U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Palestine

THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES   (including areas subject to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and its successor, the Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority) This report 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 Israel and Palestinian representatives on September 13, 1993, and the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip ("the Interim Agreement") signed on September 28, 1995. Beginning in May 1994, Israel transferred most responsibilities for civil government in the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area to the Palestinian Authority (PA). In late 1995, Israel began redeploying its forces from the West Bank and turning over major towns and surrounding villages to PA administration. Currently the PA exercises authority over about 2.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By year's end, those areas in the West Bank and Gaza were largely administered by the Palestinian Authority. As of early 1996, the PA is being succeeded by an elected council pursuant to the Interim Agreement. Accordingly, this report discusses the policies and the practices of both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority in the areas where they exercise jurisdiction and control. The DOP and the Interim Agreement fundamentally altered the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. These historic agreements are part of a process designed to end their conflict and to guide negotiations concerning the future of the territories. The DOP provides for a 5-year transitional period in which specified responsibilities are to be transferred to Palestinian Authorities to permit the Palestinian people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to govern themselves. Implementation of the process began in May 1994, 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 1994, 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 1994. The Interim Agreement signed in September transferred additional spheres of responsibility, including statistics, local government, insurance, commerce and industry, fuel and gas, agriculture and labor. Israel continues to be responsible for external security, and the overall security for Israelis, including public order in the Israeli settlements, foreign relations, and certain other areas. The Interim Agreement also provides for the redeployment of Israeli forces, and modalities for elections for the Palestinian Council and the chief executive of its Executive Authority. The situation in the West Bank and Gaza will continue to change as the Israelis and Palestinians implement their agreements. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem during the 1967 War. 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 the permanent status negotiations due to begin in May 1996. 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 and 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. West Bank towns had been governed by Palestinian mayors appointed by the Israeli Government, with some exceptions such as Hebron, Bethlehem, and Nablus. In late 1995, the PA began to take over the administration of other municipalities as part of the transfer of authority between Israel and the PA. Following the redeployment of Israeli forces from most Palestinian populated cities and surrounding villages in the West Bank, the CIVAD was dissolved and replaced with the IDF's Office of Coordination and Liaison, known by its Hebrew acronym "MATAK." The election for the Palestinian Council and the chief executive of the Executive Authority of the Council was held in January 1996 (see below). In the past, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have been eligible to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, but have generally declined to vote, claiming that Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal. However, these residents voted in the January 1996 Palestinian election. Israeli settlers in the territories (about 11 percent of the population there) are subject to Israeli law and are better treated by Israeli forces than Palestinians who have been subject to military occupation law. Under the Israel- PLO agreements, Israel maintains jurisdiction over the settlements and settlers during the transitional period. The permanent 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 in Israeli-controlled areas of security crimes as defined by the Government of Israel. The Palestinian Police Force (PPF) was established in May 1994 and consists of the Palestinian National Security Force (PNSF); the Palestinian civil police; the Preventive Security Force (PSF); Palestinian intelligence, or the Mukhabarat; the civil defense force; and the Palestinian Presidential Security Force. Palestinian police are responsible for security and law enforcement for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in Gaza and in Jericho, and in November and December took over security and law enforcement for West Bank towns and surrounding villages except for Hebron City. 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 tensions caused by continued terrorist incidents and closures of the territories by Israel, which significantly limits the number of Palestinians permitted to enter Israel, especially in times of heightened security alerts. The flow of goods in and out of the West Bank and Gaza has been severely restricted from time to time under the closures. There were improvements in the human rights situation in the occupied territories in 1995. As agreed to in the Interim Agreement, most of the large Palestinian cities were placed under Palestinian control by the end of 1995. The January 1996 election gave Palestinian residents of the territories their first democratically elected representative body. The Council will be responsible for the executive and legislative powers transferred to the Palestinians under the Interim Agreement. The numbers of Palestinians killed by Israelis, Palestinians killed by other Palestinians, and Israelis killed by Palestinians, decreased in comparison with 1994, in some cases dramatically. The number of confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces has also dropped dramatically in the past 2 years. With the continued implementation of the DOP, Palestinians steadily acquired more opportunities to participate in political and economic decisions that affect their lives. Moreover, Israel and the PLO have continued to use channels and procedures established in 1994 for dealing with a variety of their differences over political, economic, and security matters. PA security forces have generally allowed opposition rallies and demonstrations to run their course, without using excessive force to prevent or disperse them. The PA has also issued licenses to opposition and independent publications. During 1995 Israeli civilians and military personnel were the targets of repeated lethal terrorist attacks. There were credible reports that Israeli security officials mistreated, and in some cases tortured, Palestinians during arrest and interrogation. According to these reports, Israel also utilized undercover units in possible extrajudicial killings. Six Palestinians died in the custody of Israeli security forces. Israeli military courts imposed harsh sentences on Palestinians. Prison conditions remained poor. Discriminatory policies on land and resource use and trade, and limits on freedom of movement remained in place. There were continued restrictions imposed on the ability of Palestinians in the territories to enter Jerusalem, and travel between Gaza and the West Bank, as well as between Jericho and the rest of the West Bank. Toward the end of the year, Israeli authorities implemented new measures to facilitate travel and commerce across the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel, which incresed the flow of Palestinian day laborers entering Israel. The PA exercised jurisdiction in Gaza and Jericho since May 1994 and in the remaining West Bank cities and surrounding villages since late 1995. The process of institution- building has proceeded slowly, and in some areas, such as the judiciary, there has been little progress. There were credible reports that the Palestinian Police Force (PPF) mistreated and in some cases tortured detainees, and did not comply with proper arrest and detention procedures. International and local human rights groups widely criticized the establishment in April of a state security court to try terrorist or security cases. They maintain that this court denies Palestinians the right to adequate legal defense and a fair and public trial. Five detainees died in the custody of Palestinian security forces. These incidents have been or are being investigated, and some officers were disciplined internally. There were numerous limitations on press freedoms, such as temporary closures of newspaper offices, confiscation of publications, and prohibition on distribution. There was societal discrimination against women and the disabled. A number of Islamic groups, specifically the Islamic Resistance Movement (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. In the worst incident, two suicide bombers reportedly from PIJ killed 21 Israelis at the Beit Lid junction in central Israel in January. Suicide bombers also killed 18 others in several other attacks throughout the year. There were also acts of violence against Palestinians committed by Israeli settlers, including killings and the destruction of property. Overall, the IDF was more effective in stopping or preventing such attacks than in previous years. The number of Palestinians killed by other Palestinians for alleged collaboration with Israel dropped dramatically, continuing a downward trend for the third straight year.

