisonment. Most Palestinians punished by this order in 1994 were members of Hamas. Security forces closed several mosques after Hamas pamphlets were found inside.

Citing security problems, authorities continued to close individual secondary and elementary schools for short periods. The frequency of such closures greatly declined from previous years. Palestinian universities generally operated normally, also in sharp contrast to previous years.

Palestinians living in areas under the jurisdiction of the PA generally enjoy freedom of speech and criticize PA performance and policies and the peace process. The PA has granted licenses to publish to a variety of periodicals, including some operated by groups opposed to the peace process and critical of the PA. Two new papers, Al-Watan and Al-Istiqlal, affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, respectively, appeared late in the year. Both take a critical line against the PA and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat. However, PA officials and those acting in the name of the PA, imposed restrictions on the press in several instances. In July the PA prohibited the distribution of the East Jerusalem daily An-Nahar in Gaza and Jericho, purportedly because the newspaper expressed a pro-Jordanian line. There were also warnings not to distribute in the West Bank, and as a result, the newspaper stopped publishing. After a series of protests, the PA allowed An-Nahar to resume distribution in Gaza and Jericho. After it resumed publication, the paper adopted a more pro-PA editorial line.

Palestinian police authorities also blocked the distribution of several Arabic and one Israeli newspaper for several hours November 28 in reaction to press coverage on a Hamas/Islamic Jihad demonstration that reported the crowd size to be much larger than the "official" estimate. Over the next two days, newspaper distribution was blocked, including the pro-PLO daily Al-Quds, apparently in reaction to the newspaper's strong editorial against the PA's distribution blockage. There were also credible reports that senior PA leaders have intimidated editors into practicing self-censorship, and that they have been pressured not to publish certain writers who are out of favor with the PA or Fatah officials. These actions have had a chilling effect on the willingness of reporters to criticize PA officials.

Prior to 1994, no broadcast media originated from the occupied territories. However, after the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the PA established the Palestine Broadcasting Company (PBC) with a television station in Gaza and a radio station in Jericho. The PBC's broadcast news almost exclusively reflects the PA's views on issues.

Under the August Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities (the "early empowerment agreement") reached with the Government of Israel, the PA assumed responsibility for all levels of education in the West Bank, in addition to its jurisdiction in Gaza and Jericho.

There were no reports of interference with academic freedoms.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although Israeli military orders ban public gatherings of 10 or more people without a permit, authorities relaxed enforcement after the signing of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September 1993. In 1994 Israeli authorities permitted large-scale rallies in several towns in support of, and in opposition to, the peace agreement. Private organizations are required to register with the authorities, though some operate without licenses. Authorities permit Palestinian charitable, community, professional, and self-help organizations to operate unless their activities are viewed as overtly political or opposed to the DOP.

PA officials maintain that there are no restraints on freedom of assembly, although they require permits for rallies and demonstrations. These have been denied on occasion. In September Gaza Police Commander Ghazi Jabali issued an order prohibiting specifically "political" meetings at Al-Azhar University, the Rashad Shawwa Cultural Center, the YMCA, and the Gala Cinema without police approval. Later that month, Jabali issued a second order prohibiting buses from transporting passengers to attend political meetings without written permission from the Gaza police commander. The November confrontation at the Filistin Mosque in Gaza occurred after Islamists tried to demonstrate without a permit. In Jericho, the PA requires permits for outdoor rallies and demonstrations. Other restrictions prohibit calls for violence, a display of arms, and racist slogans. After the October signing of the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty, authorities prohibited a planned anti-Jordanian rally in Jericho.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Israeli Government respects freedom of religion and does not ban any group or sect on strictly religious grounds. The Government permits all faiths to operate schools and institutions. Religious publications are subject to the publications laws described in Section 2.a.

The PA also does not restrict the freedom of religion.

