Report on Human Rights Practices
for 1996--The Occupied Territories
(Including areas subject to the
jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority)
Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and
East Jerusalem during the 1967 War. The West Bank and Gaza Strip
are now administered to varying extents by Israel and the Palestinian
Authority (PA). Pursuant to the May 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement,
Israel transferred most responsibilities for civil government
in the Gaza Strip and Jericho to the PA. The Agreement on Preparatory
Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities of August 1994, and the
Interim Agreement provided for the further transfer of civil authority
to the Palestinians, including education, culture, health, tourism,
taxation, social welfare, statistics, local government, insurance,
commerce, industry, fuel, gas, agriculture, and labor. Israel
continues to retain responsibility in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
for external security, foreign relations, the overall security
of Israelis, including public order in the Israeli settlements,
and certain other matters. Negotiations on the final status of
the occupied territories as well as of Jerusalem, borders, Israeli
settlements, refugees, and other matters began in May but were
immediately adjourned and did not resume by year's end. Israel
and the Palestinian Authority agreed on January 15, 1997 to resume
these talks within 60 days. According to the timetable set out
in the DOP, the interim period is to conclude in May 1999.
In addition to most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, which
was turned over to the Palestinians in May 1994, Israel began
redeploying its forces in the West Bank and turning over major
towns and villages to the PA in late 1995. Pursuant to the Interim
Agreement and the "Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron,"
concluded on January 15, 1997, Israel redeployed its forces in
Hebron. Israel continues to control some civil functions and
is responsible for all security in portions of the occupied territories
categorized as Zone C, which includes the Israeli settlements.
The PA has jurisdiction over civil affairs and shares security
responsibilities with Israel in areas known as Zone B, and the
PA has control over civil affairs and security in Zone A. The
PA also has jurisdiction over some civil affairs in Zone C. Accordingly,
this report discusses the policies and practices of both the Israeli
Government and the Palestinian Authority in the areas where they
exercise jurisdiction and control.
Israel continues to exercise civil authority in some areas of
the West Bank through the Israeli Ministry of Defense's Office
of Coordination and Liaison, known by Hebrew acronym MATAK, which
replaced the now defunct Civil Administration (CIVAD). The approximately
150,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
are subject to Israeli law and are better treated by Israeli forces
than are Palestinians. The body of law governing Palestinians
in the Israeli-controlled portions of the territories derives
from Ottoman, British Mandate, Jordanian, and Egyptian law and
Israeli military orders. In Palestinian-controlled areas, regulations
promulgated by the PA are also in force. The United States considers
Israel's authority in the occupied territories to be subject to
the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the 1949 Geneva Convention relating
to the protection of civilians in time of war. The Israeli Government
considers the Hague Regulations applicable and states that it
observes the Geneva Convention's humanitarian provisions.
In January the Palestinian Authority chose its first popularly
elected government in democratic elections, which were generally
well-conducted. An 88-member Legislative Council and Ra'ees (president
or chairman) of the executive authority were elected. The PA
also has an appointed cabinet of 20 ministers who oversee 19 ministries.
PA Chairman Yasir Arafat continues to dominate the affairs of
government and to make major decisions. Most senior government
positions and positions of authority in the PA are held by individuals
who are members of, or loyal to, Arafat's Fatah faction of the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The elected 88-person
Legislative Council meets frequently and discusses a range of
issues significant to the Palestinian people and the development
of an open, democratic society in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Pursuant to a series of agreements between the PA and Israel,
the PA now also has full or partial control over major Palestinian
population centers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Israeli security forces in Israeli-controlled parts of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip consist of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF);
the General Security Service (GSS or Shin Bet); the police; and
the paramilitary border police. Israeli military courts try Palestinians
accused of committing security crimes in Israeli-controlled areas.
Members of the Israeli security forces committed human rights
The Palestinian Police Force (PPF) was established in May 1994
and includes the Palestinian National Security Force (PNSF); the
Palestinian civil police; the Preventive Security Force (PSF);
General Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat; the civil defense
force; and the Palestinian Presidential Security Force. Several
other quasi-military security organizations, such as the coast
guard and military intelligence, also exercise law enforcement
powers. Palestinian police are responsible for security and law
enforcement for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in PA-controlled
areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli settlers in the
occupied territories are not subject to Palestinian security force
jurisdiction. Members of the PA security forces committed human
The economies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are small, poorly
developed, and highly dependent on Israel. The economic situation
deteriorated significantly during the year as a result of closures
of the territories imposed by Israel after security incidents,
including several serious terrorist bombings. Both areas rely
on agriculture, services, and to a lesser extent, light manufacturing.
Many West Bank and Gaza workers are employed at day jobs in Israel
and Jerusalem, making their employment vulnerable to disruption
due to closures. The West Bank and Gaza economies were significantly
damaged by a closure first imposed by Israel in 1993. In the
wake of terrorist bombings in Israel in February and March and
violent clashes between Israeli and Palestinian forces in September,
Israel temporarily tightened the existing closure, sealing off
the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israel, prohibiting most travel
between towns and villages within the West Bank (the "internal
closure"), denying Palestinian workers access to jobs in
Israel, and hampering the flow of goods and people between Israel
and the occupied territories. The "internal closure"
was lifted in each case after about 2 weeks. The general closures
of Gaza and the West Bank followed a pattern of being eased but
then reimposed in the wake of new security threats. Partly as
a result of the closures, the per capita Gross National Product
of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dropped by approximately
39 percent between 1992 and 1996 (from $2,425 to $1,480.) By
year's end, however, the closure had eased in important ways.
There were some improvements in the human rights situation in
the territories. However, both Israel and the PA were responsible
for serious human rights abuses.
Two Islamic groups, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) and
the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), made a concerted effort this
year to undermine the authority of the PA and restrict the Israeli-Palestinian
peace process by killing Israeli civilians in a series of deadly
suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ashkelon.
The most serious attacks occurred in late February and early
March. On February 25, two Palestinian suicide bombers struck
in Jerusalem and at a road junction near the southern coastal
city of Ashkelon. The Jerusalem explosion killed 25 persons,
including three U.S. citizens. In Ashkelon one person was killed
and 36 injured. On March 3, another suicide bomber killed 19
persons, including Palestinian and Romanian workers, and wounded
7 in Jerusalem. The following day a fourth bomber killed 14 persons--including
6 children--and injured more than 100 others at an intersection
in central Tel Aviv.
In the aftermath of those terrorist bombings, Israeli authorities
arrested approximately 1,000 Palestinians suspected of affiliation
with extremist Islamic and secular opposition groups. Israeli
authorities in some cases mistreated prisoners to obtain information
on further terrorist attacks. Following the bombings, Israeli
authorities demolished the homes of eight Palestinians implicated
in terrorist attacks, compared with one demolition in 1995. Israel
also tightened its existing closure of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, sealing off the territories from Israel and imposing an
"internal closure." There was one credible report
that an Israeli undercover unit killed a Palestinian, compared
with 10 such deaths in 1995. There were also credible reports
that Israeli authorities continue to abuse and torture Palestinian
detainees and prisoners. At least two Palestinians died in Israeli
prisons, after possibly being tortured by other Palestinians in
custody for cooperating with the Israelis. Prison conditions
In its intensive efforts to counter and prevent terrorism, the
Palestinian Authority used excessive force on occasion in its
searches of homes, and ordered two opposition newspapers closed.
In the wake of terrorist bombings, PA authorities arrested approximately
1,000 Palestinians suspected of affiliation with extremist Islamic
and secular opposition groups and held all but one without charge.
There were credible reports that PA authorities mistreated prisoners
to obtain information on further terrorist attacks. The PA also
continued to harass, detain, and abuse journalists and political
activists who criticized the PA. Although the PA claims to tolerate
expression of a range of views, human rights watchers say that
Palestinian commentators and critics practice self-censorship
out of fear that they would be harassed or punished by the PA
if they criticized it. The PA strongly discourages dissenting
views. There were also credible reports that the PA continues
to abuse and torture detainees. Four Palestinians died in PA
custody, two after having been tortured, one shot and killed by
a prison guard, and one apparently have committed suicide. Prison
conditions are very poor.
In September Israel's opening of a controversial tunnel near Muslim
and Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and calls by the PA for mass
demonstrations to protest the move sparked several days of violent
clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian security
officers and civilians. Fifty-eight Palestinians (including 11
Palestinian security officers) and 16 IDF soldiers and border
police officers died in the fighting. Israeli and Palestinian
security forces used excessive force during the clashes. During
clashes in Ramallah and Rafah, Israeli forces shot at demonstrators
from a helicopter gunship and from elevated sniper positions;
Israeli forces also shot persons who were trying to evacuate wounded
Palestinians. Palestinian security forces in Gaza prevented the
timely evacuation of wounded Israeli journalists.