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 10 Palestinians during the year. At least 13 such killings occurred in 1994. The Israeli Government does not publish its guidelines on the conduct of undercover operations in the occupied territories. These undercover units seek to arrest activists suspected of committing serious crimes. According to human rights organizations, undercover units deliberately kill suspects under circumstances in which they might have been apprehended alive. Such operations normally take 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 wanted Palestinians, 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. In January undercover soldiers killed 4 Palestinians, at least one of whom was a wanted person, after one of them reportedly opened fire on the undercover unit's vehicle. Eyewitnesses said that the Palestinians were ambushed by the undercover unit and killed without an opportunity to surrender. A foreign observer at the scene added that the soldiers denied medical treatment to the victims. At least six Palestinians died in Israeli detention, two apparently from pre-existing medical conditions, one from an apparent suicide attempt, two apparently as a result of beatings by other Palestinian inmates, and one as a result of torture. Human rights groups claim that lack of prompt and adequate medical attention while in detention aggravates the medical conditions of ill prisoners, and overcrowded cell conditions contribute to intra-prisoner violence. In April detainee Abd Al-Samad Hereizaat died while in the custody of Israeli security officers. Pathologists who performed the autopsy on Hereizaat determined that his death--from a large edema and internal hemorrhaging of the brain--was a direct result of torture. His interrogator had reportedly shaken Hereizaat violently by the shoulders, allowing his head to snap back and forth, causing injury to the brain. Israeli press reported that Hereizaat's interrogators did not have permission from the head of the GSS to exceed the "moderate physical pressure" limits (see Section 1.c.). The Israeli Ministry of Justice announced that the GSS agent involved would be brought before a disciplinary tribunal, but not criminally charged. However, in October the Israeli High Court of Justice issued an order to the Attorney General requiring him to explain why the interrogator should not be criminally prosecuted. At the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice, the state attorney decided that criminal charges could not be brought against the agent as he could not have foreseen that his actions would result in death. The Public Committee Against Torture has brought a petition before the High Court of Justice to show cause why no criminal charges have been brought against the GSS agent. The agent was later brought before a disciplinary tribunal on the grounds that he had deviated from interrogation procedures. His case was still ongoing at year's end. During the year, Israeli settlers killed 4 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By comparison, there were 37 such killings in 1994, 29 of which took place in a single incident in Hebron. In one case in August, a settler shot and killed a Palestinian demonstrating against a makeshift campsite erected by settlers on disputed land. The settler was arrested and charged with manslaughter and obstructing justice. Settlers also engaged in several other attacks on the property and persons of Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Overall, the IDF was more forceful in attempting to halt such attacks. The IDF has imposed protective curfews on the Palestinian population when it expects violence from settlers. Human rights groups note that Palestinians often fail to report cases of settler violence from fear of retribution by settlers, or of labeling as collaborators with Israeli authorities. These groups claim that police investigations of settler violence are often superficial, delayed, and rarely lead to arrests or sentencing. The IDF has also complained of police and court inaction against settlers and has resorted to administrative orders restricting the movement of violent settlers. In May the Government began exploring ways to enforce the law more effectively. Five Palestinians, including one who was also an American citizen, died in the custody of PA security officers. Investigation determined that one of the deaths was accidental and another due to pre-existing medical conditions. The interrogators involved in those cases were disciplined. The remaining three cases are still under investigation. Several Palestinian officials have been sentenced for their role in some of these cases. In April a detainee, Muhammad Ahmad Mahmud Al-Jundi, who had been in the custody of Palestinian police in Gaza for several months, was shot to death on a street in Jabalya refugee camp, reportedly after police officers either handed him over to members of the "Fatah Hawks," a strike force formed during the Intifada, or alerted the group that he was returning home. Al-Jundi was killed at the same location where he was accused of having helped an Israeli undercover unit kill 6 Fatah members in 1994. Eyewitnesses claim that 4 men in civilian clothes shot the hooded victim numerous times at close range in full view of the public. An investigation into the incident is ongoing. Five PA intelligence interrogators have been arrested in the case, but not yet tried. In September detainee Azzam Rahim, a Palestinian who was also an American citizen, died in the custody of PA intelligence officers in Jericho. Members of his family reported that bruises and cuts were visible on his head and face after his death. Results of an autopsy, conducted on Rahim after he had been interred for several weeks, showed that Rahim had broken ribs and appeared to have no heart damage, but the report said it was not possible to determine the cause of death. Three intelligence officers were sentenced for their role in the case. Two were sentenced to 1-year terms and one for 7 years. During the year, Palestinians killed 45 Israelis and 2 American citizen tourists in the occupied territories and in Israel. This marked a decrease from 75 persons killed in terrorist attacks in 1994. The worst incidents were a January suicide bombing that killed 21 Israelis at the Beit Lid junction in central Israel, and suicide bombings in Gaza, the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, and the Jerusalem Ramot Eshkol neighborhood that left 20 dead, including two American citizens. Palestinians also killed an estimated 14 Palestinians during the year, for either suspicion of collaboration with Israeli security services or as a result of criminal action, personal disputes, or street gang infighting. This is a dramatic decrease from the 65 reported killed in 1994, the year the PLO leadership pledged that it would try to halt the killing of "collaborators." Although these figures do not differentiate between collaborator and other types of killings, the number of Palestinians killed by Palestinians has continued to decline. There were 149 in 1992 and 79 in 1993.