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

Israeli authorities continued to issue some Palestinians green identity cards which signify that the bearer is a security risk and prohibit the bearer's travel in or through Jerusalem and abroad. As of October 1, the Government had issued 1,823 such cards which are generally valid for 6 months and renewable indefinitely. Issuance of the cards is a form of punishment without formal charge or trial. According to Arabic press reports, Palestinians with blue identity cards, signifying they are residents of the Jerusalem area, must obtain permits from Israeli authorities to enter the Palestinian Authority areas. Closure of the West Bank and Gaza, originally instituted in March 1993 as a means of reducing the number of attacks on Israelis, continued at intervals in 1994. Most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip encountered difficulty in obtaining permits to visit, work, study, or attend religious services outside their areas of residence. During the periodic closures of the occupied territories, Christians and Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have encountered difficulties in obtaining permits to visit the holy sites in East Jerusalem. As a security precaution, authorities also banned West Bankers and Gazans from entering Jerusalem during major Jewish holidays.

Serious security incidents generally prompt the Government to tighten or close entry from the territories and the Palestinian Authority areas for extended periods. Israeli officials acknowledged that no Palestinian holder of a legal work permit has committed an act of terrorism in Israel: terrorists have been either legal residents of East Jerusalem or entered Israeli territory clandestinely.

Curfews were more frequently imposed in villages and refugee camps than in urban areas. A serious exception was the repeated and prolonged curfews on the Hebron area following the February massacre. The curfew was imposed to ensure the safety of 450 settlers in the heart of Hebron. Like all curfews, it inhibited Palestinian residents from going to work, shopping, receiving visits or assistance from family members, pursuing their education, and observing religious holidays.

Following the Hebron massacre, the Government briefly restricted the travel of local Israeli settlers, but they were not subject to the curfew. Even after the curfew was lifted in the surrounding area, it remained in effect for shops and offices in the Hebron business district. Authorities required residents to obtain permits to gain access to their shops and homes in the business area. A vegetable market adjacent to a small Israeli settlement remains closed and several roads to Palestinian neighborhoods that branch off of a main road were closed in order to create a safer passage for Israeli settlers in the Hebron area. The Government requires all Palestinians to obtain permits for foreign travel and has restricted the travel of some political activists. However, thousands of Palestinians in the occupied territories travel abroad each year.

Bridge-crossing permits to Jordan may be obtained at post offices without a screening process. Palestinian males between the ages of 16 and 25 who cross the bridge into Jordan must remain outside the territories for 9 months. Expedited entry for Palestinian travelers crossing into Gaza at Rafah, and into the West Bank from the Allenby Bridge, went into effect in November. Travel documents and identification cards for the residents of Gaza and Jericho are issued by the Palestinian Authority; residents in the rest of the West Bank continue to be issued documents by Israeli authorities. Obstacles to emigration include the inability to obtain a travel permit and the fear of losing one's residency. Restrictions on residence, tourist visas, reentry, and family reunification apply only to Palestinian residents of the occupied territories. Israel sometimes refuses 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 Government ordinarily does not permit Palestinians who obtain foreign citizenship to resume residence in the occupied territories; nor does it permit those who acquire legal residency abroad, or who remain outside the occupied territories for over 3 years, to resume their residency. Such persons are permitted to return only as tourists and are sometimes denied entry entirely.

Israeli authorities also place restrictions on family reunification. Most Palestinians who were abroad before or during the 1967 war (estimated at one-fourth of the Palestinian population at that time) or who have lost their residence permits for other reasons, are not permitted to reside permanently with their families in the occupied territories.

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

The CIVAD liberalized its family reunification policy in 1994, allowing relatives who entered the territories prior to September 1993 to remain pending approval of their applications for permanent residence. The CIVAD also increased the number of approvals for family reunification cases. The PA has also presented the Israeli Government with 2,000 new cases, which the Government currently have under review. In June the Minister of Interior permitted female Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to apply for family reunification for their nonresident husbands.

The PA does not restrict the travel of Palestinians in Gaza and Jericho. However, travel between Gaza and Jericho is subject to a future agreement with the Government of Israel as travelers must transit Israeli territory. By year's end, these arrangements were not yet concluded.

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

Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jericho have not yet been afforded an opportunity to exercise this right. The DOP provides for an election for a Palestinian Council. The Government of Israel and the PA are negotiating an agreement for such elections. The PA is now responsible for a wide range of governmental functions in Gaza and Jericho. In the West Bank, the functions in five areas (health, education, culture and social welfare, tourism, and taxation) have been transferred to the PA.