Terrorist attacks against Israelis continued after the series
of deadly bombings in February and March. In April two gasoline
firebombs were hurled at an Israeli commuter bus at Beit Omar,
a village near Hebron, injuring 5 people. Two Palestinians with
alleged Hamas sympathies shot and killed an Israeli with American
citizenship and wounded another Israeli at a settlement at Beit
El in May. In November Islamic militant Mohammud Assaf, who was
reportedly preparing to launch a suicide attack against Israel,
was killed in the West Bank town of Qabatya, when a bomb exploded
prematurely in his hands. Palestinians believed to be affiliated
with extremist Islamic and secular opposition groups killed two
Israelis and wounded three in attacks in the West Bank.
Israeli settlers continued to harass and threaten Palestinians
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and they killed three Palestinians
in 1996, whereas settlers killed four Palestinians in 1995.
The number of Palestinians killed by other Palestinians for collaborating
with Israel decreased again in 1996.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were credible reports that Israeli undercover units, disguised
as Palestinians, operated in Palestinian areas during 1996. In
June an alleged undercover unit shot and killed a 28-year old
Palestinian man outside his home in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood
of Jerusalem. In October three Palestinians were shot and wounded
by a probable undercover unit in an incident outside of Bethlehem.
In 1995 there were 10 deaths attributed to undercover units.
According to human rights organizations, undercover units have
deliberately killed suspects under circumstances in which they
might have been apprehended alive. Such operations normally have
taken place at night when there are few eyewitnesses. Accounts
of witnesses, when available, often differ from the IDF version.
Israeli authorities acknowledge that the undercover units conduct
operations among Palestinians wanted for investigation, but claim
that such units observe the same rules of engagement as other
IDF units. They further claim that the IDF investigates all killings
and allegations of misbehavior. However, human rights groups
state that the investigations are not conducted efficiently and
rarely lead to serious punishment. The IDF does not announce
the findings of its investigations.
The IDF killed four Palestinians at military checkpoints and roadblocks
at Israeli borders and inside the occupied territories in 1996.
In these cases, the IDF said that the individuals were shot after
they failed to obey soldiers' orders to halt.
In January armed Palestinians in a car fired on three Israeli
soldiers a West Bank checkpoint near Jenin. The soldiers returned
fire, killing three armed Palestinians. Palestinian witnesses
largely agreed with the IDF's official account of the shooting.
In February following a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem, Israeli
security forces and civilians shot and killed a Palestinian-American
after he drove a rented car into a crowded bus stop in Jerusalem,
killing 1 Israeli and injuring 22 others. Israeli authorities
investigated the incident and determined that the man, who had
a history of mental problems, acted deliberately.
In November Israeli soldiers shot amd killed a Palestinian and
wounded 11 others when a protest against expansion of a West Bank
settlement near Ramallah turned violent. An Israeli army spokesperson
said that the protesters hurled stones at the soldiers who at
first tried to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets and gunshots
into the air, but later shot into the crowd when they believed
that their lives were in danger. Eyewitnesses dispute that Israeli
soldiers lives were in danger. Also in November, Israeli soldiers
shot and killed 18-year-old Iyad Mahmoud Badran, a passenger in
a vehicle that the soldiers ordered to stop. The vehicle stopped,
but when it moved into reverse, the soldiers fired.
A fine of less than $0.01 (one agora) fine was passed down by
a military court in November on four soldiers who confessed to
having killed a Palestinian in 1993.
In January Hamas operational leader Yahya Ayyash was killed in
the Gaza Strip, when a remote-controlled booby-trapped cellular
telephone blew up as he was using it. Ayyash was considered the
mastermind of several suicide bombings that killed and wounded
dozens of Israelis in 1994 and 1995.
At least two Palestinians died in an Israeli prison after being
tortured, possibly by other Palestinians. 'Abdel-Rahman 'Omar
Saleem Al-Kilani, an alleged Hamas member and suspected collaborator,
died while in administrative detention in Israel's Megiddo military
detention center on February 1. Human rights monitors and autopsy
findings suggest that several Palestinian prisoners tortured him
and that he died from the resulting shock. It is unclear why
he was tortured. 'Adel 'Ayed Yousef Al-Shahateet, an administrative
detainee, died at Megiddo military detention center in Israel
on February 15 after being tortured. There are conflicting accounts
as to whether Israeli prison officials or Palestinians tortured
The Palestinian Authority security forces, which lack equipment
and training in crowd control, used excessive force to break up
demonstrations in a number of instances. In September Palestinian
police in Nablus shot and killed one Palestinian and injured two
while trying to stop fans from rioting during a soccer match.
Palestinian police in Nablus killed one Palestinian when trying
to break up a demonstration in August. In March PA police injured
six persons while breaking up a demonstration in Nablus.
In 1996 four Palestinians died in PA custody, two after being
tortured, one after he apparently committed suicide. A fourth
was shot and killed. The PA disciplined the officers involved
in three of the four deaths.
In the first case, Mahmoud Jmaiel, a 26-year-old resident of Nablus,
died while in the custody of the Palestinian coast guard in Nablus
in July. An autopsy revealed that Jmaiel, who was brain dead
for a day before dying, had been severely tortured. The autopsy
and photographs of the body revealed burns from cigarettes and
a hot iron device, deep bruises, a fractured skull, and extensive
bleeding in the brain. Hundreds of demonstrators marched on police
headquarters in Nablus and denounced the officers who tortured
Jmaiel. The city was paralyzed by a general strike, the first
time this protest tactic was used against the PA. Three coast
guard officials found responsible for Jmaiel's death were tried
and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment by the Palestinian security
court within days of the death. The Mandela Institute for Political
Prisoners alleges that the three coast guard officers did not
have adequate legal representation or time to prepare their case.
In a second case, there were reports that a Palestinian prisoner
was killed in detention in Al-Bireh during interrogation on March
31. A PA military court in Jericho found two security officers,
one a military intelligence officer and the other from the Preventive
Security Service, guilty of "causing his death" and
of "improper use of a weapon" in the incident.
In the third case, an elderly Palestinian man apparently hanged
himself in PA custody in Ramallah after being arrested for beating
to death a woman in a land dispute. The man's family initially
accused the PA of torturing him. However, the PA maintained that
the death had been a suicide; therefore, no disciplinary measures
In the final case, in December prison guard Assam Jalaiteh shot
and killed a prisoner in Jericho. The prisoner, Rashid Fityani,
was arrested in January 1995 with his brother-in-law, Salman Jalayta,
on suspicion of killing a member of Hamas and cooperating with
Israel. Jalayta died after 2 days in custody, apparently as a
result of torture. No disciplinary action was taken against guards
in that death. The prison guard who shot and killed Fityani,
however, was convicted of using excessive force and sentenced
to life imprisonment within days of the shooting.
Five members of the Palestinian security forces who allegedly
killed suspected Palestinian collaborator Muhammad Al-Jundi in
Gaza in 1995 have not yet been tried for the killing, according
to the PA.
In September clashes between Israeli security forces and PA security
forces and Palestinian civilians resulted in numerous deaths (see
Palestinians suspected of being members of organizations opposed
to the peace process also killed six Israelis and wounded eight
in attacks in the West Bank. On December 11, militants reportedly
belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
ambushed a car with a family of seven Israelis at a crossroad
outside the village of Surda. They killed a 12-year-old Israeli
boy, Ephraim Tsur, and his mother, Etta Tsur, and wounded the
five other persons in the vehicle. One week later, the PA State
Security Court convicted three men for these killings. The Court
sentenced two of the men--Abdel Nasser Qaisi and Ibrahim Qam--to
life imprisonment at hard labor. The third, Ibrahim Mussad, was
sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for driving the getaway car.
Two women were injured in a drive-by shooting near Bethlehem
in August. A Palestinian with alleged Hamas sympathies stabbed
and killed an Israeli soldier in Janin in January. Two Palestinians
with alleged Hamas sympathies shot and killed an Israeli with
American citizenship and wounded another Israeli at a settlement
at Beit El in May. The Palestinian Authority arrested and is
holding one of the killers, who has confessed to the killing at
Beit El. Palestinian gunmen shot and killed two Israeli soldiers
in January near the village of Halhoul, north of Hebron.
Israeli settlers continued to harass and attack Palestinians.
In October a 10-year-old Palestinian boy died after being beaten
by a settler near Bethlehem. The settler was indicted for manslaughter.
In February a settler shot and wounded a Palestinian teenager.
In August a settler from Jerusalem stabbed a Palestinian near
Jerusalem. In December Ibrihim Abdullah Hamdan Abu Nasir was
killed by a Israeli settler in Gaza in December; charges are pending.
