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Amnesty International Report 2004 - Palestinian Authority

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 26 May 2004
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Palestinian Authority , 26 May 2004, available at: [accessed 22 February 2018]
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.

Covering events from January - December 2003

Hundreds of Palestinians remained in detention without charge or trial. They included alleged members of armed groups and people suspected of "collaborating" with Israeli intelligence services. Some alleged "collaborators" were killed by armed Palestinians. Palestinian members of armed groups killed some 200 Israelis, most of them civilians. Adequate investigations into such attacks were not carried out and none of those responsible was brought to justice.


The al-Aqsa intifada (uprising), which started on 29 September 2000, continued. Some 600 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, the majority of them unlawfully. Palestinian members of armed groups killed some 200 Israelis, including at least 130 civilians, among them 21 children, and around 70 soldiers. Many were killed in suicide bombings claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (an offshoot of Fatah), the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas), Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Palestinian armed groups also repeatedly launched mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip towards nearby Israeli cities and into Israeli settlements inside the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians were injured in the conflict.

A peace plan, known as the "road map", sponsored by the European Union, the UN, the Russian Federation and the USA was agreed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel in June. It envisaged a three-phase process and a set of goals including the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005, an end to Palestinian violence and Israeli occupation, and a final resolution to the conflict. Human rights organizations expressed concern that the "road map" repeated the failure of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements to address the protection of fundamental human rights, and did not include provisions to establish specific mechanisms to ensure compliance with obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

In the framework of the "road map", some 600 Palestinian detainees and prisoners were released by Israel and on 25 June Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed a three-month cease-fire. In July Israel transferred control of security in Bethlehem and Gaza to the PA. However, the Israeli army maintained its presence around the city of Bethlehem, cutting it off from neighbouring villages and the rest of the West Bank. Fewer than 10 Israeli army checkpoints and roadblocks were removed while hundreds remained in place throughout the Occupied Territories. The construction by Israel of a fence/wall inside the West Bank continued. Palestinian towns continued to be raided, and closures and curfews were routinely imposed on Palestinian towns and villages, effectively blocking them off from each other (see Israel and the Occupied Territories entry).

The "road map" process collapsed after three consecutive Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel in August and a stepping up by Israeli security forces of extrajudicial executions of Palestinian militants in August and September. The Israeli security cabinet in September approved in principle the forcible expulsion of PA President 'Arafat, but left the timing of such a move open. Throughout 2003, President 'Arafat continued to be confined to his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Attempts to revive the "road map" were made in November, when the UN Security Council adopted a resolution endorsing the plan. In a bid to convince Hamas to agree to a new cease-fire, the PA in November unfroze the bank accounts of six charity organizations linked to Hamas which had been blocked in August.

On 18 March the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) passed a bill creating a new post of prime minister. Mahmud 'Abbas (Abu Mazen) was appointed to the post and formed a cabinet that was approved by the PLC on 29 April. However, a power struggle between President 'Arafat and Prime Minister 'Abbas over control of the PA security services eventually led to the resignation of Mahmud 'Abbas in September. Parliamentary Speaker Ahmad Quray was subsequently appointed as Prime Minister. The new cabinet presented by him was approved by the PLC in November. The Palestinian security forces were unified under a National Security Council, chaired by President 'Arafat.

Administration of justice and impunity

President 'Arafat and other PA officials regularly condemned suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis and called on Palestinian armed groups to end such attacks. However, those responsible for ordering, planning or carrying out attacks were not brought to justice and no investigations were carried out, and no measures were known to have been taken by the PA to stop Palestinian armed groups from carrying out these attacks.

It remained unclear to what extent the PA could exercise effective control over any of the armed groups involved in attacks against Israelis. The destruction by the Israeli army of most of the PA infrastructure, including prisons and security installations, substantially reduced the PA's capacity and willingness to exercise control over armed groups. The stringent restrictions imposed by the Israeli army on the movement and activities of the Palestinian security forces further undermined their ability to investigate killings and other attacks by Palestinian armed groups and to bring those responsible to justice. Restrictions on movement within the Occupied Territories also prevented or restricted the functioning of PA courts because judges, lawyers and witnesses could not travel freely or at all. There were some reports of Israeli forces breaking into Palestinian prisons and detention centres.

The collapse of internal order and security in several West Bank and Gaza Strip towns created a situation where groups of armed Palestinians had almost free rein to carry out unlawful killings and other abuses.

At least 10 Palestinians suspected of "collaborating" with Israeli intelligence services were unlawfully killed by members of armed groups or by armed individuals. Most of the killings were carried out by members of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The PA consistently failed to investigate these killings and none of the perpetrators was brought to justice.

  • On 20 July, the acting Governor of Jenin District, Haidar Irshid, was abducted by members of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, beaten and then taken to Jenin's refugee camp. He was released after a few hours, reportedly after intervention by President 'Arafat. The group reportedly accused Haidar Irshid of "collaborating" with Israeli security forces.
Several national and international media institutions in the West Bank were raided by groups of armed Palestinians, who reportedly accused them of giving undue prominence in their coverage to internal PA political tensions. During the raids, employees were assaulted and equipment was destroyed. No official investigation was known to have been instigated into these raids.

State Security Courts

On 27 July, the Palestinian Minister of Justice issued a decision, published in the PA's official gazette, abolishing State Security Courts with immediate effect and transferring their responsibilities to regular courts and the Attorney General. Local human rights groups welcomed this decision as a step towards creating an independent Palestinian judiciary, and called on President 'Arafat to cancel Presidential Decree 49 (1995) that had established the courts. They also called on the Minister of Justice to review the cases previously tried before State Security Courts and order their retrial before civil courts. However, there were reports that the State Security Courts in the Gaza Strip continued to operate after the decree abolishing them was issued.

Arbitrary detention

More than 600 Palestinians were held in Palestinian prisons, detention centres or makeshift detention centres at undisclosed locations (so-called "safe houses"). Most were held on criminal charges, and about 100 were detained on charges of "collaborating" with Israeli intelligence services. Some 470 remained held without trial. There were some reports of torture and ill-treatment by various Palestinian security forces.

Death penalty

One person was sentenced to death by a military court after court proceedings that failed to meet international standards for fair trial. Three others were sentenced to death for murder by a civil court. Those sentenced to death can only be executed after the sentence is ratified by the PA's President. During 2003, President 'Arafat did not ratify any death sentences. At least 11 Palestinians remained on death row.

  • Sergeant Rani Darwish Khalil Shaqqura, a member of the Palestinian security services from the Gaza Strip, was sentenced to death by firing squad by a military court on 17 May for the killing on 15 April of another member of the security services, Captain Hani 'Atiya al-Madhoun.

AI country visits

AI delegates visited areas under the jurisdiction of the PA in May and August/September.

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