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 indicating that Israeli security forces are responsible for widespread abuse, and in some cases torture, of Palestinian detainees. According to the reports, such abuse takes place immediately after arrest and during interrogation. According to the 1987 Landau Judicial Commission GSS interrogation guidelines, torture is condemned but interrogators are allowed to use "moderate physical and psychological pressure" to secure confessions and obtain information. Although there were fewer arrests in 1995, local human rights monitors cite a marked increase in the number of complaints of mistreatment and torture during interrogation, especially from those suspected of belonging to Islamic groups. Interrogation sessions have reportedly become longer and more severe. The frequency and duration of solitary confinement has also increased. According to human rights monitors, 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; 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. Detainees have also been subjected to violent "shaking" by their interrogators (see Section 1.a.). 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. Although Israel's Criminal Code prohibits torture, the GSS Chief is permitted by law to allow interrogators to employ "special measures" that exceed the use of "moderate physical and psychological pressure" allowed in the Landau Commission guidelines 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 3- month intervals throughout the year, the Government approved the continued use of "special measures," arguing that they were vital because their use had prevented numerous terrorist attacks. 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. There is a growing public debate within senior levels of the Government as to whether some of the "special measures" constitute torture and should be banned. According to the Israeli press, five members of the Jerusalem police were sentenced in September to jail terms ranging from 2 months community service to 15 months imprisonment for mistreating Arabs from East Jerusalem during questioning. The five were also charged with fabricating evidence and violating the public trust. 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 ICRC representatives 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 are 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 that their complaints will be ignored. There were 65 complaints submitted by Palestinian detainees resident in the occupied territories against the GSS for mistreatment during interrogation. All were 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. Human rights groups provided credible reports that PA security forces abused, and sometimes tortured, Palestinian detainees. According to the reports, such abuse takes place immediately after arrest and during interrogation. The Gaza civil police commander issued a circular in 1995 that forbids torture during interrogation and directs the security forces to observe the rights of all detainees. A report produced 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, drug trafficking, prostitution, rape, or membership in extremist groups. Human rights monitors have reported the following abuses used by PA police authorities: hooding, beating, tying in painful positions, sleep deprivation, preventing medical care, and threats. In June, PA security officials in Gaza arrested HAMAS spokesman Mahmud Zahar on charges of incitement. Palestinian human rights organizations say Zahar was severely beaten and his hair and beard were shaved as unusual and degrading punishment. PA investigatory committees have ruled that interrogators have been negligent for not providing detainees with medical care upon arrest and during interrogation, and for not following correct interrogation procedures. PA security officials acknowledge that problems exist but attribute most abuses to lack of training and education. Some security officials involved in mistreatment of prisoners were disciplined. Palestinian inmates of several Israeli prisons and detention centers undertook hunger strikes throughout the year to protest either harsh conditions or to pressure the Government to release prisoners as a goodwill gesture during the peace process. Prisoners criticized overcrowding, mistreatment, filthy and deteriorating conditions of cells and tents, inadequate medical care, extended use of solitary confinement, and in some cases, lack of visits by lawyers (see Section 2.c. of the Israel report). The PA took over the administration of detention facilities in Gaza and Jericho from Israeli security forces in May 1994. 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. In Jericho, for example, the one prison, a former police station, is dilapidated and overcrowded with about 80 prisoners. The PA has not allocated its Ministry of Justice adequate funds to make improvements.