Israel punished several settlers who attacked Arabs. One settler
was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Palestinian in 1994.
Rabbi Moshe Levinger served less than 5 months of a 7-month jail
sentence for attacking Arabs in 1992. In February Israeli authorities
arrested a Tapuah settler for allegedly shooting three Palestinians
in 1995 and 1996.
Palestinian civilians killed an estimated 8 Palestinians during
the year, for suspicion of collaboration with Israeli security
services. In 1995, 14 Palestinians were killed for the same reason.
Approximately six Palestinians suspected of collaboration with
Israel were killed in the West Bank. Human rights organizations
charge that at least two Palestinians suspected of collaboration
were killed in jail by fellow Palestinian prisoners.
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
International, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights groups and
diplomats continue to provide credible reports that Israeli security
forces were responsible for widespread abuse, and in some cases
torture, of Palestinian detainees. The Landau Judicial Commission
in 1987 condemned torture but allowed for the use of "moderate
physical and psychological pressure" to secure confessions
and obtain information. There continued to be a high number of
complaints of mistreatment and torture during interrogation, especially
from those suspected of belonging to Islamic groups. Interrogation
sessions are long and severe, and solitary confinement is used
frequently for long periods. The GSS systematically uses interrogation
methods which do not result in detectable traces of ill-treatment
on the victims, or which leave marks that disappear after a short
period of time.
Common interrogation practices reportedly include hooding; forced
standing or squatting for long periods of time; prolonged exposure
to extreme temperatures; tying or chaining the detainee in contorted
and painful positions; blows and beatings with fists, sticks,
and other instruments; confinement in small and often filthy spaces;
sleep and food deprivation; and threats against the detainee's
life or family. Israeli interrogators continued to subject prisoners
to violent "shaking", which in at least one case has
resulted in death. The apparent intent of these practices is
to disorient and intimidate prisoners in order to obtain confessions
or information. The International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) declared in 1992 that such practices violate the Geneva
Convention. Human rights groups and attorneys challenged the
practice of shaking before the Israeli High Court. In a number
of cases, the Court ordered the GSS to show cause for use of this
method to obtain information. In many of the cases, the Court
authorized the GSS to use the shaking method.
Although the Israeli Penal Code prohibits the use of force or
violence by a public official to obtain information, the GSS chief
is permitted by law to allow interrogators to employ "special
measures" that exceed the use of "moderate physical
and psychological pressure" when it is deemed necessary to
obtain information that could potentially save Israeli lives in
certain "ticking bomb" cases. The GSS first permitted
interrogators "greater flexibility" in applying the
guidelines shortly after a bus bombing in Tel Aviv in October
1994 that killed 22 Israelis. The Government has not defined
the meaning of "greater flexibility." At roughly quarterly
intervals, the Government has approved the continued use of "special
measures," arguing that they were vital because their use
had prevented terrorist attacks. In November the Government granted
another 3-month extension of the "special measures"
provision. In November the Israeli High Court of Justice authorized
the GSS to use "special measures" against a Palestinian
prisoner, and "force" to extract information from another
Palestinian prisoner. In both cases, the prisoners were alleged
terrorists whom the Israelis believed had information concerning
imminent terrorist attacks, making these "ticking bomb"
Israeli authorities maintain that torture is not condoned, but
acknowledge that abuses sometimes occur and are investigated.
However, the Government does not generally make public the results
of such investigations. Israel conducted 60 investigations into
the 83 complaints received in 1996. In the investigations conducted,
the Israeli Government concluded that the findings did not justify
any steps being taken against the interrogators.
Most convictions in security cases before Israeli courts are based
on confessions. A detainee may not have contact with a lawyer
until after interrogation, a process that may last days or weeks.
The Government does not allow ICRC representatives access to
detainees until the 14th day of detention. Human rights groups
point to this prolonged incommunicado detention as contributing
to the likelihood of abuse. Detainees sometimes claim in court
that their confessions are coerced but judges rarely exclude such
confessions. Human rights groups also assert that Palestinian
detainees frequently fail to make complaints either from fear
of retribution or because they assume that their complaints will
There were 83 formal complaints submitted by Palestinian detainees
resident in the occupied territories against the GSS for mistreatment
during interrogation. Complaints of abuse are forwarded to the
Department for Police Investigations at the Ministry of Justice,
which investigates complaints against the GSS. During the year,
there were no known cases in which a confession was disqualified
because of improper means of investigation or interrogation.
Israeli authorities also frequently treat Palestinians in an abusive
manner at checkpoints. In November security officers were videotaped
beating and humiliating a group of Palestinian workers. Following
a public outcry in Israel when the videotape was shown on television,
the two policemen involved were suspended. The Prime Minister
condemned the incident, calling it "unpardonable."
The chief of the Israeli border police confirmed that many such
incidents occur. More than 300 formal complaints were filed against
border policemen, and the Ministry of Justice confirmed that complaints
of violence and harassment had increased this year. According
to the Israeli government, 73 cases were closed because the petitioners
did not cooperate with the investigation, 47 cases were closed
for lack of evidence, and 26 were dismissed as unjustified. In
33 cases border guards were prosecuted; in 14 other cases they
were referred for disciplinary action; and the rest remain under
Security officers who man checkpoints often act capriciously in
honoring permits and travel passes held by Palestinians. Following
the election of the Palestinian Legislative Council, PA council
members from Gaza were subjected to long delays and searches at
Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, even though they were travelling
on special passes issued by Israel. In September a leading Gazan
businessman who had obtained Israeli approval to travel with foreign
diplomats between Gaza and the West Bank was verbally abused and
forced to walk almost a kilometer through the checkpoint to rejoin
the diplomats. In October a blind Palestinian with American citizenship
was detained at a checkpoint for 5 hours, verbally abused, and
accused of "faking" her blindness. In March IDF soldiers
in the northern West Bank arrested an elderly Palestinian man
tending his animals, stripped him naked, and forced him to walk
According to credible reports, PA security forces abused, and
sometimes tortured, Palestinian detainees. Such abuse generally
takes place after arrest and during interrogation. The PA does
not prohibit the use of force or torture against detainees. In
1995 the Gaza Civil Police commander issued to police officers
in the West Bank and Gaza a circular forbidding torture during
interrogation and directing the security forces to observe the
rights of all detainees. The circular, however, does not have
the force of law; Palestinian security officers have not been
issued formal guidelines on the proper conduct of interrogations.
PA security officials reportedly abused prisoners by hooding,
beating, tying in painful positions, sleep deprivation, threats,
and burning detainees with cigarettes and hot instruments. A
1995 report by the Israeli human rights group B'tselem claimed
that mistreatment of detainees and improper arrest and detention
procedures by the Preventive Security Service (PSS) in Jericho
reflects PA policy. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
and other Palestinian human rights groups denied that there is
evidence of systematic abuse, but cited numerous incidents of
mistreatment, especially of detainees accused of collaboration
with the Israelis, affiliation with certain political or extremist
groups, or the commission of crimes, such as drug dealing, prostitution,
or rape. On some occasions prisoners were denied prompt and adequate
medical care after being abused.
In 1996 four Palestinians died in PA custody, two after being
tortured, one after he apparently committed suicide, and one was
shot and killed. In August Ayman Sabbah charged from his hospital
bed that he had been tortured by PA security forces after being
arrested during an anti-PA protest.
Israeli settlers harassed Palestinians. For example, settlers
rampaged through Arab neighborhoods in the old city of Jerusalem
in June, stoned Arab cars in Beit-El in February, and shot at
Palestinians in Bethlehem in February.
Prison conditions in Israeli facilities are poor. Facilities
are overcrowded, sanitation is poor, and medical care is inadequate.
Palestinian inmates held strikes and protests in support of a
number of causes and to protest prison conditions. Prisoners
in Megiddo military detention center in Israel rioted in April
over their treatment during investigations into the deaths of
two Palestinians who were allegedly killed by other Palestinians.
Palestinians in Israeli prisons also held several strikes to
protest being held in administrative detention, lack of visits
by family members or lawyers, Israel's refusal to release female
Palestinian prisoners, and to protest abuse by prison authorities.
Israel permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, although
human rights groups and diplomats encountered difficulties gaining
access to specific detainees.
Prison conditions in PA facilities are very poor. Facilities
are overcrowded and dilapidated. Food and clothing for prisoners
is inadequate and must be supplemented by donations from families
and humanitarian groups. Palestinian inmates held strikes and
protests in support of a number of causes and to protest prison
conditions. Palestinians who were arrested by PA authorities
after a wave of terrorist bombings in February and March went
on strike in April and June to protest poor prison conditions,
being held in solitary confinement, and being held in administrative
detention. The PA has not allocated its Ministry of Justice funds
to make improvements.