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

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

Many local groups--Israeli, Palestinian, and mixed--monitor the Government's human rights practices. The Israeli Government generally cooperates with human rights organizations; officials normally agree to meet with human rights monitors. The Government permits them to publish and hold press conferences. However, some groups maintain that the Government does not adequately respond to their inquiries and sometimes does not respond at all. Security forces arrested a fieldworker from the human rights organization Al-Haq in March and again in June during apparent roundups of suspects associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Al-Haq claimed that the fieldworker was arrested and placed under administrative detention because of his human rights work. The Israeli Government claimed that the fieldworker was connected with violent activities undertaken by the PFLP.

Following the Hebron massacre, Israel and the PLO agreed to accept the presence of 121 international monitors in Hebron. The monitors arrived in May and left on schedule in August. In the areas under the PA's jurisdiction, the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights (PICCR) was established in 1993. PICCR is independently funded and its board of directors is drawn from Palestinians without official connections to the PA. PICCR reportedly has access to PA officials and records. It was one of the few Palestinian organizations to protest the PA's ban of An-Nahar newspaper. In areas outside the PA's jurisdiction, other Palestinian groups, including the Mandela Institute, the Palestine Human Rights Information Center, and Al-Haq, cover human rights issues.

The PA has a cooperative relationship with the ICRC and the ILO.

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

Women

Palestinian women living under military occupation face human rights problems similar to those of men. In addition, women endure various forms of social prejudice and repression within their own society. While there is an active women's movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, attention has only recently shifted from nationalist aspirations to women's issues like domestic violence, employment, and marriage and inheritance laws.

There are no laws providing for women's rights in the workplace. Many Palestinian women work outside the home and some are prominent in such professions as medicine, law, and teaching. Personal status law for Palestinians is based on religious law. For Muslim Palestinians, personal status law is derived from Shari'a (Islamic) law. Women have certain rights regarding marriage and divorce, inheritance, property ownership, and custody of children. However, women's rights advocates believe that many Palestinian women are not aware of their legal rights.

Although the issues of rape, domestic violence, and violence, as related to "family honor" have gained greater prominence, public discussion is generally taboo. Victims are often encouraged by relatives to remain quiet and are themselves punished or blamed for the "shame" which has been brought upon them and their family. While women's groups seek to educate women on these issues, 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 attempts to provide counseling or outreach services to victims.

Children

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Israeli settlers are treated more favorably under Israeli law and practices than Palestinians under the complex mixture of the laws and regulations that apply to the occupied territories, Gaza and the Jericho area. This includes the right to due process, residency rights, freedom of movement, sales of crops and goods, land and water use, and access to health and social services. Travel restrictions are not applied equally (see Section 2.c.). Similarly, the Government treats Israeli settlers involved in security violations more leniently than Palestinians guilty of similar offenses (see Section 1.a.).

The Government traditionally had subjected Palestinians to higher rates of income tax than Israeli settlers. While these rates are not appreciably higher than those for Israeli citizens, Palestinian tax assessments are generally more arbitrary. The PA has assumed tax authority over Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and is in the process of establishing full responsibility for this function following the conclusion of appropriate arrangements with the Government of Israel.

People with Disabilities

There is no mandated accessibility to public facilities in the occupied territories under either Israeli or Palestinian authority. There are some Palestinian institutions that care for and train disabled persons; these efforts, however, are chronically underfunded.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Labor affairs in the West Bank are governed by Jordanian Law 21 of 1965, as amended by Israeli military orders and, more recently, for Jericho, decisions by the PA. The law permits workers to establish and join unions without government authorization. However, Israeli authorities in the West Bank require all proposed new unions to apply for a permit. One new union was established in 1994, and two others applied for registration. Israeli authorities have licensed 31 of the approximately 125 union branches. There are approximately 15 trade unions in the West Bank registered with the Israeli Government and 6 trade unions in the Gaza Strip.

PA officials are drafting a new labor law which reportedly provides for the right to establish unions, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, a minimum wage, minimum working hours, minimum age employment restrictions, and health and safety regulations.

Palestinian workers in East Jerusalem are governed by Israeli labor law. They are free to establish their own unions. Although the Government prohibits East Jerusalem unions from joining the West Bank trade union federation, this restriction has not been enforced. Palestinian workers in East 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 Histadrut federation. West Bank and Gaza labor leaders met formally with Histadrut officials for the first time in 1994. The Government prohibits Palestinian workers who are not resident in Israel or East Jerusalem from being full members of Histadrut. Nevertheless, Palestinian workers in Israel are required to contribute 1 percent of their wages to Histadrut. Negotiations between Histadrut and West Bank union officials to return part of this fee began in 1994 but are not yet complete.

Palestinians who work in Israel are also 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. Israeli authorities maintain that the Civil Administration (CIVAD) provides Palestinian workers with tax allowances and other benefits that amount to adequate compensation. According to the Gaza-Jericho 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 has 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 will be made by a joint Israeli-Palestinian economic committee.

The great majority of West Bank unions belong to the General Federation of Trade Unions in the West Bank (GFTU) or the General Federation of Trade Unions in the West Bank-Workers' Unity Bloc (WUB). In the fall, the GFTU, the WUB, and the Gaza unions merged informally to create a single union, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). Pending elections, scheduled for spring 1995, the PGFTU is acting as an informal coalition in negotiations with Histadrut. When completed, the reorganization of unions under the PGFTU should enable the West Bank unions, now joined with Gaza unions, to better represent the interests of union members.

Union membership has declined continuously since the intifada, in part because the periodic closures of the occupied territories has restricted the number of work permits issued to Palestinians. An estimated 85,000 workers are members of the GFTU, the largest union bloc. There are approximately 25,000 union members in Gaza. The GFTU participates in meetings of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU), although it is not affiliated. Both the GFTU and the WUB have applied for membership in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

Union organizations in the West Bank are associated with various Palestinian political factions. Israeli authorities tended to view Palestinian unions as political organizations and occasionally inhibited their activities in the West Bank and Gaza. The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the ICFTU have observed that fear of intimidation and arrest for labor activities inhibited the development of unions in the territories in the past.

Palestinian labor organizations are subject to disciplinary measures for engaging in political activities. The CIVAD must approve all meetings of 10 or more non-Israeli citizens in the territories. The ILO reported that the CIVAD permitted it to hold a conference in Nablus, although Israeli authorities did not grant travel permits for union organizers to meet in Jerusalem.

According to the CIVAD, Islamists were permitted to establish one union in 1994, with two branches, in contrast to none in 1993. The union represents workers in several Islamic enterprises.

West Bank unions held no elections in 1994. Israeli military order 825 of 1980 requires Palestinian unions to provide the CIVAD with the names of candidates for union office 30 days before union elections. The order authorizes the CIVAD to remove from the lists any candidate convicted of a felony, including those sentenced for security offenses.

There has been no dissolution of unions by administrative or legislative action. Under prevailing labor law, unions have the right to strike only after submitting a complaint to the CIVAD for mandatory arbitration. Approximately 10 strikes occurred in the West Bank in 1994. Israeli authorities did not interfere with them. 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 Gaza-Jericho Agreement provides that Palestinians employed in Israel will have the right to bring labor disputes before the Israeli labor courts.

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 40 percent of employment in the territories consists of wage jobs, most in services provided by the CIVAD, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), or municipalities. Collective bargaining is protected. The CIVAD does not record collective agreements because it does not recognize some unions and union leaders. Nonetheless, Israeli authorities honor such agreements and do not interfere in them. About 60 labor agreements are in force in the West Bank.

Labor disputes are reportedly adjudicated by committees of 3 to 5 members in businesses employing more than 20 workers. The Center for Trade Union Rights, headquartered in Bethlehem, and European and U.S. unions have recently conducted seminars on a spectrum of labor issues, including labor dispute resolution.

Existing laws and regulations do not offer real protection against anti-union discrimination. There are no export processing zones in the occupied territories.

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, Jericho and Gaza area 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 no minimum wage in the West Bank, Jericho or Gaza area. In the West Bank, Jordanian law allows for a maximum workweek of 48 hours with a required 24-hour rest period, except for certain hotel, food service, and cinema employees, whose workweek is 54 hours. In Gaza, Israeli authorities amended this law to provide for a 45-hour workweek for day laborers and a 40-hour workweek for salaried employees. There is no effective enforcement of maximum workweek laws.

The Israeli Ministry of Labor's Office of Inspection Services is responsible for enforcing health and safety standards in the West Bank and Gaza. It maintains that it has undertaken several inspections, but health and safety conditions in some factories do not meet international standards.

 

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