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 areas under exclusive PA control. 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 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. 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. 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, in security cases authorities may delay access to counsel for up to 15 days. Higher ranking officials or judges may extend this period an additional 75 days. 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 often kept incommunicado for several days after their arrest by Israeli authorities, who do not inform their families of their whereabouts. Palestinians assert that they generally locate the detainees through their own efforts. 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. In January the period of administrative detention was extended from 6 months to 1 year, with renewals possible. Many Palestinians administratively detained over the past 2 years have had their detention orders renewed repeatedly with no meaningful chance of appeal. One detainee is currently serving his fifth consecutive order, which is due to expire in April 1996. An estimated 220 Palestinians were in administrative detention in Megiddo military detention center as of December, the same number as at the end of 1994. According to the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners, 60 of the 220 administrative detainees had their detention orders renewed. 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. Detainees may appeal detention orders, or the renewal of a detention order, before a military judge. A HAMAS supporter who was arrested in January 1993 and was not administratively detained, was held nonetheless until August 1995 after 21 hearings. An Israeli military court finally sentenced him to 42 months' imprisonment for belonging to HAMAS and providing support to its members. In another case, security forces detained and interrogated a reporter for a Palestinian newspaper for over a month (see Section 2.a.). There were no deportations for security reasons in 1995. As of December, an estimated 4,900 Palestinian prisoners and detainees were incarcerated in Israeli-administered prisons, military detention centers, and holding centers, a decrease from the 1994 figure of 6,050. 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. The restrictive procedures regulating the movement of goods and people between the territories and Israel, which have been in effect since 1993, have made it impossible for those with security records to visit imprisoned relatives in Israel, and has caused difficulty for other family members and lawyers to visit as well. Israeli security forces conducted several mass arrests in response to acts or threats of violence against Israelis. For example, about 1,500 Palestinians suspected of belonging to HAMAS or Islamic Jihad were arrested after the January Beit Lid suicide bombing. In October in connection with the Interim Agreement, about 1,100 Palestinian criminal and security prisoners were released from Israeli jails and detention centers. Another 1,200 were scheduled to be released in January 1996. 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 being charged. 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, 45 opposition members were in detention as of September 26, compared with 20 members as of September 1, 1994. Authorities generally permit prisoners to receive visits from family members, attorneys, and human rights monitors, except for prisoners held in the Gaza central prison security wing. In principle detainees may notify their families of their arrest, but this is not always permitted. The several PA security services have 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. In a letter to an international human rights group, the civilian police commander in Gaza admitted that there have been problems regarding proper arrest and detention procedures, which he attributes to either ignorance of proper procedures or "bad habits" which certain officers picked up during the "revolutionary period." There are many detention facilities in Gaza and Jericho, a situation that complicates the ability of families, lawyers and even the Ministry of Justice, to track detainees' whereabouts. Many security services, including 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 police officers lack the training and knowledge of such things as proper arrest procedures and human rights standards. In 1995 Palestinian human rights groups conducted training at the PSS police academy in Jericho on such matters, and have held human rights seminars for interrogators and other officials. Until the signing of the Interim Agreement in September, Palestinian police did not have the legal authority to arrest, try, or imprison Palestinians who committed crimes outside of Gaza or Jericho. Reportedly for this reason, such suspects were usually released without charge, sometimes after several weeks of detention. This activity also resulted from the general vacuum of law enforcement of civil and criminal cases in the West Bank, where the IDF concentrated almost exclusively on security cases. Prior to the Palestinian police deployment in the rest of West Bank cities in 1995, there were numerous reports that officials from various Palestinian factions, and Palestinians working for PA security services, forced or persuaded--sometimes under false pretexts--West Bank suspects to travel to Jericho for interrogation by PA security services.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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 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 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 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. 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 translated into Hebrew for the record because, authorities maintain, many Israeli court personnel speak Arabic but few read 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 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, Egyptian, and some locally generated law. Pre-1967 Jordanian law applies in those areas in the West Bank under PA control. However, the body of law in both Gaza and West Bank 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, but has made little progress. The court system in general is still 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 lack of police protection. The ability of the courts to enforce decisions is extremely weak, and Palestinian courts in the West Bank function sporadically. There is also administrative confusion in the appeals process. 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 Gaza and Jericho and, since late 1995, in other West Bank cities. In February in response to Israeli and international pressure to take a tougher stance on terrorism and to charges that extremist opposition groups intimidated civilian court judges, the PA established a state security court in Gaza to try cases involving internal or external security. The court was established by special decree on the basis of legislation in place during Egyptian control of the Gaza Strip from 1948-1967 and on a Palestinian constitution enacted in Gaza in 1962. Three military judges preside over the court, which reportedly applies civilian law. There is no right of appeal, but verdicts may be either ratified or repealed by the head of the PA. During the year, the PA State Security Court in Gaza handed down sentences to at least 18 defendants, ranging from 25 years for recruiting suicide bombers and assisting bombers to acquittal of all charges. A similar court operates in Jericho under the same guidelines as the Gaza court. It is headed by a senior police official and presided over by three military judges. The State Security Court was also used in Jenin in December, when it sentenced two former Fatah "Black Panthers" to 9 years in prison and hard labor for abducting two Israeli border policemen in Jenin in November. Local and international human rights groups have criticized the PA State Security Court, arguing that it is subordinate to the power of the executive, undermines the independence of the judiciary, and violates defendants' rights to a fair and open trial. Normal limits on the length of pre-arraignment detention do not appear to apply to suspects held by the PA security prosecutor. Defendants are brought to court without knowledge of the charges against them or sufficient time to prepare a defense. Court sessions often take place on short notice, sometimes even in the middle of the night, often without lawyers present. In some instances, the State Security Court has tried a case, issued a verdict, and imposed a sentence in a single session lasting several hours. A Palestinian human rights organization estimated that 35 political prisoners and 90 detainees suspected of "collaboration" with Israel were incarcerated in the Gaza central prison as of December. This does not include detainees who may be held in other detention facilities in Gaza. Thirty "security prisoners" and 10 "military violators" (i.e., Palestinian security service employees facing prosecution) were reportedly held in Jericho prison in November.