The PA permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, although
human rights groups encountered difficulties arranging visits
or gaining access to specific detainees. In September the PA
signed an agreement with the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) allowing the ICRC access to PA-run prisons. The
ICRC had not had access to Palestinian detention facilities and
prisons since 1995. In accordance with the agreement, the ICRC
began prison visits in both the West Bank and Gaza in December.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Any Israeli policeman or border guard may arrest without warrant
a person who has committed, or is suspected of having committed,
a criminal or security offense in the occupied territories, except
for areas under exclusive PA control. Israeli soldiers may also
detain Palestinians and hold them for questioning for the same
reasons. Human rights groups say that the vast majority of arrests
and detentions are for alleged security offenses. Persons arrested
for common crimes are usually provided with a statement of charges
and access to an attorney and may apply for bail. However, these
procedures are sometimes delayed. Authorities issue special summonses
for security offenses. Israeli Military Order 1369 stipulates
a 7-year prison term for anyone who does not respond to a special
summons delivered to a family member or posted in the MATAK office
nearest his home address. Bail is rarely available to those arrested
for security offenses. The courts treat persons over the age
of 12 as adults.
Israeli authorities may hold persons in custody without a warrant
for 96 hours; they must be released unless a warrant is issued.
Prearraignment detention can last up to 11 days for Palestinians
arrested in the occupied territories and up to 8 days for minors
and those accused of less serious offenses. Authorities must
obtain a court order for longer detentions--up to 6 months from
the date of arrest. Detainees are entitled to be represented
by counsel at their detention hearings, although the defense is
routinely not allowed to hear the evidence against a suspect.
Detainees must be released at the end of the court-ordered detention
if they are not indicted. If there is an indictment, a judge
may order indefinite detention until the end of the trial. Detainees
have the right to appeal continued detention. A Palestinian administrative
detainee who was arrested in 1992 for a security offense remains
in detention in Israel, having had his detention orders extended
eight times to enable the Government to prepare a case against
him. A new administrative detention order was issued this fall
against the Palestinian held since 1992.
Although a detainee generally has the right to consult with a
lawyer as soon as possible, in security cases authorities may
delay access to counsel for up to 15 days. Higher-ranking officials
or judges may extend this period. Access to counsel is routinely
denied while a suspect is being interrogated, which sometimes
can last several weeks. Authorities must inform detainees of
their right to an attorney and whether there are any orders prohibiting
such contact. In April Israeli authorities agreed to let lawyers
visit two Palestinians suspected of involvement in a bus bombing
in Jerusalem after they had been in prison for nearly 1 month,
according to press reports.
A number of factors hamper contacts between lawyers and their
clients in Israeli prison and detention facilities. Human rights
groups charge that authorities sometimes schedule appointments
between attorneys and their detained clients, only to move the
clients to another prison prior to the meeting. Authorities reportedly
use such tactics to delay lawyer-client meetings for as long as
90 days. Israeli regulations permit detainees to be held in isolation
during interrogation. The closure of the occupied territories,
which was tightened after a series of terrorist bombings in Israel
and Jerusalem in February and March, and again after Palestinian-Israeli
clashes in September, also makes it difficult for lawyers to gain
access to clients in prison inside Israel. According to the Mandela
Institute, in February Israel began allowing only Palestinian
lawyers with East Jerusalem identity cards and licenses issued
by the Israeli Bar Association or by an official Israeli governmental
body such as MATAK or the former Civil Administration to visit
detainees in Israeli prisons.
Israeli authorities claim that they attempt to post notification
of arrest within 48 hours. In February the Israeli High Court
of Justice ordered the State to ensure that the families and attorneys
of security prisoners are notified immediately that an arrest
has occurred, the location of the prisoner, and whether the attorney
may meet his client. Palestinian suspects are nonetheless often
kept incommunicado for several days after their arrest.
Palestinians generally locate detainees through their own efforts.
Palestinians can check with their local ICRC office to determine
whether it has information on the whereabouts of a family member.
A senior officer may delay for up to 12 days notification of
arrest to immediate family members, attorneys, and diplomatic
officials. A military commander may appeal to a judge to extend
this period in security cases for an unlimited time.
Israeli district military commanders may order administrative
detention (detention without trial) for up to 12 months without
formal charges. Administrative detention orders may be extended.
Many Palestinians administratively detained over the past 2 years
have had their detention orders renewed repeatedly with no meaningful
chance of appeal.
There were 270 Palestinians in administrative detention in Israel
at year's end, compared with 220 at the end of 1995. Administrative
detainees are usually held in the Megiddo prison. The Palestinian
Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment,
and the Defence for Children International report that at least
six children below the age of 16 are being held in administrative
detention and have had their orders extended.
Evidence used at hearings for administrative detentions is secret
and unavailable to the detainee or his attorney. Lawyers report
that during hearings to appeal detention orders, the detainee
and defense lawyer are required to leave the courtroom when secret
evidence is presented. Israeli authorities maintain that they
are unable to present evidence in open court because to do so
would compromise the method of acquiring the evidence, which is
often provided by informers whose lives would be jeopardized if
their identities were known. Detainees may appeal detention orders,
or the renewal of a detention order, before a military judge.
There were no deportations for security reasons in 1996.
At year's end, an estimated 3,800 Palestinian prisoners and detainees
were incarcerated in Israeli prisons, military detention centers,
and holding centers, a decrease from 4,900 incarcerated in 1995.
The Israeli Government routinely transfers Palestinians arrested
in Israeli-controlled areas of the occupied territories to facilities
in Israel, especially Megiddo military detention center near Afula.
In May Israel closed the Ketziot detention camp in the Negev
desert and transferred its detainees to other prisons in Israel.
Families, human rights organizations, and lawyers have encountered
barriers trying to gain access to Palestinian detainees and prisoners
held in facilities in Israel as a result of closures of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. Family visits to Palestinian prisoners held
in Israeli jails have sharply declined. Only immediate family
members, including siblings under the age of 16, are allowed to
visit relatives in facilities in Israel. Family members with
security records are barred from visiting. Transferring of prisoners
between facilities also makes it difficult for families, lawyers,
and human rights organizations to locate and visit detainees.
Due to travel restrictions, the ICRC suspended its family visits
program to detainees in Israeli prisons several times during the
Israeli security forces conducted several mass arrests of Palestinians
in response to acts or threats of violence against Israelis.
Israel arrested approximately 1,000 Palestinians suspected of
affiliation with Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, or the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine after a series of suicide
bombings in February and March. Of these, approximately 100 were
still being held in administrative detention at year's end.
The PA does not have a uniform law on administrative detention,
and security officials do not always adhere to the existing Gazan
and West Bank laws. Gazan law, which is not observed in the West
Bank, stipulates that detainees held without charge be released
within 48 hours. Gazan law allows the Attorney General to extend
the detention period to a maximum of 90 days during investigations.
Human rights organizations and the PA Ministry of Justice assert
that PA security officials do not always adhere to this regulation.
Five members of the Palestinian police force were detained in
Gaza without charge for several months in an internal dispute.
Prevailing West Bank law allows a suspect to be detained for
24 hours before being charged. The Attorney General can extend
the detention period.
PA authorities generally permit prisoners to receive visits from
family members, attorneys, and human rights monitors, except for
prisoners held for security reasons. PA security officials are
not always aware that lawyers have a right to see their clients.
In principle, detainees may notify their families of their arrest,
but this is not always permitted.
In 1996 the several PA security services had overlapping or unclear
mandates. Although only the civil police are authorized to make
arrests, other security services reportedly do so as well. The
operating procedures and regulations for conduct of police in
the various services are not well developed and have not yet been
made available to the public.
There are many detention facilities in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip administered by the overlapping PA security services, a
situation that complicates the ability of families, lawyers, and
even the Ministry of Justice, to track detainees' whereabouts.
Security services including the Preventive Security, General
Intelligence, military intelligence, and the coast guard have
their own interrogation and detention facilities. In general,
these services do not, or only sporadically, inform families of
a relative's arrest. Most PA security officers remain ignorant
of proper arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures as well
as basic human rights standards. Approximately 450 Palestinian
security officers from various security organizations in the West
Bank were trained in basic human rights practices and principles
in 1996 by Palestinian human rights groups.
PA security forces continued to arbitrarily arrest and detain
journalists, political activists, and human rights advocates,
who criticized the PA, such as Iyad Sarraj and Bassim Eid (see
Sections 2.a. and 4).
Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank arrested
approximately 1,000 Palestinians in the wake of the suicide bombings
in early 1996 and in response to pressure to crack down on terrorism.
The majority of arrests were conducted without warrants, and
approximately 150 individuals arrested in February and March remain
in detention without being charged.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Palestinians accused by Israel of security offenses in Israeli-controlled
areas of the occupied territories are tried in Israeli military
courts. Security offenses are broadly defined and may include
charges of political activity, such as membership in outlawed
organizations. Charges are brought by military prosecutors.