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. In July IDF soldiers, without identifying themselves, reportedly attempted to enter the home of a Palestinian with American citizenship by force, and then opened fire on the house indiscriminately, damaging the house and its contents while the family was inside. 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. Security forces may demolish or seal the home of a suspect, whether 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. The number of house demolitions and sealings continued to be low. Authorities demolished one house for security reasons in 1995, compared to one partial demolition in 1994. They also sealed the stairway to the roof of one house, compared to five such sealings in 1994. Israeli authorities ordered the demolition of the house of the Ramat Gan suicide bomber. The family has appealed the order. The authorities also ordered the demolition of the house of an alleged accomplice in the attack, as well as the house of the Jerusalem suicide bomber. Many human rights groups maintain that the sealing or demolishing of homes is a form of collective punishment because such acts target innocent families and children. The Israeli High Court has stated that the goal of such demolitions is to deter terrorists. Owners may apply to regional military commanders for permits to rebuild or unseal their homes. In December 1994, 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. In March the IDF unsealed about 40 houses in the West Bank, many sealed since the 1970's, as a goodwill gesture to mark a Muslim holiday. The IDF continued using heavy weapons to destroy houses believed to be the hiding places of security suspects. In at least 3 cases, houses were destroyed apparently to punish families believed to have harbored suspects. In one case in Hebron, 2 houses were demolished reportedly as a result of their proximity to an orchard in which a wanted person had sought refuge. According to official Israeli sources, 5 houses were demolished in 1995 in military operations, a decrease from 12 in 1994. A wall dividing two houses was also partially demolished in one military operation. Israeli security services sometimes monitor the mail and telephone conversations of Palestinians resident in PA areas and the West Bank. 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 are occasionally ignored in Palestinian police sweeps for security suspects. Homes have been searched without the consent of their owners; in some cases police have forcibly entered premises, destroying doors and windows.

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

The human rights organization B'tselem estimated 47 persons were killed by Israeli security forces in 1995. Israeli forces killed a total of 108 persons in 1994. Human rights monitors say that one reason for the decrease appears to be a change in IDF tactics in confronting Palestinian demonstrators and stonethrowers, as well as apparent Israeli decisions to keep away from schools and other flashpoints. The IDF generally did not use deadly force to disperse crowds, and adopted the use of batons, tear gas, and--with less frequency--rubber bullets. There were still instances, however, in which live ammunition was used to disperse peaceful crowds, especially during demonstrations throughout the West Bank in solidarity with hunger striking prisoners in June. Palestinians killed 15 Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank and PA areas during the year, and 30 people in Israel. Extremists associated with HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were responsible for most of the lethal attacks on Israelis. According to an Israeli human rights organization, Israeli security forces killed 4 Palestinian children under the age of 16. There were 15 such killings in 1994. Information on the results of the investigations into these incidents was not available. Human rights groups report that the IDF killed at least 3 Palestinians at military roadblocks and checkpoints at Israeli borders and inside occupied Territory. In these cases, the IDF said that the individuals were shot after they failed to obey soldiers' orders to halt. The IDF said in late 1994 that it would revise the open fire orders at the checkpoints, but has so far not released any new orders. 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. In practice, soldiers, police, and undercover units used live ammunition in situations other than when their lives were in danger (see Section 1.a.) and sometimes 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.

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 Israel. Continuing a policy began in 1994, the Government generally 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 continued to be low. Israeli authorities continue to restrict the Arabic press for security-related issues. 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 security forces raided several press offices in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on suspicion of publishing or possessing material linking them to militant Islamic groups, and seized files, equipment, and computer disks. In another case, security forces detained and interrogated a reporter from An-Nahar Palestinian newspaper for over a month on his relations with HAMAS without bringing charges. The International Federation of Journalists petitioned the Prime Minister to urge his release. 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. PA authorities accused the Government of being behind unexplained technical failures that cut off communications several times to the PA "Voice of Palestine" radio station located in Ramallah. PA authorities charged that these unexpected service lapses coincided with news events that the Israelis did not want reported on Palestinian radio. Some areas continue to be closed to journalists, usually in conjunction with a curfew or security incident. From time to time during security closures, the IDF denies 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-Israel content. Possession of banned materials is punishable by a fine and imprisonment. Security forces raided and in some cases closed several mosques in 1995 after HAMAS pamphlets were found inside. Palestinian universities and schools generally operated normally, although students and teachers still had problems traveling between Gaza and the West Bank. The Government denied to hundreds of Gazan students the travel permits required to reach the West Bank or the residency permits required to study or teach there. Some Palestinians were also denied permits to travel to academic meetings abroad or to engage in cultural exchange programs in Israel. Several private schools in Jerusalem were shut down for weeks at a time during strict closures after many teachers were unable to obtain permits to enter. In January Israeli police raided a university in Jerusalem, destroyed property, and arrested and reportedly beat several students. Palestinians living in areas under the PA's jurisdiction have been allowed to criticize PA performance and the peace process. The PA has granted licenses to a variety of periodicals, including some published by opposition groups. Nonetheless, the PA has a generally poor record on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The PA Press Law published in 1995 has been described by Palestinian journalists as the best in the Arab world, but it has not been adhered to in many cases. PA officials imposed restrictions on the press in several instances, including temporarily closing some opposition and mainstream papers, and confiscating copies of others, including a Fatah publication. While some were closed for publishing inflammatory material, others published articles critical of the PA. There were credible reports that a reporter from the mainstream An-Nahar newspaper was detained by security forces for reporting on an alleged bomb factory in Gaza. On several occasions, PA officials detained the editors of opposition papers. There were also credible reports that senior PA leaders have intimidated editors into practicing self-censorship, and pressured them not to publish certain writers who are out of favor with the PA or Fatah officials. In an incident in Nablus, a Palestinian professor who published an article that labeled Yasir Arafat as a dictator received anonymous threatening calls, and was later shot in the legs, reportedly by local Fatah renegades. In a report issued in September, 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. They labeled the PA Press Law as restrictive, because it prevents criticism of the police and permits the seizure of newspapers which do so. In December PA police officials summoned an editor of Al-Quds newspaper, Mahir Al-Alami, to police headquarters in Jericho, to question him about his refusal to publish on Al-Qud's front page a story about PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat. Alami was released after being detained without charge in Jericho for nearly a week. Under the August 1994 Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities 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 PA interference with academic freedom.

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 in September 1993. However, in January after several well-attended Palestinian demonstrations against confiscation of Palestinian land and settlement expansion, the IDF banned demonstrations involving land issues. 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 overly political or opposed to the DOP. PA officials maintain that they do not impose restraints on freedom of assembly, although they require permits for rallies, demonstrations, and many cultural events. These were rarely denied. In a notable exception in March, the PA refused permission for the Gaza Center for Rights and Law to hold a seminar on the PA State Security Court. 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. There have been no reports that such permits or permissions were denied. In PA cities in the West Bank, the PA requires permits for outdoor rallies and demonstrations and prohibits calls for violence, a display of arms, and racist slogans.

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 described in Section 2.a. The IDF raided several mosques in the West Bank and closed some for several days or months after "incitive material" was found on the premises. The PA 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 (ID) cards which signify that the bearer is a security risk and prohibit the bearer's travel in or through Jerusalem and abroad. 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 PA areas. Closures of the West Bank and Gaza continued to occur in 1995. Any Palestinian holding a Gaza or West Bank ID card was required to obtain a permit to gain entrance to Israel or Jerusalem. Most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza encountered difficulty in obtaining permits to visit, work, study, obtain medical care, or attend religious services outside of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian journalists, many working for the foreign media, were denied entry during strict closures. As a security precaution, Israeli authorities also banned West Bank residents and Gazans from entering Jerusalem during major Jewish holidays. Even with a valid permit, entry by Palestinians was subjected to the decision of soldiers manning the checkpoints into Israel or Jerusalem; these soldiers sometimes refused entry. In January women, who previously did not need permits, were required to obtain them. After March the IDF banned Palestinian vehicles from entering or exiting Gaza. Serious security incidents generally prompt the Government to cancel all permits, forbidding completely Palestinian entry from the territories and the PA areas for extended periods, and requiring Palestinians to reapply for permits. Israeli officials acknowledge that no Palestinian holder of a legal entrance permit has committed an act of terrorism in Israel; terrorists have been either legal residents of East Jerusalem or have entered Israeli territory clandestinely. Palestinian sources report that Israeli police arrest at random an average of 1,000 Palestinians a month in Israel and Jerusalem for lack of entrance permits. The offenders are often jailed for 48 hours and may be fined up to $133.00. The Israeli authorities have also closed off for security reasons the Palestinian city of Jericho, inside the West Bank, from periods ranging from hours to a 9-day closure in August. The August closure was imposed during a period of contention with the PA concerning suspects in Jericho who were wanted for the murder of Israelis. Many Palestinian non-residents of Jericho, as well as tourists, were trapped in the city as a result of the closure. Curfews were still in use, generally in response to security incidents or in advance of anticipated incidents, or as part of an on-going security operation. Israeli settlers are generally free to move about during curfews, while Palestinian residents are confined to their homes. The Government has issued travel restrictions against 17 Israeli settlers, prohibiting them from entering sensitive locations in the West Bank. At least 18 Israelis living in Israel are prohibited from entering any part of the West Bank. After the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November, the Israeli Government clamped down on extremist settler activities. About 50 settlers were charged for activities that took place several months prior to the assassination. Three settlers were charged with sedition, the first time such charges have been issued for activities not related to the Israeli-Arab conflict. One prominent settler later received a 6-month prison sentence, plus a 6-month suspended sentence for rioting. Seventeen settlers were placed under administrative detention, or house arrest; administrative detention sentences usually range from 3 to 6 months. Three members of the extremist Kahane Chai organization were imprisoned, although they were later released on appeal. The Government requires all Palestinians resident in areas under Israeli control 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 into Jordan must remain outside the territories for 9 months. Passports and identification cards for the residents of PA areas are issued by the PA. In late 1995, the PA began to issue documents to Palestinian residents throughout the West Bank. Obstacles to travel by Palestinian residents of the occupied territories include the inability to obtain a travel permit and the fear of losing one's residency. 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 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 and its successor, 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 issues temporary residency permits to persons in these categories. The PA does not restrict the travel of Palestinians in Gaza and PA cities in the West Bank. However, a "safe passage" ensuring travel between Gaza and PA cities in the West Bank for Palestinian residents provided for in the Interim Agreement is awaiting implementation. The PA Ministry of Civil Affairs requires women to show the written consent of a male family member before it will issue them a travel document (see Section 5).