Serious charges are tried before three-judge panels; lesser offenses
are tried before one judge. Defendants have the right to counsel
and to appeal verdicts to the court of military appeals, which
may accept appeals based on the law applied in the case, the sentence,
or both. The right of appeal does not apply in all cases and
sometimes requires court permission. The Israeli military courts
rarely acquit Palestinians of security offenses, but sentences
are sometimes reduced on appeal.
Trials are sometimes delayed for several reasons: Witnesses,
including Israeli military or police officers, do not appear;
the defendant is not brought to court; files are lost; or attorneys
fail to appear, sometimes because they have not been informed
of the trial date or because of travel restrictions on Palestinian
lawyers. These delays add pressure on defendants to plead guilty
to avoid serving a period of pretrial detention that could exceed
the sentence. In cases involving minor offenses, an "expedited"
trial may be held, in which a charge sheet is drawn up within
48 hours and a court hearing scheduled within days.
By law most Israeli military trials are public, although access
is limited. Diplomatic officials are allowed to attend military
court proceedings involving foreign citizens, but there have been
delays in gaining admission. Most convictions in military courts
are based on confessions.
Evidence which is not available to the defendant, his attorney,
and occasionally the judges may be used in court to convict persons
of security offenses. There is frequently no testimony provided
by Palestinian witnesses because, Israeli authorities maintain,
Palestinians refuse to cooperate with the authorities. Physical
and psychological pressures and reduced sentences for those who
confess make it more likely for security detainees to sign confessions.
Confessions are usually spoken in Arabic, but translated into
Hebrew for the record because, authorities maintain, many Israeli
court personnel speak Arabic but few read it. Palestinian detainees
seldom read Hebrew and therefore sign confessions that they cannot
Crowded facilities and poor arrangements for attorney-client consultations
in prisons hinder legal defense efforts. Appointments to see
clients are difficult to arrange, and prison authorities often
fail to produce clients for scheduled appointments. The temporary
tightening of the closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip following
terrorist bombings in February and March and violent Israeli-Palestinian
clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September significantly
decreased contact between lawyers and clients in jails in Israel.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip accused of security
and ordinary criminal offenses are tried under Israeli law in
the nearest Israeli district court. Civilian judges preside and
the standards of due process and admissibility of evidence are
governed by the laws of Israel, not military occupation decrees.
Settlers convicted in Israeli courts of crimes against Palestinians
regularly receive lighter punishment than Palestinians convicted
in Israeli courts of similar crimes against either Israelis or
The PA inherited a court system based on structures and legal
codes predating the 1967 Israeli occupation. The Gaza legal code
derives from British Mandate law, Egyptian law, and PA directives
and laws. Pre-1967 Jordanian law applies in PA-controlled areas
of the West Bank. Bodies of law in the Gaza Strip and West Bank
have been substantially modified by Israeli military orders.
According to the DOP and the Interim Agreement, Israeli military
decrees issued during the occupation theoretically remain valid
in both areas and are subject to review pursuant to a specific
procedure. The PA is undertaking efforts to unify the Gaza and
West Bank legal codes, but it has made little progress.
The PA court system in general is recovering from years of neglect.
Judges and staff are underpaid and overworked and suffer from
lack of skills and training; court procedures and record-keeping
are archaic and chaotic; and the delivery of justice is often
slow and uneven. Judges suffer from a lack of police protection.
The ability of the courts to enforce decisions is extremely weak,
and there is administrative confusion in the appeals process.
In June lawyers representing 10 Bir Zeit students arrested in
March without a warrant by the PA for having suspected links to
Hamas petitioned the PA to charge or release the students. In
August the West Bank High Court of Justice in Ramallah demanded
that the PA release the students for lack of cause. Senior PA
officials, including Chairman Arafat and the Attorney General,
ignored and failed to enforce the order in a timely fashion.
According to a lawyer who represented the students, most of them
were released more than a month after the order was handed down.
The PA Ministry of Justice appoints all civil judges for 10-year
terms. The Attorney General, an appointed official, reports to
the Minister of Justice and supervises judicial operations in
both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
In 1995 the PA established state security courts in Gaza and the
West Bank to try cases involving security issues. Three military
judges preside over each court, which applies civilian law. A
senior police official heads the state security court in Jericho,
and three judges preside over it. There is no right of appeal,
but verdicts may be either ratified or repealed by the PA chairman,
Yasir Arafat. According to the PA, during the year, the PA State
Security Court handed down sentences to 12 defendants, ranging
from a few years in prison to death. There are 10 Palestinians
sentenced to death, but none of the sentences have been carried
out. According to a press report, Chairman Arafat commuted the
death penalties issued by PA courts.
Normal limits on the length of prearraignment detention do not
appear to apply to suspects held by a PA security court. Defendants
are brought to court without knowledge of the charges against
them or sufficient time to prepare a defense. Defendants are
represented by court-appointed lawyers. Court sessions often
take place on short notice, sometimes even in the middle of the
night, at times without lawyers present, all violations of a defendant's
right to due process. In some instances, security courts try
cases, issue verdicts, and impose sentences in a single session
lasting several hours. Terrorists who murdered an Israeli settler
and her young son were arrested, tried, and convicted shortly
after the crime.
Local and international human rights groups have criticized the
PA state security courts, arguing that they are subordinate to
the power of the executive and that subordination undermines the
independence of the judiciary and violates defendants' rights
to a fair and open trial. The PA Ministry of Justice has no jurisdiction
over the security courts, according to the PA Attorney General.
The Palestine Center for Human Rights reported that as of April,
83 persons suspected of collaborating with Israel were in PA detention.
PA facilities held 150 political prisoners at year's end.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home,
Israeli military authorities in areas of the West Bank under their
control may enter private Palestinian homes and institutions without
a warrant on security grounds when authorized by an officer of
the rank of lieutenant colonel. In conducting searches, the IDF
has forced entry, and has sometimes beaten occupants and destroyed
property. Israeli authorities say that forced entry may lawfully
occur only when incident to an arrest and when entry is resisted.
Authorities say that beatings and arbitrary destruction of property
during searches are punishable violations of military regulations,
and that compensation is due to victims in such cases. According
to the Israeli Government, information on the claims against the
Ministry of Defense for damages caused as a result of IDF actions
has not yet been collected.
In September IDF soldiers forced their way into the West Bank
appartment of a Palestinian-American family during clashes with
Palestinian demonstrators. The IDF forced the family members
out of their apartment, roughed them up, hitting and pushing them,
and pointed guns at them. When the family was allowed back into
the apartment 3 days later, they found that the soldiers had smashed
windows, destroyed furniture and clothing, and fouled the apartment
with excrement. The family was later compensated by the Government.
Israeli security forces may demolish or seal the home of a suspect,
whether the owner or tenant, without trial. The decision to seal
or demolish a house is made by several high-level Israeli officials,
including the Coordinator of the MATAK (formerly Civil Administration)
and the Defense Minister. Owners of houses ordered demolished
have 48 hours to appeal to the area commander; a final appeal
may be made to the Israeli High Court. A successful appeal generally
results in the conversion of a demolition order to sealing. After
a house is demolished, military authorities confiscate the land
and prohibit the owner from rebuilding or removing the rubble.
Israeli authorities demolished eight homes for security reasons
in 1996, compared with one in 1995. They also sealed one apartment,
making it uninhabitable, compared with one partial sealing in
1995. The authorities carried out demolition orders issued in
1995 on the homes of 3 suicide bombers. In addition, authorities
demolished the homes of five individuals implicated in suicide
bombings, including one Palestinian involved in the 1995 bombing
of a bus in Jerusalem who was tried and sentenced by the Palestinian
Authority. Israeli authorities sealed the apartment of a suicide
bomber after the High Court of Justice ruled that demolishing
the apartment would harm other apartments in the building. Human
rights groups report that Israeli security forces blew up five
of eight houses that were demolished, in many cases damaging surrounding
homes. Israel compensated the owners of the damaged homes in
Many human rights groups criticize the sealing or demolishing
of homes because such acts target innocent families and children.
The Israeli High Court has stated that the goal of such demolitions
is to deter terrorists. An Israeli security official told the
Israeli press that blowing up a home had a greater psychological
effect than demolishing it using nonexplosive methods.
Owners may apply to regional military commanders for permits to
rebuild or unseal their homes. Since 1994 the Israeli Government
has allowed the opening or rebuilding of homes sealed or demolished
as a result of security offenses committed by a family member
after that person has been released from prison. Each former
prisoner must apply for a permit to rebuild or unseal a home,
which the Government may deny. In 1996 the Government allowed
one home to be unsealed.