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

For the first time in their history, Palestinian residents in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem went to the polls on January 20, 1996. They elected an 88-member Palestinian Council and the head of the Executive Authority of the Council. Despite calls for an election boycott from the Islamist party HAMAS and other factions opposed to the peace process, voter turnout was high, about three-fourths 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. The Council is expected to convene in early 1996. On its agenda will be the tasks of drafting a basic law specifying the powers of the Council. A sizable number of independents and critics of Mr. Arafat and his Fatah faction, as many as 35, won seats on the Council. The election was monitored by hundreds of international and local observers. They agreed that while there were some irregularities, the election was generally satisfactory overall. Most Palestinians in East Jerusalem do not recognize the jurisdiction of the municipality of Jerusalem; 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-- monitored the Israeli Government's human rights practices. The Israeli Government generally 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 groups maintain that the Israeli Government does not adequately respond to their inquiries and sometimes does not respond at all. The director of a Palestinian Workers' Rights Center was arrested and called in for several hours of questioning and accused of "encouraging workers to use violence against their employers." The director said such charges were unfounded, and several human rights and other organizations worked for his release, including Israel's Histadrut Labor Federation. 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, but not always, cooperates with these organizations and PA officials normally meet with their representatives. The PA licensed a new human rights organization in Gaza, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The PA also has a cooperative relationship with the International Labor Organization. Many of the Palestinian human rights organizations work behind the scenes with the PA to overcome areas of alleged abuse. They also publish criticism if they believe the PA is not responding adequately to private entreaties. The PSS in Jericho is working with local Palestinian human rights groups to train its members in proper human rights procedures. The ICRC operates in the PA areas under the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed between the ICRC and the PLO. The memorandum accords the ICRC access to all detainees held by the PA. However, the ICRC has experienced difficulties in gaining access to all detainees. PA officials did not grant ICRC representatives permission to visit Gaza Central Prison from July to December. In February PA police arrested and detained for several hours Raji Sourani, a Palestinian lawyer and director of the Gaza Human Rights Center for Rights and Law. Sourani was arrested after the Center published a report condemning the establishment of the PA State Security Court. In December PA security officials in Gaza arrested the chairman of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen's Rights (PICRR), Iyad Sarraj, and held him for 9 hours, reportedly for criticizing human rights violations by the PA. In September the head of Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PSS) in Jericho labeled Bassam Eid, a Palestinian human rights field worker from the Israeli human rights organization B'tselem, an "agent of the Israeli police" after B'tselem released a report critical of PSS treatment of Palestinian detainees. Human rights groups charged that such a public statement put the researcher in danger because it implied he was a "collaborator" with Israel. The PSS head has not publicly retracted the statement.

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


Palestinian women living under military occupation face human rights problems similar to those of men. In addition, Palestinian women both in 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 and often do not attend colleges and universities because of cultural restrictions. 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. Although the issues of rape, domestic violence, and violence related to "family honor" have gained greater prominence, public discussion is generally muted. 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 families. 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 providing counseling or outreach services to victims of a problem they see as more widespread than is acknowledged. There are no reliable statistics available on family violence or other forms of violence against women. There are no laws providing for women's rights in the workplace. Some Palestinian women work outside the home; a recent United Nations study set the female workforce at 8.8 per cent in the West Bank and 1.7 percent in Gaza. Women are underrepresented in most aspects of political and professional life. There are almost no women in decisionmaking positions in the legal, medical, educational, and scientific fields. However, a small group of women is prominent in politics, medicine, law, teaching, and in non-governmental organizations. Personal status law for Palestinians is based on religious law. For Muslim Palestinians, personal status law is derived from Shari'a (Islamic) law. The PA Ministry of Civil Affairs requires women to obtain the written consent of a male family member before issuing a travel document. This requirement is based on Jordanian 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 males to take more than one wife, but few do so. Under this law, 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.


Current British Mandate, Jordanian, and military laws, all of which exist in the West Bank and Gaza, 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 pattern of societal 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, 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.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Israeli settlers are treated more favorably under Israeli law and practices than Palestinians under the complex mixture of laws and regulations that apply to the territories. 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.). Settlers and other Israelis opposed to the peace process established a semi-permanent demonstration site outside Orient House, former headquarters for the Palestinian bilateral negotiating team and center of Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem for several months. At times, the demonstrators harassed and bullied visitors, passersby, and children at a nearby school. The Israeli human rights organization B'tselem released a report in September charging that the Government has failed to protect the lives and property of Palestinians in Hebron from repeated attacks by settlers there. Israeli security forces in Hebron were charged with acting half-heartedly with regard to repeated acts of settler violence, including attacks on property and beatings and stonings. In numerous cases, the police conducted no investigation and only in isolated incidents were those responsible brought to trial. The same B'tselem report stated that from February 1994, when an Israeli settler killed 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, until the conclusion of B'tselem's research in August 1995, the IDF increased its presence in the city and created a more restrictive environment for Palestinians than in other West Bank cities. The IDF imposed 50 curfew days and 40 curfew nights, erected 32 roadblocks and 10 manned checkpoints, and closed entire sections of the city to Palestinians.

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. As a result, labor regulations are currently in a transitional state because of the transfer of authority. Palestinians are in the process of writing a new labor law. In the meantime, labor matters in the West Bank are governed by Jordanian Law 21 of 1965, as amended by Israeli military orders, and in Gaza and Jericho, by PA decisions. The law permits workers to establish and join unions without government authorization. The stipulation by Israeli authorities that all proposed new West Bank unions apply for a permit is no longer being enforced because of the peace process. No new unions were established in 1995, although one applied for registration. Israeli authorities have licensed about 35 of the estimated 185 union branches now in existence. There are close to 30 licensed trade unions in the West Bank and 6 in Gaza. PA officials are drafting a new labor law which reportedly provides for the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, a minimum wage, maximum working hours, minimum age employment restrictions, and health and safety regulations. It does not allow for the unionization of domestic servants, family members of employers, and PA civil servants. Palestinian workers in East Jerusalem are governed by Israeli labor law. They are free to establish their own unions. Although the Government restricts East Jerusalem unions from joining West Bank trade union federations, 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 and signed a cooperative agreement with Histadrut in March 1995. 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 half of this fee to the Palestinian Union Federation were also completed in March 1995. 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 CIVAD provided Palestinian workers with tax allowances and other benefits that amounted to adequate compensation, a process that Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements have disrupted. 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 is still underway. The great majority of West Bank unions belong to the General Federation of Trade Unions in the West Bank (GFTU) or the Workers' Unity Bloc (WUB). In the summer of 1994, the GFTU, the WUB, other West Bank unions, and the Gaza unions merged informally to create a single union, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). Pending elections (postponed until after the Palestinian general elections), 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--although not yet finalized--is intended to enable the West Bank and Gaza unions to represent worker interests more effectively. Union membership has declined continuously since the intifada, in part because the periodic closures of the occupied territories have restricted the number of work permits issued to Palestinians. The number of Palestinians working in Israel fell in 1995 because of the closure and the Government's policy of hiring workers from abroad to work inside Israel. An estimated 85,000 workers are members of the GFTU, the largest union bloc. There are approximately 25,000 union members in Gaza. 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. Although the GFTU has participated in meetings of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU), the PGFTU has yet to do so because of a conflict over jurisdictions. The GFTU, the PGTTU, and the WUB have applied for membership in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). Since union organizations in the West Bank are associated with various Palestinian political factions, Israeli authorities at times have inhibited union activities in the West Bank and Gaza. That situation is changing under the peace process, however, as Israeli authorities have generally not interfered in union activity. At least one organization organized by Islamists now operates legally. West Bank unions held some elections in 1994, which were suspended until after the Palestinian general elections. The CIVAD, which had the power to remove candidates convicted of security and other offenses, did not exercise that power after the DOP. 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, but in current practice, this law is not being executed. Many small scale, non- union sanctioned strikes occurred in the West Bank without Israeli interference. 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.

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 in services provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the CIVAD, or in municipalities. Collective bargaining is protected. Although the CIVAD did not officially recognize collective agreements, it nonetheless honored such agreements and did not interfere in them. About 150 labor agreements were in force in the West Bank in 1995. Labor disputes are reportedly 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 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 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, 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 Israeli Ministry of Labor's Office of Inspection Services has been responsible for enforcing safety standards in the West Bank. While it maintains that it has undertaken inspections, health and safety conditions in Palestinian factories and other businesses in the West Bank and Gaza often do not meet international standards.  

This 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.