Israeli security services sometimes monitor the mail and telephone
conversations of Palestinians, Israelis, and foreigners. The
authorities sometimes interrupt telephone and electricity service
to specific areas. In January electricity in villages near Janin
was interrupted for several days after a Palestinian killed an
Israeli soldier there.
In the Gaza Strip and PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, the
PA requires the Attorney General to issue warrants for entry and
searches of private property. These requirements are sometimes
ignored in Palestinian police sweeps for security suspects. PA
police have searched homes without the consent of their owners.
In some cases, police have forcibly entered premises and destroyed
property. In March Palestinian security forces searched the homes
of journalist Rabi' Hussein Rabi and his brother and father without
a warrant because they were believed to be affiliated with Hamas.
Palestinian security in the Gaza Strip destroyed property during
searches of private property and the Islamic University in Gaza
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian
Law in Internal Conflicts
IDF regulations permit the use of live ammunition only when a
soldier's life is in immediate danger, to halt fleeing suspects,
to disperse a violent demonstration, or to fire on an "individual
unlawfully carrying firearms." According to policy, soldiers
should direct fire at the legs only and may fire at a fleeing
suspect only if they believe that a serious felony has occurred
and they have exhausted other means to apprehend the suspect.
It is forbidden to open fire in the direction of children or
women, even in cases of severe public disorder, unless there is
an immediate and obvious danger to a soldier's life. However,
Israeli soldiers and police sometimes used live ammunition in
situations other than when their lives were in danger and sometimes
shot suspects in the upper body and head.
On September 25, Yasir Arafat called for a general strike and
marches to protest the opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in Jerusalem.
However, after the Palestinian reaction spiraled into spontaneous
acts of violence and confrontations between Israeli security forces
and Palestinians, intense gun battles erupted between Israeli
and Palestinian security forces, causing Israeli and Palestinian
Both sides used excessive force. According to the PA Ministry
of Health and human rights groups, 58 Palestinians were killed
(including 11 security officers). Fifteen of those Palestinians
killed were children under age 18, according to Defense for Children
International. Sixteen Israeli soldiers died of wounds from live
fire, according to the Israeli Government. The fatalities from
this one incident exceeded the number of Israelis and Palestinians
killed in violent confrontations in all of 1995.
Palestinian sources contend that Israeli forces in Ramallah and
Rafah fired on demonstrators and Palestinian security personnel
from helicopter gunships and from elevated sniper positions.
Israel also used nonlethal means to disperse rioters, including
batons and tear gas. Israeli security forces fired on and killed
medical personnel and civilians while they were evacuating wounded.
One Palestinian nurse was shot and killed in Gaza while evacuating
wounded persons. Palestinian security forces prevented medical
care from reaching a wounded Israeli journalist in the Gaza Strip.
In the face of violence, the PA promptly took steps to improve
command and control of its forces. During the fighting, the head
of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank traveled with
his Israeli central command counterparts to the scenes of the
fighting to restore order and discipline. Before the fighting
ended, the PA instituted a new procedure barring protests in proximity
to Israeli checkpoints. This procedure greatly reduces the possibility
of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters.
Palestinian security forces reinforced existing instructions
to their units forbidding the use of firearms without prior approval
and have not hestitated to discipline those guilty of weapons
During and following the September disturbances, the PA provided
protection for and assisted in the evacuation of Israeli security
forces stranded at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus.
During the year, extremist Palestinians also killed 4 Israeli
soldiers and civilians in the West Bank and PA areas and 58 people
in terrorist bombings in Israel (see Section 1.g. of the Israel
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Israeli Government generally respects freedom of speech in
the occupied territories, but prohibits public expressions of
support for Islamic extremist groups, such as Hamas, and other
groups avowedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Continuing
a policy it began in 1994, the Israeli Government generally did
not enforce its prohibition on the display of Palestinian political
symbols, such as flags, national colors, and graffiti, acts which
are punishable by fines or imprisonment. In May, however, the
IDF raided an elementary school in Hebron and beat pupils for
flying a Palestinian flag, according to press reports.
Overall, censorship of specific press pieces continued to be low.
Israeli authorities continue to monitor the Arabic press for
security-related issues. Military censors review Arabic publications
in Jerusalem for material related to the public order and security
of Israel and the territories. Reports by foreign journalists
are also subject to review by Israeli military censors for security
issues, and the satellite feed used by many foreign journalists
Israel sometimes closes areas to journalists, usually in conjunction
with a curfew or security incident. Israeli authorities have
denied entry permits to Palestinian journalists travelling to
their place of work in Jerusalem during closures of the territories.
The IDF requires a permit for publications imported into the occupied
territories. Imported materials may be censored or banned for
anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli content. Possession of banned materials
is punishable by a fine and imprisonment. In 1996 Israel refused
to allow publications into the Gaza Strip when it tightened its
closure of the occupied territories after terrorist bombings in
February and March.
Israel closed for 6 months at least six colleges, universities,
and recreational and welfare institutions in Jerusalem and Israeli-controlled
areas of the West Bank in March after a series of terrorist incidents.
Israeli authorities claimed that the institutions served as centers
of Hamas activity. In September Israel extended the closure orders
on Hebron University, Hebron Technical Institute, and Islamic
institutions. These closure orders were lifted in December in
anticipation of IDF redeployment in Hebron.
Educational institutions in the West Bank and Jerusalem also closed
for periods of time as a result of internal closures in the West
Bank that Israel imposed after terrorist attacks in the spring
and after clashes between Israeli security forces and PA security
forces and Palestinians in September. These closures disrupted
the operations of colleges, universities, and schools because
significant numbers of students and staff could not travel to
the schools from neighboring towns and villages. Following terrorist
bombings in the spring, Israeli security forces arrested hundreds
of Gazan students in the West Bank and returned them to Gaza.
At years' end, Gazan students are still denied travel and residence
permits to attend West Bank colleges and universities.
The PA has a generally poor record on freedom of expression and
freedom of the press, although it professes to tolerate varying
political views and criticism. PA chairman Arafat enacted a press
law in 1995 prior to Palestinian elections that Palestinian journalists
criticize for not adequately protecting press freedoms. In a
report issued in September 1995, Reporters Without Frontiers,
a Paris-based journalists' rights group, charged the PA with resorting
to "pressure, harassment, arrests, and suspensions"
to stifle the independence of the press. It labeled the PA Press
Law as restrictive, because it prevents criticism of the police
and permits the seizure of newspapers that do so. The Israeli
human rights group B'tselem reported that Palestinian journalists
now practice self-censorship to avoid antagonizing the PA. Editors
readily admit that they practice self-censorship to avoid being
shut down by the PA.
PA officials imposed restrictions on the press in several instances,
including closing some opposition newspapers. PA authorities
do not permit criticism of Yasir Arafat or his policies or style
of government. Twice in 1996, the PA arrested and detained human
rights activist Iyad Sarraj for criticizing the PA and Yasir Arafat.
On May 18, Palestinian policemen arrested Sarraj for investigation
for "slander" based on comments Sarraj made to a Western
journalist that were critical of arbitrary arrest and torture
committed by PA authorities. Sarraj was released on May 26, and
wrote a letter to Arafat reiterating his views. On June 9, police
arrested Sarraj again. Sarraj alleged that he was beaten in custody.
He was released from custody on June 26. In May the PA Preventive
Security Force in Gaza pressured a journalist and his editor to
reveal the source of a newspaper article on corruption in the
Preventive Security Force. Also in May, PA Chairman Arafat fired
a Voice of Palestine talk show host for allowing a caller to criticize
the Palestinian security services. In Gaza PA authorities took
a radio show off the air after the host complained that PA officials
were driving luxury cars. In February and March, Palestinian
authorities closed al-Watan and al-Istiqlal, the press organs
of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They have not been
allowed to reopen by year's end. In September the PA shutdown
the weekly independent Jenin allegedly because its editor criticized
the policies of the Jenin municipality and the local trade organization.
In August PA authorities prevented the distribution of books
by one of Arafat's most vocal critics, Edward Said.
The PA has authority over all levels of education in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. There were no reports of PA interference
with academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Israeli military orders ban public gatherings of 10 or more people
without a permit, but authorities relaxed enforcement after the
signing of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993. According
to the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights
and the Environment, Israeli authorities began to enforce this
order more vigorously in response to Palestinian demonstrations
held in 1996 over land issues in the West Bank.
Private organizations are required to register with the Israeli
authorities, though some operate without licenses. The authorities
permit Palestinian charitable, community, professional, and self-help
organizations to operate unless their activities are viewed as
overly political or opposed to the DOP.
PA officials maintain that they do not impose restrictions on
freedom of assembly, although they do require permits for rallies,
demonstrations, and many cultural events. These were rarely denied.
In Gaza police approval is required for "political"
meetings at several specific large meeting halls. Written permission
is also required for buses to transport passengers to attend political
meetings. In West Bank cities, the PA requires permits for outdoor
rallies and demonstrations and prohibits calls for violence, a
display of arms, and racist slogans. In December the PA issued
permits to a number of rejectionist groups (Hamas, PFLP, DFLP)
to celebrate their anniversaries on the condition they demonstrate
peacefully and not advocate violence. At a Bir Zeit University
rally Hamas supporters burned an Israeli bus in effigy, an act
that suggested support for bus bombings. The PA reportedly approached
Bir Zeit University officials to review security procedures for
There were periodic complaints during the year from Palestinian
political parties, social, and professional groups, and other
non-governmental organizations that the PA tried to limit their
ability to act autonomously.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Israeli Government respects freedom of religion and does not
ban any group or sect on strictly religious grounds. It permits
all faiths to operate schools and institutions. Religious publications
are subject to the publications laws (see Section 2.a.). The
IDF temporarily closed three mosques in the West Bank for security
reasons for several months. In April the IDF closed a mosque
in the West Bank town of Burqa for security reasons and in May
closed mosques in Qabalan and A-Ram for 6 months after finding
"inciteful material" in them, according to human rights
monitors and press reports.
The PA does not restrict freedom of religion.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Occupied Territories,
Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Israel requires that all West Bank and Gaza residents obtain identification
cards to qualify for permits to enter Israel and Jerusalem. However,
Israel sometimes denies applicants ID cards and permits with no
explanation, and does not allow effective means of appeal. Palestinian
residents of Jerusalem are sometimes prohibited from entering
PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, and they require written
permits from Israel to travel to the Gaza Strip. Residents of
the Gaza Strip are rarely able to obtain permission to travel
to the West Bank. Israel and the PA have yet to establish "safe
passage" to facilitate travel between the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, as set out in the Interim Agreement.
Israel continued to apply its policy begun in 1993 of closure
of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response to terror attacks.
A closure was applied on February 25, following suicide bombings
in Jerusalem and Ashkelon. During "normal" closure
conditions that prevailed for most of 1996, any Palestinian holding
a Gaza or West Bank identity card was required to obtain a permit
to enter Israel or Jerusalem. Palestinian workers employed in
Israel were prohibited from entering Israel to work for a significant
portion of the year. Most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip encountered difficulty obtaining permits to work, visit,
study, obtain medical care, or attend religious services outside
of the West Bank or Gaza. Israeli authorities do not permit Gazans
to bring vehicles into Israel and rarely permit West Bank vehicles
to enter Jerusalem or Israel.
As a security precaution, Israel also routinely tightens closures
on the West Bank and Gaza during major Jewish or Muslim holy days,
as well as during times of political sensitivity for Israel or
the Palestinian authority, such as during the Israeli elections
Twice in 1996--in the spring following terrorist bombings in Israel
and Jerusalem, and after Palestinian-Israeli clashes in September--Israel
imposed a total closure of the West Bank and Gaza as well as an
"internal closure" on West Bank towns, isolating areas
under PA control by preventing travel between them. The "internal
closure" imposed in the spring, the first time such a closure
was used, lasted for about 2 weeks, as did the second. Israeli
government officials acknowledged that closures have limited effectiveness
as a security measure; since at least 1994, all known perpetrators
of terrorist attacks in Israel were not in possession of valid
permits but were nonetheless able to enter Israel.
The tightening of these restrictions significantly hampered the
flow of food, medicine, students, doctors, and patients into and
out of the occupied territories, and seriously disrupted normal
commerce. Human rights groups report that in February and March
at least seven ill Palestinians, including three babies, died
because they were unable to travel to hospitals in Jerusalem or
Israel. Another Palestinian child died at an Israeli checkpoint
while awaiting permission to enter Israel for medical treatment.
Emergency cases were handled on an ad hoc basis throughout the
September-October crisis. By year's end, more trucks and day
laborers were permitted to enter and leave the territories.
Israel continues to impose periodic curfews in areas of the West
Bank under its jurisdiction largely in response to security incidents,
in anticipation of incidents, or as part of ongoing security operations.
Israeli settlers are generally free to move about during curfews,
while Palestinian residents are confined to their homes. Following
clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian security
forces and civilians in September, Hebron was put under a 20-hour
per day curfew that lasted for 10 days. Palestinians periodically
were allowed out of their homes for brief periods of time to buy
food and other necessities.
The Government restricted travel for 21 Israeli settlers, prohibiting
them from entering sensitive locations in the West Bank. The
Yesha Council, an umbrella group of settler organizations, estimates
that six Israelis were placed under administrative detention during
The Israeli Government requires all Palestinians resident in areas
under its control to obtain permits for foreign travel and has
restricted the travel of some political activists. Bridge-crossing
permits to Jordan may be obtained at post offices without a screening
process. However, the fear of losing one's residency is an obstacle
to travel. Palestinian males between the ages of 16 and 25 who
cross into Jordan must remain outside the occupied territories
for 9 months. Restriction on residence, tourist visas, reentry,
and family reunification apply only to Palestinian residents of
the occupied territories. Israeli authorities sometimes refuse
to renew the laissez-passers of Palestinians from the occupied
territories who live or work abroad, on the grounds that they
have abandoned their residences.
The Israeli Government ordinarily does not permit Palestinians
who obtain foreign citizenship to resume residence in Jerusalem;
nor does it permit those who acquire legal residency abroad, or
who remain outside Jerusalem for over 3 years, to resume their
residency. Such persons are permitted to return only as tourists
and are sometimes denied entry entirely. No such restrictions
are applied to Israeli citizens.
Israel enforced these residency restrictions in Jerusalem with
greater stringency in 1996, according to human rights groups and
foreign diplomats. In 1996 approximately 2,000 Arab residents
of Jerusalem had their residency permits revoked, or were told
by Israeli officials they could not retain their resident status
if they traveled out of the country or if they did not renounce
citizenship or residency in another country. The Israeli Government
has denied that greater enforcement of the Jerusalem residency
requirements reflects a concerted policy to decrease the Arab
population in Jerusalem. The Government explained in September
that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are not losing their residency
status as a result of more rigorous enforcement of the Jerusalem
residency requirements and that Israel had not changed its policies.
The Government, however, has not yet responded to requests by
foreign diplomats to explain why it revoked Jerusalem residency
permits in several dozen individual cases, which apparently did
not contradict Israeli policy.
Israeli authorities also place restrictions on family reunification.
Most Palestinians who were abroad before or during the 1967 war
or who have lost their residence permits for other reasons, are
not permitted to reside permanently with their families in the
occupied territories. Israeli security also singles out young
(often unmarried) Palestinian males for harsher treatment than
other Palestinians, citing them as more likely to be security
risks. They generally are prohibited from working in Israel.
The MATAK usually denied permanent residency in the occupied territories
to the foreign-born spouses and children of Palestinian residents,
and to nonresident mothers. The Government usually issued temporary
residency permits to persons in these categories.
The PA generally does not restrict the travel of Palestinians
in Gaza and PA cities in the West Bank. During clashes with Israeli
security in September, PA authorities placed Nablus under a temporary
curfew. Passports and identification cards for the residents
of PA areas are issued by the PA. PA authorities issued travel
documents freely to male Palestinians, and the PA Ministry of
Civil Affairs rescinded this past summer the law requiring women
to show the written consent of a male family member before issuing
them a travel document (see Section 5).
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Palestinian residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem
chose their first popularly-elected government on January 20.
They elected an 88-member Palestinian Legislative Council and
the head of the Executive Authority of the Council. Voter turnout
was high, about 75 percent of the estimated 1 million registered
voters. Yasir Arafat won almost 89 percent of the vote in a two-person
race for chief executive of the Council. Some 700 candidates
ran for Council seats. Council members were elected in multi-member
electoral districts. As many as 35 of the elected members were
independent candidates or critics of Arafat and his Fatah faction.
The Council convened on March 7 and proceeded to elect their
officers. International observers concluded that the election
could be reasonably regarded as an accurate expression of the
will of the voters, despite some irregularities.
Most Palestinians in Jerusalem do not recognize the jurisdiction
of the Municipality of Jerusalem; less than 7 percent of Jerusalem's
Palestinian population voted in 1993 municipal elections. No
Palestinian resident of Jerusalem sits on the city council.
Women are underrepresented in government and politics. There
are five women in the 88-member Council, and two women serve in
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
Many local groups--Israeli, Palestinian, and international--monitored
the Israeli Government's human rights practices. The Israeli
Government normally cooperates with human rights organizations;
officials normally agree to meet with human rights monitors.
The Israeli Government permits them to publish and hold press
However, some individual human rights workers have been subjected
to interference. A fieldwork coordinator for the Palestinian
human rights organization Al-Haq was arrested and detained without
charge in February. A blind Palestinian-American human rights
worker was detained at the Gaza border, interrogated, and prevented
from presenting a human rights training session in Gaza.
Many local human rights groups--mostly Palestinian--as well as
several international human rights organizations, monitored the
PA's human rights practices. The PA generally cooperates with
these organizations and PA officials normally meet with their
representatives. Many of the Palestinian human rights organizations
work behind the scenes with the PA to overcome alleged abuses
in certain areas. They also publish criticism if they believe
that the PA is not responding adequately to private entreaties.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operates in
the PA areas under the terms of a memorandum of understanding
signed in September between the ICRC and the PLO. The memorandum
accords the ICRC access to all detainees held by the PA and allows
regular inspections of prison conditions. Despite this memorandum,
and an earlier one, the ICRC had not visited PA detention facilities
since 1995. In September the PA signed an agreement with the
ICRC allowing the ICRC access to PA-run prisons. The ICRC began
prison visits in both the West Bank and Gaza in December in accordance
with the agreement.
The PA police twice arrested and detained for several days the
chairman of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen's
Rights, Iyad Sarraj, for criticizing the PA and its human rights
practices (see Section 2.a.). In January Palestinian security
forces arrested and held B'tselem field worker Bassam Eid for
several hours without specifying why he was being held. In September
1995, the head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force in
Jericho had labeled Eid "an agent of the Israeli police."
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
Under the complex mixture of laws and regulations that apply to
the territories, Palestinians are disadvantaged under Israeli
law and practices compared with the treatment received by Israeli
settlers. This includes discrimination in residency, land and
water use, and access to health and social services.
The problems of rape, domestic violence, and violence related
to "family honor" have gained greater prominence, but
public discussion is generally muted. Victims are often encouraged
by relatives to remain quiet and are themselves punished or blamed
for the "shame" that has been brought upon them and
their families. Women's groups seek to educate women on these
problems, but women's rights advocates claim that few resources
are available to shelter the victims of violence. They also maintain
that society has not been receptive to providing counseling or
outreach services to victims of problems that they see as more
widespread than is acknowledged. There are no reliable statistics
available on family violence or other forms of violence against
Palestinian women in the Israeli-controlled areas of the occupied
territories and in the Palestinian Authority areas endure various
forms of social prejudice and repression within their own society.
Because of early marriage, girls frequently do not finish the
mandatory level of schooling. Cultural restrictions sometimes
prevent them from attending colleges and universities. While
there is an active women's movement in the West Bank and Gaza,
attention has only recently shifted from nationalist aspirations
to women's issues such as domestic violence, education, employment,
and marriage and inheritance laws.
There are no laws providing for women's rights in the workplace.
Some Palestinian women work outside the home. Women are underrepresented
in most aspects of professional life. There are almost no women
in decisionmaking positions in the legal, medical, educational,
and scientific fields. However, a small group of women are prominent
in politics, medicine, law, teaching, and in nongovernmental organizations.
Personal status law for Palestinians is based on religious law.
For Muslim Palestinians, personal status law is derived from
Shari'a (Islamic law). In the West Bank and Gaza, Shari'a law
pertaining to women is part of the Jordanian Status Law of 1976,
which includes inheritance and marriage laws. Under the law,
women inherit less than male members of the family. The marriage
law allows men to take more than one wife, but few do so. Women
are permitted to make "stipulations" to protect them
against divorce and questions of child custody. However, only
1 percent of women take advantage of this section of the law,
leaving most women at a disadvantage when it comes to divorce
or child custody. Following legal protests, the PA Ministry of
Civil Affairs this year rescinded a law requiring women to obtain
the written consent of a male family member before it would issue
them a travel document.
While the PA provides for compulsory education, it does not provide
specific health services for children. Current British Mandate,
Jordanian, and military laws, from which West Bank and Gaza law
is derived, offer protection to children under labor and penal
codes. While there is no juvenile court system, judges specializing
in children's cases generally sit for juvenile offenders. In
cases where the child is the victim, judges have the discretion
to remove the child from a situation deemed harmful. However,
the system is not advanced in the protection afforded children.
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children, either among
Israelis or Palestinians.
People with Disabilities
There is no mandated accessibility to public facilities in the
occupied territories under either Israeli or Palestinian authority.
Approximately 130,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza
are disabled. Some Palestinian institutions care for and train
disabled persons; their efforts, however, are chronically underfunded.
According to a report by the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq,
many Palestinians with disabilities are segregated and isolated
from Palestinian society; they are discriminated against in most
spheres, including education, employment, transportation, and
access to public buildings and facilities.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Labor affairs in the West Bank came under Palestinian authority
with the signing of the Interim Agreement in September 1995.
Until a new law being drafted by PA authorities comes into effect,
labor affairs in the West Bank are governed by Jordanian Law 21
of 1965, as amended by Israeli military orders, and in Gaza by
PA decisions. The law permits workers to establish and join unions
without government authorization. The earlier Israeli stipulation
that all proposed West Bank unions apply for a permit is no longer
enforced. No new unions were established in 1996. Israeli authorities
have previously licensed about 35 of the estimated 185 union branches
now in existence. There are almost 30 licensed trade unions in
the West Bank and 6 in Gaza.
Palestinian workers in Jerusalem are governed by Israeli labor
law. They are free to establish their own unions. Although the
Government restricts Jerusalem unions from joining West Bank trade
union federations, this restriction has not been enforced. Palestinian
workers in Jerusalem may simultaneously belong to unions affiliated
with a West Bank federation and the Israeli Histadrut labor federation.
West Bank unions are not affiliated with the Israeli Histadrut
federation. Palestinian workers who are not resident in Israel
or Jerusalem are not full members of Histadrut, but they are required
to contribute 1 percent of their wages to Histadrut. Negotiations
between Histadrut and West Bank union officials to return half
of this fee to the Palestinian union federation were completed
in 1995. Histradut did not return half of the fee.
Palestinians who work in Israel are required to contribute to
the National Insurance Institute (NII), which provides unemployment
insurance and other benefits. Palestinian workers are eligible
for some, but not all, NII benefits. According to the Interim
Agreement, Palestinians working in Israel will continue to be
insured for injuries occurring in Israel, the bankruptcy of a
worker's employer, and allowances for maternity leave. The Government
of Israel agreed to transfer the NII fees collected from Palestinian
workers to the PA, which will assume responsibility for the pensions
and social benefits of Palestinians working in Israel. Implementation
of this change is still underway.
The great majority of West Bank unions belong to the Palestinian
General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The PGFTU acted as
the informal coalition in the completion of the negotiations with
Histadrut regarding workers' fees. The reorganization of unions
under the PGFTU is intended to enable the West Bank unions and
Gaza unions to better represent the union members' interests;
the reorganization had not yet been finalized at year's end.
An estimated 86,000 workers are members of the GFTU, the largest
union bloc. The PGFTU estimates actual organized membership,
i.e., dues-paying members, at about 30 percent of all Palestinian
workers, and is working to add more.
No unions were dissolved by administrative or legislative action
this year. Palestinian unions seeking to strike must submit to
arbitration by the PA Ministry of Labor. If the union disagrees
with the final arbitration and strikes, a tribunal of senior judges
appointed by the PA decides what, if any, disciplinary action
is to be taken. There are no laws in the territories that specifically
protect the rights of striking workers, and, in practice, such
workers have little or no protection from employers' retribution.
The PGFTU has applied for membership in the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
A majority of workers in the occupied territories are self-employed
or unpaid family helpers in agriculture or commerce. Only 35
percent of employment in the territories consists of wage jobs,
most with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),
the PA, or in municipalities. Collective bargaining is protected.
Labor disputes are adjudicated by committees of 3 to 5 members
in businesses employing more than 20 workers.
Existing laws and regulations do not offer real protection against
antiunion discrimination. One industrial zone is being developed
in the Gaza Strip.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
There is no forced or compulsory labor in the occupied territories.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum working age in the West Bank and Gaza is 14. This
order is not effectively enforced, and underage workers are employed
in agriculture and in some West Bank and Gaza factories. Work
hours for young workers are not limited.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is currently no minimum wage in the West Bank or Gaza area.
In the West Bank, the normal workweek is 48 hours in most areas;
in Gaza the workweek is 45 hours for day laborers and 40 hours
for salaried employees. There is no effective enforcement of
maximum workweek laws.
The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Labor is responsible for
inspecting work places and enforcing safety standards in the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Ministry of Labor says that newer
factories and work places meet international health and safety
standards but that older ones fail to meet minimum standards.
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices