Report on Human Rights Practices for 2000
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
and the September 1995 Interim Agreement, Israel transferred most responsibilities
for civil government in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to
the PA while retaining responsibility for external security; foreign
relations; the overall security of Israelis, including public order
in the Israeli settlements; and certain other matters.
An historic process of reconciliation between Israel
and the Palestinians began with the Madrid Conference in 1991 and continued
with the September 1993 signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration
of Principles (DOP). In September 1995, Israel and the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Interim Agreement on the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip. In January 1997, the parties concluded
the Hebron Agreement and in October 1998, Israel and the PLO signed
the Wye River Memorandum. In September 1999, the Israeli Government
and the PLO signed the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. The parties
held intensive working-level talks between March and June and met at
Camp David in July; however, the Israeli Government and the PLO did
not reach an agreement. On September 28, Israeli opposition leader
Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem.
On September 29, Palestinians held large demonstrations and threw stones
at police in the vicinity of the Western Wall. Police used rubber-coated
metal bullets and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, killing
4 persons and injuring approximately 200. Following this incident,
Palestinians began violent demonstrations against IDF soldiers, settlers,
and other Israeli civilians throughout the occupied territories; these
demonstrations and ensuing clashes--known to Palestinians and many Israelis
as the "al-Aqsa Intifada"--between Palestinians and IDF soldiers
occurred daily through the end of the year.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have varying
degrees of control and jurisdiction over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Israel continues to control certain civil functions and is responsible for
all security in portions of the occupied territories categorized as Area C,
which includes the Israeli settlements and 4 percent of the total West Bank
Palestinian population. In areas known as Area B, which includes 41
percent of the West Bank Palestinian population, the PA has jurisdiction
over civil affairs and shares security responsibilities with Israel.
The PA has control over civil affairs and security in Area A, which
includes 55 percent of the West Bank Palestinian population. The PA
also has jurisdiction over some civil affairs in Area C, as specified in
the Interim Agreement. Accordingly, this report discusses the
policies and practices of both the Israeli Government and the PA in the
areas in which they exercise jurisdiction and control.
Israel continues to exercise civil authority in parts of
the West Bank and Gaza through the Israeli Ministry of Defense's Office of
Coordination and Liaison, known by the Hebrew acronym MATAK, which replaced
the now defunct Civil Administration (CIVAD) in 1995. The
approximately 175,000 Israeli settlers living in Area C of the West Bank
and in the Gaza Strip are subject to Israeli law and, as citizens, receive
preferential treatment from Israeli authorities in terms of protection of
personal and property rights and of legal redress. The body of law
governing Palestinians in the territories derives from Ottoman, British
Mandate, Jordanian, and Egyptian law, and Israeli military orders.
Certain laws and regulations promulgated by the PA also are in force.
The international community 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 1996, Palestinians chose their first
popularly elected Government in democratic elections that generally were
well-conducted; the 88-member Palestinian Council (PC) and the Chairman of
the Executive Authority were elected. The PA also has a cabinet of 30
ministers. Chairman Yasir Arafat continues to dominate the affairs of
government and to make major decisions. Most senior government
positions in the PA are held by individuals who are members of, or loyal
to, Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO. The Council meets regularly
and discusses a range of issues significant to the Palestinian people;
however, it does not have significant influence on policy or the behavior
of the executive. In Gaza the legal code derives from British Mandate
law, Egyptian law, and PA directives and laws. In the West Bank,
pre-1967 Jordanian law and PA laws apply. The PA states that it is
undertaking efforts to unify the Gaza and West Bank legal codes; however,
it has made little progress to date. The PA courts are perceived as
inefficient and the PA executive and security services frequently ignore or
fail to carry out court decisions.
Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
consist of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF); the Israel Security Agency
(the ISA--formerly the General Security Service, or GSS, and also known as
Shin Bet, or Shabak); the Israeli National Police (INP); 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 numerous serious human
rights abuses, particularly following the outbreak of violence in late
The Palestinian Police Force (PPF) was established in
May 1994 and includes the Palestinian Public Security Force; the
Palestinian Civil Police; the Preventive Security Force (PSF); the General
Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat; the Palestinian Presidential Security
Force; and the Palestinian Coastal Police. Other quasi-military
security organizations, such as the military intelligence organization,
also exercise de facto 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 PA security
force jurisdiction. Members of the PA security forces committed
numerous serious human rights abuses throughout the year.
The economy of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is small,
poorly developed, and highly dependent on Israel. The economy relies
primarily on agriculture, services, and, to a lesser extent, light
manufacturing. Especially during periods of tension, Israel restricts
the movement of persons and products into Israel and Jerusalem from the
West Bank and Gaza, which frequently affects the ability of Palestinians to
reach their jobs in Israel. Since 1993 Israel has required
Palestinians and their vehicles to have Israeli permits to cross from the
West Bank or Gaza into Israel and Jerusalem. Approximately 125,000
West Bank and Gazan workers, representing roughly 20 percent of the
Palestinian work force, normally are employed at day jobs in Israel,
Israeli settlements, and Jerusalem, making their employment subject to
disruption. Since 1993 Israel has applied closures," or enhanced
restrictions, on the movement of persons and products, often for lengthy
periods, in response to terrorist attacks or other changes in the security
environment. During periods of violent protest in the West Bank or
Gaza, or when it believes that there is an increased likelihood of such
unrest or of terrorist attacks, Israel imposes a tightened version of
closure. Comprehensive, tightened closures also are instituted
regularly during major Israeli holidays. During such closures, Israel
cancels all travel permits and prevents Palestinians--even those with valid
work permits--from entering Israel or Jerusalem. Due to the ongoing
unrest in the occupied territories, Israel imposed 88 days of tightened,
comprehensive closure during the year, compared with 15 days in 1999.
In periods of extreme unrest in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli
Government also prohibits most travel between towns and villages within the
West Bank--an "internal" closure--impeding the flow of goods and
persons. During such internal closures, the Government also bans
travel on the safe passage route between the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel imposed at least 81 days of internal closure during the year,
compared with no days of internal closure in 1999. In the past,
Israel rarely imposed internal closure within Gaza; however, during much of
November and December the Israeli Government imposed internal closure in
Gaza. The prolonged periods of closure had a significant negative
impact on the economy of the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel's overall human rights record in the occupied
territories was poor; although the situation improved slightly during the
first 9 months of the year, it worsened in several areas late in the year,
mainly due to the sustained violence that began in September. Israeli
security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses during the
year. Security forces killed 307 Palestinians and four foreign
nationals and injured at least 11,300 Palestinians and other persons during
the year. Israeli security forces targeted for killing a number of
Palestinians whom the Israeli Government stated had attacked or were
planning future attacks on Israeli settlements or military targets; a
number of bystanders reportedly also were killed during these incidents.
Since the violence began, Israeli security units often used excessive force
against Palestinian demonstrators. Israeli security forces sometimes
exceeded their rules of engagement, which provide that live fire is only to
be used when the lives of soldiers, police, or civilians are in imminent
danger. IDF forces also shelled PA institutions and Palestinian
civilian areas in response to individual Palestinian attacks on Israeli
civilians or settlers; 7 Palestinians and 1 foreign national were killed,
and 131 Palestinians were injured in these attacks. Israeli security
forces abused Palestinians in detention suspected of security offenses.
However, a September 1999 landmark decision by the Israeli High Court of
Justice prohibited the use of a variety of abusive practices, including
violent shaking, painful shackling in contorted positions, and prolonged
exposure to extreme temperatures. Since the September 1999 ruling,
domestic and international nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) have been
unable to substantiate sporadic allegations that security forces tortured
detainees. There were numerous credible allegations that police beat
persons in detention. Three Palestinian prisoners died in Israeli
custody under ambiguous circumstances during the year. Prison
conditions are poor. Prolonged detention, limits on due process, and
infringements on privacy rights remained problems. Israeli security
forces sometimes impeded the provision of medical assistance to Palestinian
civilians. Israeli security forces destroyed Palestinian-owned
agricultural land. Israeli authorities censored Palestinian
publications, placed limits on freedom of assembly, and restricted freedom
of movement for Palestinians.
The PA's overall human rights record was poor, and it
worsened in several areas during the year mainly due to the sustained
violence that began in late September. Palestinian security forces
reportedly killed several Israeli security force members during violent
clashes with Israeli soldiers or settlers. Members of Palestinian
security services and Fatah's Tanzim participated in violent attacks.
Armed Palestinians, some of them members of Palestinian security forces,
fired at Israeli civilians or soldiers from within or close to the homes of
Palestinian civilians; residents of the homes consequently bore the brunt
of IDF retaliation for these attacks. Palestinian security forces
also failed to prevent armed Palestinians from opening fire on Israelis in
places in which Palestinians were present. The extent to which senior
PLO or PA officials authorized such incidents is not clear.
Palestinian security forces in October reportedly impeded the provision of
medical assistance to an injured Israeli border policeman, who later died.
One Palestinian died in PA custody under ambiguous
circumstances. PA prison conditions are very poor. PA security
forces arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, and prolonged detention is a
problem. Lack of due process also is a problem. The courts are
perceived as inefficient, lack staff and resources, and do not ensure fair
and expeditious trials. The PA executive and security services
frequently ignore or fail to enforce court decisions. Lack of due
process also is a serious problem in the PA's state security courts.
PA security forces infringed on citizens' rights to privacy and restricted
freedom of speech and of the press. The PA continued to harass,
detain, and abuse journalists. PA harassment contributed to the
practice of self-censorship by many Palestinian commentators, reporters,
and critics. The PA placed some limits on freedom of assembly and
association. In February the PA police announced a ban on unlicensed
public gatherings, but this action was invalidated by the Palestinian High
Court 2 months later. Violence against women and "honor
killings" persist. Societal discrimination against women and the
disabled is a problem. Child labor is a problem.
Israeli civilians, especially settlers, harassed,
attacked, and occasionally killed Palestinians in the occupied territories.
There were credible reports that settlers killed at least 14 Palestinians
during the year. In one case, an Israeli civilian killed a
Palestinian who previously had attacked a settlement and killed an IDF
soldier. Settlers also caused economic damage to Palestinians by
attacking and damaging greenhouses and agricultural equipment, uprooting
olive trees, and damaging other valuable crops. The settlers did not
act under government orders in the attacks; however, the Israeli Government
did not prosecute the settlers for their acts of violence. In general
settlers rarely serve prison sentences if convicted of a crime against
Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories
harassed, attacked, and occasionally killed Israelis, especially settlers.
Palestinians killed at least 18 Israeli civilians during the year. A
number of extremist Palestinian groups and individuals, including the
militant Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) and the Palestine Islamic
Jihad (PIJ), continued to kill and injure Israelis. Five attacks and
roadside bombings were carried out in Israel and the occupied territories.
The PA made no arrests in any of these killings.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person,
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Israeli security forces killed numerous Palestinians in
response to a sustained violent uprising late in the year. Most of
the Palestinians were killed during demonstrations and other violent
clashes, and others were targeted specifically by Israeli security forces.
In May Israeli security forces killed six Palestinians
and wounded up to 700 at demonstrations in which Palestinian demonstrators
were protesting the continued incarceration of Palestinian prisoners in
Israeli jails. Some protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails,
and some demonstrators shot at Israeli settlers (see Section 1.c.).
Deaths due to political violence increased significantly
during the year due to the "al-Aqsa Intifada." At least 365
persons were killed between late September and the end of December in
demonstrations, violent clashes, and military and civilian attacks,
including 325 Palestinians, 36 Israelis, 3 Jordanian citizens, and 1 German
citizen. Additionally, at least 10,962 persons were injured during
this period, including 10,600 Palestinians and 362 Israelis (see Sections
1.c. and 1.g.). On September 28, Israeli opposition leader Ariel
Sharon visited the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem. On
September 29, Palestinians held large demonstrations and threw stones at
police in the vicinity of the Western Wall. Police used rubber-coated
metal bullets and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, killing 4
persons and injuring approximately 200. Following this incident,
Palestinians began violent demonstrations against IDF soldiers, settlers,
and other Israeli civilians throughout the occupied territories; these
demonstrations and ensuing clashes between Palestinians and IDF soldiers
occurred daily through the end of the year.
Between late September and the end of the year, Israeli
security forces killed 227 Palestinians and 4 foreign nationals, and
injured over 10,600 Palestinians during violent demonstrations.
Palestinian demonstrators frequently threw stones and Molotov cocktails at
IDF soldiers. In some demonstrations, Palestinians also used
firearms. According to the IDF, Palestinians used firearms in about
30 percent of the demonstrations between late September and mid-November.
In response, Israeli security forces used a variety of means to disperse
demonstrators, including tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets, and live
ammunition. In many instances, Israeli security forces used excessive
force against demonstrators in contravention of their official rules of
engagement (see Section 1.g.).
Israeli Defense Force soldiers targeted for killing a
number of Palestinians during the year. A senior Israeli official
stated to the domestic press that the IDF deliberately targeted 10
Palestinians since the beginning of the "al-Aqsa Intifada."
According to the IDF, the targeted persons were PA security officers or
Fatah's Tanzim who previously had attacked or were planning future attacks
on Israeli settlements or military targets. The Israeli Government
stated that it only targeted persons against whom it had overwhelming
evidence and only with the authorization of senior political leaders.
PA officials and some human rights organizations claimed that a number of
the targeted persons were not involved in the ongoing violence. IDF
forces also killed 6 Palestinian bystanders and injured over a dozen others
during these incidents (see Section 1.c.).
On November 9, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at a
car in Beit Sahour, killing Hussein Mohamed Salim Ubayyat, a Fatah
official. Two Palestinian women walking on the road nearby were
killed and seven other civilian bystanders were injured in the attack (see
Section 1.c.). An IDF spokesman later announced that Ubayyat had been
targeted because of his prior involvement in a number of attacks against
Israeli military and civilian targets.
On December 31, IDF soldiers killed Dr. Thabet Ahmad
Thabet, a high-ranking member of Fatah, while he was in his car near his
There also were a number of instances in which is was
unclear whether Israeli security forces targeted their victims. On
November 17, IDF soldiers killed two Palestinian National Security Forces
officers in Jericho. The IDF stated that the officers were part of a
terrorist cell that previously had attacked IDF positions and some
settlements. The PA stated that the two officers were killed while on
duty and working to prevent Palestinian gunmen at a nearby refugee camp
from shooting at Israeli positions.
On November 22, IDF forces fired at 2 cars in Gaza,
killing a senior Tanzim member, Jamal Abdel Raziq, and 3 other Tanzim
members. The Israeli press reported that the 4 were terrorists who
were attempting to infiltrate the Morag settlement and that security forces
fired at the 2 cars after the drivers refused to stop at a road blockade.
According to press reports, Israeli security sources later stated that the
incident was an "IDF-initiated operation" against Raziq, who
reportedly had been involved in attacks on Israelis in Gaza.
On November 23, HAMAS member Ibrahim Abdel Karim Bani
was killed when a bomb exploded in the borrowed car he was driving.
Israeli security officials stated to the press that Bani Odeh was
transporting explosives to carry out a terrorist attack that detonated
prematurely. However, according to the PA and the Palestinian press,
Bani Odeh was on a list of 10 Palestinians that the IDF planned to target
for killing. PA security forces arrested Bani Odeh's cousin, who
reportedly confessed to having provided information to the IDF about Odeh's
whereabouts on the day he was killed.
On November 26, IDF soldiers fired on nine Palestinian
youths, killing five and injuring two. The Israeli press reported
that the IDF refused an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
request to allow medical personnel access to the injured. Palestinian
sources stated that the IDF subsequently fired on the injured persons with
helicopter gunships. On November 27, Israeli radio, citing IDF
sources, described the incident as a "proactive" IDF-initiated
action that targeted known terrorists who had participated in previous
attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets, including two
attacks that took place earlier that day. The Israeli Government also
stated that it had reason to believe that the Palestinian youths were
planning an additional terrorist attack. Palestinian sources stated
that the youths were on their way to visit friends when they were fired
upon by the IDF.
On December 10, IDF soldiers fired on two Palestinians
who reportedly were planting a roadside bomb near Bethlehem, killing
Mahmoud Mugrabi, a member of Fatah. According to press reports
quoting a senior IDF official, Mugrabi's name was on a list of ten reputed
terrorists that the IDF had targeted for killing.
Israeli security force personnel killed several
Palestinians in unclear circumstances. According to eyewitnesses and
a credible Palestinian human rights organization, on October 6, an IDF
soldier shot an unarmed 14-year-old boy on the porch of his home near
Hebron; he later died. On December 11, Israeli security forces shot
and killed Anwar Hmeiran, a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
According to Palestinian eyewitnesses, there were no clashes taking place
at the time of the shooting. On December 16, Mohammad Fahed Maali was
killed while reportedly walking past a clash between Israeli security
forces and Palestinian demonstrators in Jenin; according to the Palestinian
press, the Palestinian demonstrators did not use firearms in the
demonstration. IDF soldiers killed Abbas Othman Ewaywi, a member of
HAMAS. According to the IDF, Ewaywi was caught in crossfire between
Israeli and Palestinian security forces. However, Palestinian media
and eyewitnesses stated that there was no such exchange of gunfire when
Ewaywi was shot. HAMAS issued a leaflet the same day vowing revenge
for his death.
On September 30, a journalist videotaped and broadcast
internationally an exchange of fire between Israeli and Palestinian
security forces at Netzarim junction that resulted in the killing of
12-year Muhammad al-Dura. Many observers stated that the boy was
killed by IDF fire; however, the IDF conducted an investigation and
reported that it was not clear whether it was Israeli or Palestinian
gunfire that killed al-Dura.
The IDF generally did not investigate incidents in which
security forces killed and injured Palestinians. The IDF stated that
it did not investigate such incidents because of technical problems;
because Israel does not have full control over the occupied territories,
and the PA reportedly would not cooperate in investigations in Areas B and
C, the IDF stated that it could not conduct such investigations.
However, in certain high profile cases, such as the killing of Muhammad al-Dura
and the injuring of a foreign journalist, the IDF agreed to investigate.
In several incidents, following attacks on Israeli
civilians, including settlers, IDF helicopters fired tank rounds and
rockets from helicopters on towns and cities in the West Bank and Gaza,
killing and injuring a number of persons and causing significant damage to
buildings (see Section 1.g.).
Prior to the outbreak of violence in late September,
members of the Israeli security forces killed three Palestinians at
military checkpoints and roadblocks inside the occupied territories.
In these instances, Israeli authorities stated that the individuals were
shot after failing to obey orders to halt. Palestinian eyewitnesses
disputed these accounts and charged that Israeli soldiers used excessive
and unnecessary force. On March 20, Israeli soldiers killed Halima
al-Aloul at the Kharas checkpoint near Hebron; al-Aloul was riding with her
husband, who allegedly failed to stop at the checkpoint. On March 30,
Murad al-Zaro was shot and killed by Israeli police officers near the
Shufat refugee camp in Jerusalem. Israeli police maintained that al-Zaro
failed to stop when ordered to do so; however, Palestinian eyewitnesses
claimed that police shot al-Zaro after he already had stopped the car.
On July 8, IDF soldiers killed a Palestinian woman in Gaza while she was
riding in a car. According to the IDF, the soldiers fired because
they believed that they heard shots fired from the car.
On August 16, IDF security forces mistakenly killed
Mahmoud Assad Abdullah al-Bazar in Surda village. According to the
IDF, security forces surrounded his house in the mistaken belief that a
wanted HAMAS terrorist was inside. According to his family members,
al-Bazar went to his roof to investigate noises and fired one shot in the
air to frighten presumed thieves. The IDF soldiers reportedly heard
the shot and opened fire on al-Bazar.
According to credible human rights organizations,
Israeli security forces sometimes impeded the provision of medical
assistance to sick and injured Palestinians (see Section 2.d.);
Palestinians claim that seven Palestinians died as a result. For
example, on October 6, Israeli security forces delayed an ambulance from
reaching a Palestinian who was wounded in a clash in Jerusalem; the
Palestinian died later the same day. On October 14, IDF soldiers did
not allow a father to bring his daughter into Nablus for medical treatment;
she died the same day of a ruptured appendix. On October 16, IDF
soldiers refused to allow a man into Nablus for kidney dialysis; he later
died of kidney failure. According to the Israeli Government,
Palestinian medical personnel sometimes used ambulances as shelter for
Palestinians who had fired at Israeli civilians and soldiers (see Section
In May Mohamad Abdel Jalil Fayez Saed from Askar refugee
camp in Nablus died from wounds sustained in a 1991 confrontation with the
IDF in which soldiers reportedly beat Saed for throwing stones at an IDF
foot patrol, which left him paralyzed.
Three Palestinian security detainees reportedly died in
Israeli custody during the year (see Section 1.c.). On January 14,
Lafi al-Rajabi died in a detention center near Nablus; his body reportedly
bore cuts and bruises. On June 19, Sami As'ad reportedly hanged
himself in Kishon prison; according to newspaper reports he previously had
attempted suicide. On August 11, Ramez Fayez Mohammed Rashing Elrizi
died in al-Nafha prison under ambiguous circumstances. The Israeli
Government did not publish official autopsies in these deaths.
Palestinian security forces reportedly killed several
Israeli security force members during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers
or settlers. Members of Palestinian security services and Fatah's
Tanzim participated in violent attacks. Armed Palestinians, some of
them members of Palestinian security forces, fired at Israeli civilians or
soldiers from within or close to the homes of Palestinian civilians;
residents of the homes consequently bore the brunt of IDF retaliation for
these attacks. Palestinian security forces also failed to prevent
armed Palestinians from opening fire on Israelis in places in which
Palestinians were present. The extent to which senior PLO or PA
officials authorized such incidents is not clear. Palestinian
security forces reportedly impeded the provision of medical assistance to
an injured Israeli border policeman, who later died.
On September 29, a Palestinian policeman killed one
Israeli border policeman and injured a second. The three police
personnel were part of a joint patrol.
On October 1, PA security forces shot a border policeman
at Joseph's Tomb, and then delayed an ambulance from reaching him in a
timely manner; the soldier bled to death.
One Palestinian died in PA custody during the year. On
June 6, Khalid Bahar was found dead in his prison cell; family members
claim that the prisoner died after being tortured (see Section l.c.).
The PA publicized the results of its autopsy report, which stated that the
prisoner had choked to death.
More than 35 Israelis and Palestinians died in
politically related violence perpetrated by individuals and groups during
the year. Israeli settlers harassed, attacked, and occasionally
killed Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (see Section 1.c.).
There were credible reports that settlers killed at least 14 and injured a
number of Palestinians during the "al-Aqsa Intifada," usually by
stoning their vehicles, which caused fatal accidents, shooting them, or
hitting them with moving vehicles. For example, on October 1,
unidentified Israeli settlers opened fire on a car holding Palestinians,
killing an 18-month-old baby. On October 17, two settlers from Itamar
opened fire with machine guns on a group of Palestinians harvesting olives
in a field near Nablus, killing one person and injuring four. The
perpetrators of the attack were identified and taken into Israeli police
custody, but subsequently were released because the police determined that
the PA was not cooperating sufficiently with the investigation. The
PA denied this charge. The settlers did not act under government
orders in the attacks; however, the Israeli Government did not prosecute
the settlers for their acts of violence. In general, settlers rarely
serve prison sentences if convicted of a crime against Palestinians.
Palestinian civilians harassed, attacked, and
occasionally killed Israelis, especially settlers. During the year,
Palestinians killed 18 Israeli civilians and injured numerous others (see
Section 1.c.). Palestinians frequently threw stones and fired guns at
Israeli civilians during the "al-Aqsa Intifada." On October
8, Palestinian civilians killed Israeli settler Hillel Lieberman from Elon
Moreh. Lieberman had been missing since the morning of October 7,
when he told a relative that he was going to "pay a final visit"
to Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, after the IDF had announced that it would
withdraw from the site. An unknown extremist group took
responsibility for the killing.
On October 12, a Palestinian mob killed two IDF
reservists in a brutal attack in Ramallah. The mob attacked the
soldiers' car until Palestinian police intervened and brought the soldiers
to the civil police station. The mob followed, broke down the gate of
the police station, and kicked, burned, and beat to death the two
reservists. There were reports that Palestinian police personnel also
participated in the beating.
On October 30, unknown Palestinian gunmen killed one
security guard and injured another at the National Insurance Office in
Jerusalem. On November 9, Palestinian gunmen killed one woman and
injured one man in their car. On November 13, Palestinian gunmen
killed a settler and two IDF soldiers near Ramallah.
Several Palestinian officials made public statements
justifying Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, and the PA made no
arrests in any of these killings. Additionally, Tanzim leaders made
public statements urging Palestinians to continue the violence.
Following Chairman Arafat's announcement on November 17 to stop firing on
Israeli civilians or security forces from Area A, there was a short-lived
significant decrease in the number of such incidents. Israeli
observers noted that Arafat's statement did not address attacks in Areas B
Seven Israeli civilians were killed in bomb attacks and roadside bombs for
which several Palestinian extremist groups claimed responsibility.
For example, a roadside bomb near Kfar Darom settlement in Gaza was
detonated on November 20 as a settler schoolbus passed. A teacher and
a school maintenance worker were killed, and nine passengers were wounded,
including several children (see Section 1.c.). Two Palestinian
extremist groups claimed responsibility for the attack. On November
23, two IDF soldiers were killed and three were injured in 2 separate bomb
attacks in Gaza.
There were no reports of politically motivated
disappearances during the year.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Israeli laws and administrative regulations prohibit the
physical abuse of detainees; however, security forces abused in detention
Palestinians suspected of security offenses. A landmark decision by
the Israeli High Court of Justice in September 1999 prohibited the use of a
variety of abusive practices, including violent shaking, painful shackling
in contorted positions, sleep deprivation for extended periods of time, and
prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures. Prior to the High Court's
decision, Israeli laws and administrative regulations prohibiting the
physical abuse of detainees were not enforced in security cases (see
Section 1.c. of the Israel report). The head of the then-GSS was
empowered by government regulation to authorize security officers to use
"moderate physical and psychological pressure" (which included
violent shaking) while interrogating detainees. These practices often
led to excesses. Since the September 1999 ruling, domestic and
international NGO's have been unable to substantiate sporadic allegations
that security forces tortured detainees.
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. This prolonged incommunicado
detention contributes to the likelihood of abuse. Detainees sometimes
claim in court that their confessions are coerced, but judges rarely
exclude such confessions. According to Palestinian human rights
groups, some Palestinian detainees fail to make complaints either due to
fear of retribution or because they assume that such complaints would be
ignored. During the year, there were no known cases in which a
confession was thrown out because of improper means of investigation or
Israeli security forces injured at least 11,300
Palestinians during violent demonstrations during the year (see Sections
1.a., 2.b., and 1.g.). In May IDF soldiers and Israeli police injured
up to 700 Palestinians during protests in support of a hunger strike
declared by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. During the
"al-Aqsa Intifada," Israeli security forces injured about 10,600
The IDF injured several bystanders at demonstrations,
including journalists (see Section 2.a.). According to a November
report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 10 journalists
were hit by IDF gunfire during the "al-Aqsa Intifada", and 3
other journalists were hit by gunfire from an unknown source. In at
least one case, a foreign photographer was hit by live ammunition during a
demonstration in which no IDF personnel were under fire.
Israeli authorities also frequently treat Palestinians
in an abusive manner at checkpoints, subjecting them to verbal and physical
harassment. According to press reports, on September 6, Israeli
border policemen physically abused three Palestinian workers near the
village of Abu Dis outside of Jerusalem. The officers took photos of
themselves with their victims; their trial was ongoing by year's end.
The PA does not prohibit by law the use of torture or
force against detainees, and PA security forces reportedly were responsible
for torture and widespread abuse of Palestinian detainees. Such abuse
generally took place after arrest and during interrogation. In 1995
the Gaza civil police commander issued to police officers in the West Bank
and Gaza a directive forbidding torture during interrogation, and directing
the security forces to observe the rights of all detainees. However,
the directive does not have the force of law; Palestinian security officers
have not been issued formal guidelines on the proper conduct of
interrogations. The PA lacks adequate equipment to collect and use
evidence, and convictions are based largely on confessions. The
importance of obtaining confessions heightens the possibility of abuse.
PA security officials torture and abuse prisoners by
threatening, hooding, beating, and tying detainees in painful positions,
forcing them to stand for long periods of time, depriving them of sleep and
food, and burning detainees with cigarettes and hot instruments.
Palestinians also alleged that they had been shaken violently while in PA
custody. International human rights monitoring groups have documented
widespread arbitrary and abusive conduct by the PA. These
organizations state that use of torture is widespread and not restricted to
those persons detained on security charges. Human rights groups state
that Palestinians who are suspected of belonging to radical Islamic groups
are more likely to be treated poorly. In February and March, the
General Intelligence Service arrested, detained, and physically abused
dozens of Bir Zeit University students who were arrested on charges of
throwing stones at a foreign head of state during a campus demonstration
(see Section 2.b.). Several human rights groups claimed that the
students were tortured during detention.
During the year, one Palestinian died in PA custody.
Family members claim that the prisoner died after being tortured (see
Section l.a.). The PA publicized the results of its autopsy report,
which stated that the prisoner had choked to death.
Palestinian police and Tanzim members with firearms
participated in violent demonstrations and attacks. Palestinian
security forces sometimes fired at Israeli civilians or soldiers from
within or close to the homes of Palestinian civilians; residents of the
homes consequently bore the brunt of IDF retaliation for these attacks.
Palestinian security forces also sometimes failed to prevent armed
Palestinians from opening fire on Israeli civilians, soldiers, or military
In February Palestinian police failed to prevent an
attack by a Palestinian crowd against PA judges and prosecutors in
Bethlehem. A crowd of about 300 persons, mainly family members of one
of the criminal suspects on trial, stormed the courthouse, locked the judge
and prosecutors inside, threw stones, and demanded that the court revoke
sentences against two defendants in a murder trial. Police officials
were at the courthouse; however, they did not disperse the crowd or make
Israeli settlers harass, attack, and occasionally kill
(see Section 1.a.) Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
There were credible reports that settlers injured a number of
Palestinians during the "al-Aqsa Intifada," usually by stoning
their vehicles, which at times caused fatal accidents, shooting them, or
hitting them with moving vehicles. Human rights groups received
several dozen reports during the year that Israeli settlers in the West
Bank beat Palestinians and destroyed the property of Palestinians living or
farming near Israeli settlements. For example, according to
Palestinian eyewitnesses, a group of Israeli settlers beat a 75-year-old
Palestinian woman in April. At least five settlers from Brakha near
Nablus reportedly assaulted the woman, who was picking wild herbs near the
settlement; a passerby reportedly intervened and took the woman to a
hospital. During the "al-Aqsa Intifada," there were
numerous incidents in which Israeli settlers physically attacked
Palestinians or threw stones at their homes and cars. Settlers also
attacked and damaged crops, olive trees, greenhouses, and agricultural
equipment, causing extensive economic damage to Palestinian-owned
agricultural land. The settlers did not act under government orders
in the attacks; however, the Israeli Government did not prosecute the
settlers for their acts of violence. In general settlers rarely serve
prison sentences if convicted of a crime against a Palestinian.
According to human rights organizations, Israeli
settlers sometimes attacked Palestinian ambulances and impeded the
provision of medical services to injured Palestinians (see Section 2.d.).
Palestinians harassed, attacked, and occasionally killed
(see Section 1.a.) Israelis, especially settlers. During
demonstrations in support of the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike in May,
Palestinian demonstrators shot Israeli settlers in Beit El and Jenin in the
West Bank. On May 21, an unknown Palestinian threw a Molotov cocktail
at a car of Jewish settlers, critically injuring a child.
Palestinians injured a number of Israeli settlers in attacks during the
"al-Aqsa Intifada." For example, on October 19,
unidentified Palestinian gunmen shot at a large group of Israeli settlers
who were hiking in an area near Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, where there had
been fierce fighting the week before. One settler and one Palestinian
were killed, and four Israelis and a dozen Palestinians were injured in an
exchange of gunfire. Unidentified Palestinian gunmen fired on homes
in Gilo, a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, for at least 13 nights between
October and November, injuring seriously two persons. A number of
Israeli civilians were injured in armed attacks or bombings, for which
several Palestinian extremist groups claimed responsibility (also see
Palestinian civilians attacked Israeli medical teams on
several occasions. For example, on October 2, Palestinian civilians
reportedly fired on an ambulance that was evacuating 4 IDF soldiers who had
been injured in a violent clash; the ambulance reportedly was delayed for
about 1 hour. Palestinian civilians also prevented the evacuation of
injured Israelis in several incidents; in one such case, the injured person
did not receive medical treatment and died from his wounds (see Section
1.a.). According to the Israeli Government, Palestinian medical
personnel sometimes allowed ambulances and medical facilities to be used as
shelter for Palestinians who had fired at Israeli civilians and soldiers
(see Section 1.a.).
Conditions for Palestinians in Israeli prisons 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 throughout the year.
On May 1, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike to
protest prison conditions and their continued incarceration.
Following negotiations with PA and Israeli government officials, the
prisoners agreed to suspend the hunger strike on May 31. The Israeli
Government agreed to remove prisoners from solitary confinement and to
allow family members to visit inmates, and the prisoners agreed to refrain
from planning terrorist attacks from prison. Three Palestinian
prisoners died in Israeli custody under ambiguous circumstances during the
year (see Section 1.a.).
Israel permits independent monitoring of prison
conditions, although human rights groups sometimes encounter difficulties
gaining access to specific detainees.
Prison conditions in PA facilities continue to be very
poor. In many cases, facilities are overcrowded, old, dilapidated,
and neglected. Food and clothing for prisoners are inadequate and
must be supplemented by donations from families and humanitarian groups.
Palestinian inmates held periodic strikes and protests throughout the year
in support of a number of causes and to protest prison conditions and the
practice of administrative detention. In some PA prisons, an effort
is made to house religious prisoners together. Male and female
inmates are housed separately. During the year, one Palestinian died
in PA custody under ambiguous circumstances (see Section 1.a.).
In August detainees held by the PSF in Ramallah staged a
hunger strike demanding an improvement in detention conditions. The
PSF agreed to meet the prisoners' demands. Prisoners in the
PA-run Jneid Prison also staged a hunger strike to protest being held for
an extended period of time without charge or trial (see Section 1.c.).
The PA permits independent monitoring of its prisons,
although human rights groups, humanitarian organizations, and lawyers
reported difficulties arranging visits or gaining access to specific
detainees. Human rights organizations state that their ability to
visit PA jails and detention centers varies depending on which security
organization controls the facility. Human rights organizations state
that the police, Preventive Security Force, and Mukhabarat generally were
cooperative in allowing them to inspect facilities and visit prisoners and
detainees. However, they said that the Military Intelligence
Organization was less responsive to such requests. Human rights
monitors state that prison authorities sometimes are capricious in
permitting them access to PA detention facilities and they rarely are
permitted to see inmates while they are under interrogation. Pursuant
to an agreement signed in September 1996, the ICRC conducts prison visits
but may be denied access to a detainee for 14 days. If abuses occur,
they frequently happen during this 2-week period.
Some PA security organizations, including the General
Intelligence Organization in the West Bank and the police, have appointed
officials to act as liaisons with human rights groups. These officers
meet with human rights organizations and members of the diplomatic
community to discuss human rights cases.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Israeli security personnel may arrest without warrant or
hold for questioning a person suspected of having committed a criminal or
security offense in the occupied territories. Most of these arrests
and detentions are for alleged security offenses. Persons arrested
for common crimes usually are provided with a statement of charges and
access to an attorney, and may apply for bail. However, these
procedures sometimes are delayed.
Israeli authorities intermittently issued special
summonses for those suspected of involvement in or knowledge of security
offenses. There were reports that some such summonses were issued
immediately before and during the "al-Aqsa Intifada."
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 the suspect's home address. There
were no reports during the year that anyone was convicted of failing to
respond to a summons. Bail rarely is available to those arrested for
security offenses. Although Israeli law does not allow Israelis under
the age of 16 to be tried as adults, Israeli courts treat Palestinians over
the age of 12 as adults. Defense for Children International (DCI)
reported that over 420 Palestinian minors (below the age of 18 years) were
arrested and detained in Israeli prisons during the year, and that at
year's end, there were 200 minors in Israeli prisons. The IDF stated
that 44 minors were held in Israeli security facilities at year's end.
Israeli authorities may hold persons in custody without
a warrant for 96 hours; they must be released unless a warrant is issued.
Prearraignment detention may 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
administrative detentions--up to 6 months from the date of arrest. At
hearings to extend detention for interrogation purposes, detainees are
entitled to be represented by counsel, although the defense attorney often
is not allowed to see or hear the evidence against his client.
Detainees either are released at the end of the court-ordered detention or
sent to administrative detention if they are not indicted. If there
is an indictment, a judge may order indefinite detention until the end of
the trial. Israeli regulations permit detainees to be held in isolation
during interrogation. Detainees have the right to appeal continued
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 denied routinely 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.
A number of factors hamper contacts by Palestinians in
Israeli prison and detention facilities with their lawyers, families, and
human rights organizations. Israeli authorities claim that they
attempt to post notification of arrest within 48 hours; however,
Palestinian suspects often are kept incommunicado for longer than 48 hours.
Even if an arrest becomes known, it is often difficult to obtain
information on where a detainee is being held or whether the detainee has
access to an attorney. Palestinians generally locate detained family
members through their own efforts. Palestinians may check with a
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 and attorneys.
A military commander may appeal to a judge to extend this period in
security cases for an unlimited period of time.
The Israeli Government routinely transfers Palestinians
arrested in the occupied territories to facilities in Israel, especially
the prison in Ashkelon and the military detention center in Megiddo.
Israeli authorities have been known to schedule appointments between
attorneys and their detained clients, only to move the clients to another
prison prior to the meetings. Authorities reportedly use such tactics
to delay lawyer-client meetings for as long as 90 days. Palestinian
lawyers also have difficulty traveling to meet with their clients during
Israeli-imposed closures. Israel requires Palestinian attorneys to
acquire permits to enter Israel to see their clients held in prisons there.
Human rights groups say that Palestinian lawyers from the Gaza Strip have a
harder time obtaining these permits than their West Bank counterparts and
that they are denied entry into Israel more frequently than West Bank
Male family members between 16 and 40 years of age, and any family members
with security records, generally are barred from visiting relatives in
facilities in Israel. Relatives of Palestinian prisoners also
complain that sometimes they only learn that visitation rights have been
canceled when they arrive at the prison following a trip of many hours from
the occupied territories. Following the outbreak of violence in late
September, the Israeli Government banned all family visits for Palestinian
prisoners in Israeli jails. In November there were negotiations
between the Israeli Government, the ICRC, and the Palestinian Prisoners'
Society to restore visitation rights to Palestinian prisoners. The
Government of Israel offered to allow spouses, children under the age of
10, and parents to apply for one-day visitation passes; however,
Palestinian prisoners rejected these conditions.
Evidence used at hearings for administrative detentions
is secret and unavailable to the detainee or his attorney during the
hearings; 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
doing so would compromise the method of acquiring the evidence. In
July 1998, the High Court of Justice ruled that only judges, rather than
military officials, may renew administrative detention orders beyond a
6-month period. Detainees may appeal detention orders, or the renewal
of a detention order, before a military judge, but their chances for
success are very limited. During the year, some succeeded in
persuading the courts to shorten their detentions.
The overall number of Palestinian prisoners and
administrative detainees in Israeli jails declined for the fourth straight
year until mid-October, when the number increased. Human rights
organizations attributed the decrease to the absence of major terrorist
attacks; in the past, Israeli officials arrested Palestinians suspected of
terrorist connections after major terrorist attacks. The Israeli
Government released 16 Palestinian prisoners in March as a goodwill
gesture. According to the IDF, in mid-October there were 1,307
Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli prisons, military detention
centers, and holding centers, compared with 1,354 at the end of 1999.
According to the IDF, there were 1,402 Palestinian security prisoners in
Israeli prisons and detention centers as of
mid-December. According to human rights groups, 10 Palestinians were
in administrative detention at year's end, compared with 18 at the end of
1999. Several have been held for more than 1 year. Many
Palestinians under administrative detention during the past 3 years have
had their detention orders renewed repeatedly without meaningful
opportunity to appeal.
PA security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained
persons. The PA does not have a uniform law on administrative detention,
and security officials do not always adhere to the existing laws in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip. Laws applicable in Gaza, which do not apply
to the West Bank, stipulate that detainees held without charge be released
within 48 hours. These laws allow 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. Prevailing law in
the West Bank allows a suspect to be detained for 24 hours before being
charged. The Attorney General may extend the detention period.
The PA Chairman has not signed the Basic Law, which was
designed to limit executive branch abuses and to delineate safeguards for
citizens, since it was passed by the Palestinian Council (PC) in 1996.
The lack of safeguards has contributed to the tendency of PA security
forces to refuse to carry out High Court of Justice orders to release
detainees. In some cases, the High Court ordered the release of
prisoners detained for years without trial, and PA security forces released
the prisoners several months or a year later. In November 1997, the
High Court ordered the release of HAMAS activist Mahmud Muslah; Muslah
remained in detention at year's end. In February 1999, the High Court
ordered the release of Wa'el Farraj, who has been detained without charges
since 1996; Farraj remained in detention at year's end. According to
the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights, the High Court
ordered 9 detainees released during the year, compared with approximately
60 detainees in 1999. The PA released approximately 60 security
prisoners during the "al-Aqsa Intifada;" however, human rights
groups estimate that the PA has held approximately 150 prisoners for more
than a year without charge. The total number of Palestinians in PA
jails reached between 500 and 900 prisoners by year's end, including
approximately 50 political and security detainees.
In past years, Palestinian security forces sometimes
detained or placed under house arrest the relatives of alleged security
criminals. In the past, lawyers and PA judicial officials
acknowledged that, in contravention of the law, PA security services
sometimes arrested and detained persons without informing judicial
PA authorities generally permit prisoners--except those
held for security offenses--to receive visits from family members,
attorneys, and human rights monitors. PA security officials do not
always permit lawyers to see their clients. In principle detainees
may notify their families of their arrest, but this is not always
Human rights organizations reported in the past that
lawyers sometimes were denied access to their clients.
PA security services have overlapping or unclear
mandates that often complicate the protection of human rights. Under
existing law in the West Bank, only the PA's civil police force is
authorized to make arrests. In practice all security forces are known
to detain persons at various times. The operating procedures and
regulations for the conduct of PA security personnel in the various
services still are not well developed and have not yet been made fully
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 and to determine their
numbers. 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 security officers remain unaware of proper arrest, detention, and
interrogation procedures, as well as basic human rights standards.
Human rights groups have provided basic human rights training to a number
of PA security services. During the year, at least 36 PA security
officials participated in human rights courses, bringing the total number
of security officials who have graduated from human rights courses to
nearly 1,600 since the PA's establishment in 1994.
PA security forces continued to harass and arbitrarily
arrest and detain journalists, political activists, and human rights
advocates who criticized the PA and its policies. A number of
journalists were arrested and detained and television stations were shut
down for expressing views or covering topics unacceptable to the
Palestinian Authority (see Section 2.a.).
In January PA security forces rearrested Abdel Sattar
Qassem. Security forces had arrested Qassem and seven other
signatories of a petition that accused the PA of corruption in November
1999. The PA released Qassem in July.
On February 26, PA police arrested and detained for 1
week approximately 30 Bir Zeit University students who reportedly threw
stones at a foreign head of state during a demonstration (see Section
2.b.). In May PA security forces arrested 20 persons for
participating in an anti-PA rally in Ramallah organized by the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) following the funeral of one
of its members who died during clashes with the IDF near Ramallah (see
Neither the Israeli Government nor the PA forcibly
deported anyone from the occupied territories during the year.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Israeli law provides for an independent judiciary, and
the Government respects this provision. Palestinians accused by
Israel of security offenses in the occupied territories are tried in
Israeli military courts. Security offenses are defined broadly and
may include charges 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 sometimes are reduced on appeal.
Trials sometimes 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, 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 minor offenses; if they do,
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. Most convictions in military courts are based on
confessions. Evidence that is not available to the defendant or his
attorney may be used in court to convict persons of security offenses.
There frequently is no testimony provided by Palestinian witnesses either
for or against Palestinians on trial. Israeli authorities maintain
that this is due to the refusal of Palestinians to cooperate with the
authorities. Physical and psychological pressures and reduced
sentences for those who confess may induce security detainees to sign
confessions. Confessions usually are given 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 often sign confessions that they are
unable to read.
Crowded facilities and poor arrangements for
attorney-client consultations in prisons hinder legal defense efforts.
Appointments to see clients are difficult to arrange, and prison
authorities often fail to produce clients for scheduled appointments.
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 orders. Settlers convicted in Israeli
courts of crimes against Palestinians regularly receive lighter punishment
than Palestinians convicted in Israeli courts of similar crimes against
either Israelis or other Palestinians. In December the Jerusalem
magistrates court ordered an Israeli settler to pay compensation of $17,500
to the family of a young Palestinian boy who reportedly was killed by the
settler's negligence about a decade earlier.
There were no reports that the Israeli Government held
The PA courts are inefficient, lack staff and resources
and, as a result, often do not ensure fair and expeditious trials, and the
PA executive and security services frequently ignore or fail to carry out
The PA inherited a court system largely based on
structures and legal codes predating the 1967 Israeli occupation. In
the civil court system, cases initially are tried in courts of first
instance. There are two appeals courts, one located in Gaza City and
the other in Ramallah, which handle appeals from the lower courts.
The appeals courts also function as the Palestinian High Court of Justice.
The PA executive at times does not respect decisions of the High Court, and
the Palestinian security agencies do not always enforce its rulings (see
Section 1.d.). 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. A senior police official
heads the state security court in Jericho, and three judges preside over
it. There is no right of appeal, but the PA Chairman reviews the
court's findings and he may confirm or reject the decision. The PA
Ministry of Justice has no jurisdiction over the state security courts,
which are subordinate only to the Chairman.
The Gaza legal code derives from British Mandate law,
Egyptian law, and PA directives and laws. Pre-1967 Jordanian law
applies in the West Bank. Bodies of law in the Gaza Strip and West
Bank have been modified substantially by Israeli military orders.
According to the Declaration of Principles and the Interim Agreement,
Israeli military decrees issued during the occupation theoretically remain
valid in both areas and are subject to review pursuant to specific
procedure. The PA has stated that it was undertaking efforts to unify
the Gaza and West Bank legal codes, but it has made little progress.
Human rights advocates claim that the PA's judiciary does not operate
The court system in general is recovering from years of
neglect; many of the problems predate PA jurisdiction. Judges and
staff are underpaid and overworked and suffer from a lack of skills and
training. Court procedures and record keeping are archaic and
chaotic. The delivery of justice often is slow and uneven. The
ability of the courts to enforce decisions is extremely weak, and there is
administrative confusion in the appeals process. A heavy caseload
exacerbates these systemic problems. The PA closed all civil courts
in late September for several weeks.
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 the West Bank. In the past, the Chief Justice had the
authority to appoint all judges in the West Bank. Human rights
organizations and judicial officials criticized the decision, saying that
it contravened existing law, which stipulated that a higher judicial
council should be responsible for appointing judges. During the year,
the Chairman authorized the establishment of the High Judicial Council in
accordance with legislation passed by the Council in 1998. Human
rights advocates and lawyers believe that this step may enhance the
The PA's state security courts often fail to afford
defendants due process. The PA usually ignores the legal limits on
the length of prearraignment detention of detainees suspected of security
offenses. Defendants often are brought to court without knowledge of
the charges against them or sufficient time to prepare a defense.
They typically are represented by
court-appointed lawyers, who often are not qualified. Court sessions
often take place on short notice in the middle of the night, and without
lawyers present. In some instances, security courts try cases, issue
verdicts, and impose sentences in a single session lasting a few hours.
During the year, the state security courts sentenced
three persons to death for committing murder. In two of the cases,
the trials reportedly were hasty, and the defendants did not have adequate
representation. For example, a state security court sentenced Raji
Saqir to death on July 3 after a 1-day trial, which occurred 1 day after
Saqir allgedly committed murder. Although no executions were carried
out during the year, in February 1999, a Palestinian colonel was executed
after the PA's state security court convicted him of raping a young boy.
Human rights groups criticized the decision; they complained that the trial
lasted for less than 2 hours, the defendant did not have sufficient time to
prepare his defense, there was no appeals process, and the charges were
The state security courts adjudicated cases that fell
far outside the scope of the courts' original mandate. In addition to
"security" cases, the courts have on occasion dealt with tax
cases and economic crimes, such as smuggling. In February the
Chairman decreed that "serious" crimes, including homicide, rape,
and drug trafficking, be referred to state security courts. The
decision prompted human rights organizations to issue statements requesting
the abolition of state security courts and the referral of all cases to the
regular civil courts.
There were no reports during the year that persons were
convicted for their political beliefs. A credible Palestinian human
rights organization estimated that the PA held approximately 100 political
prisoners before the beginning of the "al-Aqsa Intifada" in late
September. In October the PA released most of the political
prisoners. The PA stated that this action was in response to Israeli
warnings that it would be bombing PA police facilities following the brutal
killing of two Israeli reserve soldiers in Ramallah (see Section 1.a.).
A Palestinian human rights organization estimated that the PA held 10
political prisoners at year's end.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family,
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 or above. In conducting searches, the IDF
has forced entry and sometimes has beaten occupants and destroyed property.
Israeli authorities state that forced entry may occur lawfully only when
incident to an arrest and when entry is resisted. Authorities state
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 Israeli Government states that it does
not keep consolidated information on the claims against the Ministry of
Defense for damages resulting from IDF actions. In February IDF
soldiers raided an elderly Palestinian woman's home, reportedly searching
for stone throwers; the woman, who had been suffering from heart problems,
died of a heart attack.
Israeli security forces may demolish or seal the home
(owned or rented) of a Palestinian suspected of terrorism without trial.
The decision to seal or demolish a Palestinian's house is made by several
high-level Israeli officials, including the coordinator of the MATAK and
the Defense Minister. Residents 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 prohibit the owner from rebuilding or
removing the rubble. Israelis suspected of terrorism are subject to
Israeli law and do not face the threat of home demolition. In August
Israeli security forces demolished the home of Nidal Daghlas near Nablus,
claiming that a HAMAS fugitive, Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, previously had hidden
in Daghlas' home. Human rights groups stated that the home demolition
was an arbitrary measure. On November 2, Israeli security forces
demolished two homes in Gaza following a nearby explosion.
In November 1999, the Israeli Government expelled 300
Bedouin farmers from their homes in caves near the Jewish settlement of
Ma'on, stating that the area was a closed military zone. On March 29,
the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered that the farmers be allowed to
return to their homes. In April the IDF issued new deportation orders
to returnees who were not party to the original legal suit.
From late September through the end of the year, the IDF
destroyed numerous citrus orchards, olive and date groves, and irrigation
systems on Palestinian-owned agricultural land in both the West Bank and
Gaza. The IDF generally destroyed agricultural land following clashes
at demonstrations, shootings aimed at settlers, or bombings. The IDF
stated that it destroyed this land because Palestinian snipers reportedly
were using it for purposes of concealment.
The PA requires the Attorney General to issue warrants
for entry and searches of private property; however, Palestinian security
services frequently ignore these requirements. Police searched homes
without the consent of their owners. In some cases, police forcibly
entered premises and destroyed property.
PA security forces sometimes detained or placed under
house arrest the relatives of alleged security criminals (see Section
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of
Law in Internal Conflicts
Between late September and the end of the year, Israeli
security forces killed 227 Palestinians and 4 foreign nationals, and
injured over 10,600 Palestinians during violent demonstrations.
Palestinian demonstrators frequently threw stones and Molotov cocktails at
the IDF. In some demonstrations, Palestinians also used firearms.
According to the IDF, Palestinians used firearms in about 30 percent of the
demonstrations between late September and mid-November. In response
Israeli security forces used a variety of means to disperse demonstrators,
including tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets, and live ammunition.
In many instances, Israeli security forces used excessive force against
demonstrators in contravention of their official rules of engagement (see
Section 1.a.). According to the IDF, it does not have a policy of
indiscriminate or excessive use of force, and its rules of engagement
establish a framework to deal with threats faced by Israeli civilians and
IDF regulations permit the use of both rubber-coated
metal bullets and 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 human rights organizations, a number of Palestinian deaths and
injuries reportedly occurred during demonstrations at which protesters did
not use live firearms.
According to IDF policy, soldiers are to direct fire at
the legs only, and may fire at a fleeing suspect only if they believe that
a serious felony has occurred and that 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. Palestinian
medical relief organizations reported that 59.5 percent of the gunshot
wounds inflicted by Israeli security forces during demonstrations were in
the head or torso, and estimated that about one-sixth of the Palestinians
wounded during the "al-Aqsa Intifada" likely would be disabled
permanently. According to human rights organizations, a total of 82
Palestinians under the age of 18 years were killed in the demonstrations.
During some demonstrations, bystanders, including journalists, medical
personnel, and Palestinian civilians were killed or injured by IDF fire
(see Sections 1.a. and 2.a.).
The IDF fired tank rounds and rockets from helicopters
on cities and towns in the West Bank and Gaza, killing and injuring a
number of persons and causing significant property damage (see Section
1.a.). For example, on October 12, in retaliation for the brutal
killing by a Palestinian mob of two IDF reservists (see Section 1.a.), IDF
helicopters attacked over 10 PA targets in Ramallah and Gaza, injuring more
than 20 bystanders and destroying buildings. On October 23, the IDF
shelled a neighborhood in Hebron, killing 1 person, in retaliation for an
earlier shooting incident in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron.
For at least 13 nights between October and December,
Palestinian gunmen from Beit Jala shot at homes in Gilo, a Jewish
neighborhood in East Jerusalem (see Section 1.c.). Two Israelis were
injured seriously in these attacks. In retaliation for these attacks,
the IDF launched a series of counterattacks on residential neighborhoods in
Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Bethlehem. One foreign national was
killed and 36 Palestinians were injured in these counterattacks.
On October 31, in retaliation for the Palestinian
killing of two Israeli security guards, the IDF attacked with helicopters
PA offices in Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza. On November 15, the IDF
responded with force to many incidents involving Palestinian gunfire
directed at Gilo from Beit Jala, killing a foreigner and injuring a number
of Palestinians. On October 19, in response to Palestinians shooting
at a group of Israeli visitors at Joseph's Tomb, the IDF used helicopters
to attack a nearby Palestinian refugee camp, killing 1 person and injuring
several others. On November 20, IDF helicopters launched a series of
retaliatory attacks in the Gaza Strip in response to a bomb attack in Gaza
that killed 2 persons and injured 9; 50 persons reportedly were injured in
the IDF attacks and significant damage was done to a number of PA
buildings. On November 24, the IDF fired two tank rounds at the town
of Kufr Qalil in retaliation for shots fired on a nearby IDF post by
unidentified Palestinian gunmen; two Palestinians were killed by the tank
The Israeli Government's imposition of external and
internal closures during the "al-Aqsa Intifada" contributed to
intermittent shortages of basic food, medical supplies, and gasoline in the
West Bank and Gaza.
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; however, it maintains a low level of
censorship and prohibits public expressions of support for Islamic
extremist groups such as HAMAS and other groups dedicated to the
destruction of Israel. In March during the Pope's visit to the region
and in October during the "al-Aqsa Intifada," the Israeli
Government reportedly selectively enforced its standing prohibition on the
display of Palestinian political symbols, such as flags, national colors,
and graffiti in Jerusalem for the first time since 1994. Such
displays are punishable by fines or imprisonment, and Israeli security
forces reportedly detained and temporarily barred from Jerusalem several
Palestinian youths for waving the Palestinian flag. Overall, Israeli
censorship of specific press articles continued at a low level; however,
the Israeli Government did censor some articles during the year.
Israeli authorities monitor Arabic newspapers based in East Jerusalem for
security-related issues. Military censors review Arabic publications
for material related to the public order and security of Israel.
Reports by foreign journalists also are subject to review by Israeli
military censors for security issues, and the satellite feed used by many
foreign journalists is monitored. The Israeli Government often closes
areas to journalists when it imposes a curfew or closure. Israeli
authorities have denied entry permits to Palestinian journalists traveling
to their place of employment in Jerusalem during closures of the
territories; however, the journalists' Israeli-issued press credentials
have not been revoked.
The IDF requires a permit for publications sold in the
occupied territories still under its control. Publications may be
censored or banned for content deemed anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli.
Possession of banned materials is punishable by a fine and imprisonment.
During the year, the Israeli Government refused to allow publications,
including newspapers, into the Gaza Strip on the Jewish holiday of Yom
At least 10 journalists reportedly were hit by IDF
gunfire during the "al-Aqsa Intifada," and 3 other journalists
were hit by gunfire from an unknown source (see Section 1.c.). The
IDF reportedly restricted the free movement of mainly Palestinian
journalists (see Section 2.d.).
On October 13, in retaliation for the mob lynching of
two Israeli reserve soldiers (see Section 1.a.), the IDF launched rockets
at the PA's Voice of Palestine radio transmitter in Ramallah. In
November the IDF launched rockets against a
PA-owned television transmitter in Gaza.
The PA restricted freedom of speech and of the press.
In a number of instances during the year, the PA took steps to limit free
expression, particularly regarding human rights issues and allegations of
corruption. Press freedom is subject to a 1995 press law that does
not protect the press adequately. PA security services further stifle
the independence of the press by closing down media outlets, banning
publications or broadcasts, and periodically harassing or detaining members
of the media (see Section l.d.). Palestinian commentators and human
rights groups state that, as a result, the practice of self-censorship by
journalists is widespread.
On May 5, PA officials arrested one of the leaders of a
teachers' strike and temporarily closed down the radio station that
broadcast an interview in which the leader accused the PA of inefficiency.
The PA continued to detain the strike leader at year's end. On May
21, the PA closed the Watan and al-Naser television stations and the
al-Manara Radio station in Ramallah for nearly 4 days, after the stations
broadcast live coverage of an anti-PA demonstration in al-Bireh. On
May 31, the PA arrested Samir Qumsiah, chairman of the Union of Private
Radio and Television Stations because he had issued a statement criticizing
the closing of the stations; the PA released Qumsiah 3 days later.
On May 27, PA officials arrested Fathi Barqawi, a
director general of the news department at the Public Broadcasting
Corporation in Ramallah after he criticized Chairman Arafat publicly.
Barqawi was released a week later following intervention by prominent PA
On June 20, Palestinian police arrested Abd al-Fattah
Ghanem, a presidential advisor on refugees, after he criticized the PA for
failing to solve the Palestinian refugee problem. Police held Ghanem
incommunicado for 7 days and denied him access to legal counsel for the 3
weeks that he was in detention.
During the year, the Palestinian Bar Association (PBA)
stripped 31 lawyers of their membership in the association, their right to
practice law, and their ability to run in PBA elections. The lawyers
reportedly all were outspoken critics of the PA. In May the
Palestinian High Court temporarily reversed the decision to strip the
lawyers of their PBA membership and their right to practice law.
However, on May 17 the PBA placed the director of a West Bank NGO and
candidate in the PBA elections on the "non-practicing" register
of lawyers, purportedly because he worked for an NGO and not a law office
(see Section 4).
In June PA police officials in Ramallah detained Maher
Alami, a West Bank journalist, for approximately 1 week. The PA
police reportedly warned Alami against writing articles critical of the PA.
After the October 12 brutal killing of two IDF reserve
soldiers at a Ramallah police station (see Section 1.a.), Palestinian
police confiscated film from several journalists who were at the scene.
On October 4, a foreign journalist filmed three members of the Palestinian
security forces distributing Molotov cocktails to several children.
The security forces detained the journalist and his crew for several hours
and destroyed the roll of film.
On November 21, PA security officials detained a
Palestinian 2 days after he criticized the peace process. After 21
days of detention, security officials asked him to agree not to speak out
against the PA; he did not agree, but was released the same day.
Israeli-imposed closures disrupted the operations of
West Bank and Gaza universities, colleges, and schools during the year.
Students and staff had difficulty traveling to educational institutions in
cities and towns that were closed or placed under curfew by Israeli
authorities (see Sections 2.d. and 5). The November 1999 opening of
the southern safe passage route between Gaza and the West Bank afforded
Gazan students greater ability to pursue their education at West Bank
educational institutions. However, during the "al-Aqsa
Intifada" the Israeli Government closed the safe passage route, which
impeded the ability of Gaza students to attend West Bank universities.
The PA generally has authority over all levels of
education in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and it controls the budgets of
all public colleges. The PA did not interfere with education in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip during the year.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Israeli Government placed limits on freedom of
assembly for Palestinians in the occupied territories, largely through the
imposition of internal closures and curfews (See Section 2.d.).
Israeli military orders ban public gatherings of 10 or more persons without
a permit. Since the 1993 signing of the Declaration of Principles,
Israel has relaxed enforcement of this rule, except in cases of Palestinian
demonstrations against land seizures or settlement expansions.
Israeli security forces killed more than 225 Palestinian
demonstrators and injured more than 11,000 during the year often in the
context of violent demonstrations (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.).
There were several large, peaceful demonstrations of
Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem during the year.
The PA imposes some formal limits on freedom of
assembly; however, while it requires permits for rallies, demonstrations,
and large cultural events, these permits rarely are denied. In Gaza
police approval is required for "political" meetings at several
specific large meeting halls. Written permission also is 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, displays of arms, and racist slogans,
although this is not always enforced.
On February 29, students at Bir Zeit University staged a
large protest against PA policies and practices at which several
demonstrators threw stones at a foreign head of state. Following the
protest, PA police arrested about 30 students (see Section 1.d.). The
PA police commissioner also banned unlicensed public gatherings.
Several human rights groups and political factions filed a petition with
the Palestinian High Court protesting the action. On April 29, the
Court suspended the police order and gave the police commissioner 8 days to
clarify the reasons for issuing the order. The police order had not
been enforced by year's end. In March hundreds of Palestinians
demonstrated in Ramallah to demand the release of the Bir Zeit university
In May a number of persons participated in a PFLP rally
in Ramallah following the funeral of one of its members who died in clashes
with the IDF; Palestinian security forces arrested 20 demonstrators (see
The Israeli Government generally respected freedom of
The PA placed some limits on freedom of association.
However, the PA permits Palestinian charitable, community, professional,
and self-help organizations to operate. There were periodic
complaints during the year from Palestinian political parties, social and
professional groups, and other NGO's that the PA attempted to limit their
ability to act autonomously. On April 21, the Preventive Security
Force ordered the closure of a democratization group office in Gaza because
the organization's by-laws reportedly were not in compliance with the NGO
law. The office remained closed at year's end (see Section 4).
The armed wings of several Palestinian political groups,
including Islamic opposition groups, were outlawed. While it is not
illegal to belong to the nonmilitary components of such groups, during
times of heightened security concern the PA has harassed and even detained
members of the political wings of these organizations.
c. Freedom of Religion
Israeli law provides for freedom of worship, and the
Government generally respects this right in practice; it does not ban any
group on religious grounds. It permits all faiths to operate schools
and institutions. Religious publications are subject to the
Publications Laws. However, Israel's imposition of an internal
closure on the West Bank and Gaza for 81 days during the "al-Aqsa
Intifada" and total curfew on many Palestinian towns significantly
impeded freedom of worship for Muslims and Christians. During periods
of closure, Palestinians from the occupied territories were prevented from
traveling to pray on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem,
Islam's third holiest site. On several occasions the Israeli
Government prevented worshippers under the age of 45 from attending Friday
prayers on the Temple Mount; the Israeli Government stated that it did so
due to security concerns.
No PA law protects religious freedom; however, the PA
generally respects freedom of religion. In past years, there were
allegations that several converts from Islam to Christianity at times are
subject to societal discrimination and harassment by PA officials.
However, there was no pattern of PA discrimination and harassment against
Christians (see Section 5).
On October 7, following the IDF evacuation from the
Jewish religious site of Joseph's Tomb, about 1,000 Palestinian protesters
entered the religious site, burned it, and damaged the roof and an outer
wall in an unsuccessful attempt to demolish the tomb (see Section 5).
Some Israeli Government officials criticized the PA for failing to prevent
the attack. The PA began to refurbish the tomb the following day.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Occupied Territories,
Foreign Travel, Emigration, and
The Israeli Government restricted freedom of movement
for Palestinians. Since March 1993, Israel has required that all West
Bank and Gaza residents obtain permits to enter Israel and Jerusalem.
However, Israel often denies applicants permits with no explanation, and
does not allow effective means of appeal. In the past, Palestinian
officials with VIP passes, including PA cabinet officials and members of
the Palestinian Council, were subjected to long delays and searches at
Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, despite the fact that they were
traveling on special passes issued by Israel. Prior to the beginning
of the "al-Aqsa Intifada" in September, there was only one report
that this occurred; however, in October and November Palestinian officials
were delayed and searched frequently. In general Palestinians in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip find it difficult to obtain permits to work,
visit, study, or obtain medical care in Israel. Palestinian residents
of Jerusalem sometimes are prohibited by Israeli officials from entering
the West Bank, and they require written permits from Israel to travel to
the Gaza Strip. Prior to the November 1999 opening of the safe
passage route, residents of the Gaza Strip rarely were able to obtain
permission to travel to the West Bank, or residents of the West Bank to
enter the Gaza Strip; this was even true of residents of the West Bank and
Gaza Strip who regularly received permission to enter Israel. The PA
permits Palestinian charitable, community, professional, and self-help
organizations to operate. Israeli authorities permit only a small number of
Gazans to bring vehicles into Israel and sometimes do not permit West Bank
vehicles to enter Jerusalem or Israel. Except for senior PA
officials, and those using the safe passage to the West Bank, Palestinians
of all ages crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel are not permitted to
travel by car across the main checkpoint. Instead, they must travel
along a narrow walkway almost a mile long. Israelis moving into and
out of the Gaza Strip are permitted to use their cars.
In November 1999, Israel and the PA implemented
arrangements in the 1995 Interim Agreement to establish a safe passage
route across Israel between the Gaza Strip and the southern West Bank. A
northern safe passage route, also called for by the Interim Agreement,
never was established, despite several rounds of negotiations. The
southern safe passage route facilitated the movement of Palestinians
between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to work, study, and visit, and
alleviated some of the problems associated with freedom of movement for
Palestinians. However, some Palestinian human rights groups criticized the
safe passage agreement because it maintains significant limits on freedom
of movement. The safe passage route was closed in October in response to
the ongoing violence. As of the end of November, a total of 15,000
Palestinians received approval to use the safe passage route and 2,900
applicants were refused permits to use the route.
Since March 1993, Israel also has applied varying levels
of "closure," or enhanced restrictions, on the movement of
Palestinians and their goods, often for lengthy periods, in response to
terrorist attacks and other changing security conditions.
During periods of violent protest in the West Bank or Gaza, or when it
believes that there is an increased likelihood of such unrest, the Israeli
Government imposes a tightened version of closure, called
"comprehensive, external" closure. Comprehensive closures
also are instituted regularly during major Israeli holidays. During
such closures, the Israel Government cancels travel permits and prevents
Palestinians--even those with valid work permits--from entering Israel or
Jerusalem. During comprehensive closures, the authorities restrict
severely the movement of goods between Israel and the occupied territories
and between the West Bank and Gaza. On October 8, in response to
increased violence, Israel imposed a prolonged comprehensive closure on the
occupied territories. Israel imposed 88 days of tightened,
comprehensive closure during the year, compared with 15 days in 1999.
During periods of extreme unrest in the West Bank and
Gaza, the Israeli Government also prohibits most travel between towns and
villages within the West Bank. These "internal" closures
impede the flow of goods and persons. Israel imposed at least 81 days
of total or near-total internal closure during the year, compared with no
days of internal closure during 1999. In the past, Israel rarely
imposed internal closure within Gaza; however, for much of November and
December, the IDF closed major roads in central Gaza, which blocked transit
from the north to the south and stranded thousands of workers and students.
Beginning in October, the Israeli Government further constrained the
movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by imposing total
closures on specific areas or villages, sometimes for weeks at a time, and
by intermittently closing the Gaza Airport and the Allenby and Rafah
crossing points to Jordan and Egypt. Israel also imposed a curfew in
the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron. During the curfews,
Palestinians generally were confined to their homes for all but a few hours
per week during which they were allowed to buy food and other provisions.
The IDF did not impose a curfew on the Jewish settlers in Hebron. On
December 10, the IDF further restricted freedom of movement by banning
private Palestinian cars that contained only men (but no women) from
traveling on main roads in Areas B and C. The prolonged closures and
curfews imposed by Israel on Palestinian cities and towns during the year
had a significant negative impact on every sector of the Palestinian
economy. Israel's Ministry of Finance estimates that since the
beginning of the "al-Aqsa Intifada," there has been a 30 to 50
percent decline in economic output in the occupied territories.
Unemployment of Palestinians nearly has quadrupled, the poverty rate has
doubled, and income losses were estimated at over $500 million.
The prolonged closure also affected students' ability to
attend school and university. In areas under curfew, all classes were
cancelled (see Section 5). Furthermore, teachers were unable to reach
their schools in different villages and towns, and university students were
unable to travel between Gaza and the West Bank due to the closure of the
safe passage route.
Human rights groups reported that between late September
and the end of the year, the IDF delayed or prohibited at least 94
ambulances from crossing checkpoints (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.).
According to the Israeli Government, Israeli ambulances and medical
personnel reportedly facilitated the medical evacuation of over 180
Palestinians to Israel, Jordan, and other countries during the violent
In 1998 the Israeli Government established a
"continuous employment program" that allows selected Palestinian
workers who have been approved by the Ministry of Defense and who are
married, are over 28 years old, and have worked in Israel for a long period
of time, to enter Israel to work in the event of a tightened closure.
The program was not implemented during the periods of tightened closure
during the year.
The Israeli Government continued to restrict the
movements of several Jewish settlers living in the occupied territories who
belonged to the extremist Kach or Kahane Chai groups, through the use of
administrative orders issued by the IDF central command.
The Israeli Government requires all Palestinian
residents 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. These
restrictions on residence, reentry, and family reunification only apply to
Palestinian residents of the occupied territories.
Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, which Israel
occupied during the 1967 War, generally do not accept Israeli citizenship.
Therefore, they are issued a residence permit or Jerusalem identification
card by the Israeli Government. Israel applies the 1952 Law of
Permanent Residency and its 1974 amendments to Jerusalem identification
card holders. This law stipulates that a Jerusalem resident loses the
right of residence if the resident leaves Israeli territory for more than 7
years, acquires the nationality of another country, or acquires permanent
residence in another country. Such persons are permitted to return
only as tourists and sometimes are denied entry. The Israeli
Government does not apply these same restrictions to Israeli citizens.
In the past, invoking the 1952 law as legal justification, the Israeli
Interior Ministry stripped residency rights from hundreds of East Jerusalem
Palestinians. In the late 1990's, the pace of revocations increased
as the Ministry applied restricted policies, including a "center of
life" test, which required extensive documentation of continuous
residence within Jerusalem for the previous 7 years, to determine whether
Palestinians were eligible to retain their identification cards. The
Ministry's policy was the subject of numerous lawsuits, including one
considered by the High Court of Justice in 1999. In October 1999,
then Minister of Interior, Natan Sharansky announced that the Ministry no
longer would apply the "center of life" criteria used previously
to revoke the residency rights of East Jerusalem Palestinians. During the
year, there were 7 identity card revocations, compared with 394 revocations
in 1999. In February the Israeli Ministry of Interior also published
new instructions regarding residency rights in Jerusalem. According
to these instructions, residents of Israel, whose identity cards had been
revoked since 1995 and who returned to live in Israel since 1998 and had
"maintained proper contact" were entitled to restoration of their
identity cards. During the year, 67 identity cards were restored.
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 since
then, are not permitted to reside permanently with their families in
Jerusalem or the occupied territories. Foreign-born spouses and
children of Palestinian residents also experience difficulty in obtaining
permission to reside with their family members. For example, a
Palestinian with a West Bank identification card must apply to the Israeli
Government for permission to live with his or her
Jerusalem-resident spouse in Jerusalem. The Israeli Government
occasionally issues limited-duration permits and also issues a limited
number of Jerusalem identification cards as part of its family
reunification program. Israeli security authorities single out young
(often unmarried) Palestinian males for more stringent restrictions than
other Palestinians, citing them as more likely to be security risks.
They generally are prohibited from working in Israel.
The PA issues passports and identification cards for
Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza. Bearers of
Palestinian passports do not need special exit permits from the PA;
however, when leaving Israel from Ben Gurion Airport they require permits
in order to transit Israel to reach the airport.
Palestinians who hold Jerusalem identification cards,
issued by the Israeli Government, must obtain travel documents from the
Israeli Government to travel abroad. Human rights groups report that
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem often do not apply for Israeli
travel documents because they fear that the application might prompt a
reexamination of their residency status and lead to the revocation of their
identity cards. On request, the Jordanian Government also issues
travel documents to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Palestinians who wish to travel to Jordan must leave their Israeli
identification documents with Israeli authorities at the Allenby Bridge.
There also is a requirement that Palestinians from East Jerusalem obtain a
special permit to cross the Allenby Bridge, which may be purchased from the
Ministry of Interior for $40 (125 NIS). Palestinians who are
residents of the West Bank or the Gaza Strip are not allowed to cross
between Israel and Jordan at the Sheikh Hussein or Arava crossings.
Palestinians who reside in the West Bank or Gaza are
required by the Israeli Government to exit and enter with a Palestinian
passport. When Israel tightened its closure of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip during the year, the Government at times restricted the entry and
departure of Palestinians, even those with passports from other countries.
The PA generally does not restrict freedom of movement.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of
Change Their Government
Palestinian residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and
East Jerusalem chose their first popularly elected government in 1996.
They elected an 88-member Palestinian Council and the Ra'iis (President or
Chairman) of the Executive Authority of the Council. Yasir Arafat won
almost 89 percent of the vote in a two-person race for Chairman. Some
700 candidates ran for Council seats. Council members were elected in
multimember electoral districts. As many as 35 of the elected members
were independent candidates. International observers concluded that
the election could reasonably be regarded as an accurate expression of the
will of the voters, despite some irregularities. During the year, the
Council debated numerous draft laws and resolutions. Some members of
the Council complained of its relative lack of power in relation to the
executive branch of government.
The last municipal elections took place in 1986.
Municipal elections were planned for June 1999; however, they did not take
place. On August 22, the Fatah Central Committee (FCC) appointed a
committee to devise a plan for holding local elections before year's end;
however, the PLO Central Council did not ratify the plan.
Most Palestinians in East Jerusalem do not recognize the
jurisdiction of the municipality of Jerusalem. Only a very small
percentage of Jerusalem's Palestinian population vote in the municipal
council elections. No Palestinian resident of Jerusalem sits on the
Women are underrepresented in government and politics.
There are 5 women in the 88-member Council, and 1 woman serves in a
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
Israeli, Palestinian, and international NGO's monitor
the Israeli Government's human rights practices. The Israeli
Government generally cooperates with human rights and humanitarian NGO's;
officials normally agree to meet with human rights monitors. The
Israeli Government permits human rights groups to publish and hold press
conferences. On April 4, the Israeli Government refused to allow a
Palestinian human rights activist to travel to Cairo, Egypt for a regional
meeting on human rights; however, several months later the Government
allowed the activist to attend a meeting outside of the country (see
On October 17, pursuant to the meeting in Sharm
al-Sheikh, a fact-finding committee was established to examine the causes
of the violent events that began in late September, and to recommend ways
to prevent their recurrence. The committee began its work in
Local human rights groups, most of which are
Palestinian, and several international organizations monitor the PA's human
rights practices. The PA generally cooperates with these
organizations, and PA officials usually meet with their representatives;
however, there were instances in which it did not. Several
Palestinian human rights organizations work privately with the PA to
overcome abusive practices in certain areas. They also publish
criticism if they believe that the PA is not responding adequately to
private encouragement. Human rights groups state that the PA
generally is cooperative when dealing with certain types of human rights
issues. Human rights organizations reported that they sometimes were
denied access to detainees in Palestinian prisons during the year (see
The ICRC operates in the West Bank and Gaza under the
terms of a memorandum of understanding signed in September 1996 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. In accordance with the agreement, the ICRC conducts
routine visits of PA-run prison facilities and sees
PA-held prisoners throughout the year. Other human rights groups,
including the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights and
the Mandela Institute, also visited PA prisons and detention centers on a
regular basis. Some human rights and international humanitarian
organizations reported that they occasionally were denied access to
detainees in Palestinian prisons during the year (see Section 1.d.).
PA officials reportedly are less responsive to queries regarding the PA's
policies toward and treatment of members of Islamist opposition groups than
to queries on other detainees.
In 1999 Palestinian NGO's repeatedly called on the PA to
ratify a law passed by the Council in December 1998, which would govern the
activities of NGO's and their relations with the PA. Ratification of
the law was delayed due to the PA's attempts to replace the Ministry of
Justice with the Ministry of Interior as the agency responsible for the
administration of NGO's. In January Chairman Arafat approved the NGO
law. At least 150 NGO's had been issued with registration
certificates by year's end.
On April 21, PSF officials closed a democratization
group office in Gaza because the NGO was not yet registered with the
Ministry of Interior (see Section 2.b.). After repeated unsuccessful
attempts to reopen the office, board members decided to close the office
On May 17, the PBA placed the director of a West Bank
NGO on the "non-practicing" register of lawyers reportedly
because he worked for an NGO and not a law office.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
Under the complex mixture of laws and regulations that
apply to the occupied territories, Palestinians are disadvantaged under
Israeli law and practices compared with the treatment received by Israeli
settlers. This includes discrimination in residency and land use.
The problems of rape, domestic violence, and violence
related to "family honor" have gained greater attention in the
Palestinian community as a result of a significant effort by Palestinian
women's groups; however, public discussion generally remains muted.
Victims often are encouraged by relatives to remain quiet and are punished
themselves or blamed for the "shame" that has been brought upon
them and their families. The brother of a 14-year-old girl who
reportedly was raped and killed by her uncle and brother in 1998 still was
awaiting trial at year's end. 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 because women's shelters are
not accepted culturally in Palestinian society. They also maintain
that society has not been receptive to providing counseling or outreach
services to victims of violence, which these advocates see as more
widespread than is acknowledged. According to women's groups, there are no
reliable data on the incidence of violence against women. Spousal
abuse, sexual abuse, and "honor killings" occur, but societal
pressures prevent most incidents from being reported and most cases are
handled within the families concerned, usually by male family members.
In prior years, leaders of HAMAS threatened and tried to intimidate
Palestinian women who were involved in programs aimed at empowering women
and helping abused women; there were no reports that this occurred during
Palestinian women 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 women from attending colleges and
universities. While there is an active women's movement in the West
Bank, serious attention has shifted only recently from nationalist
aspirations to issues that greatly affect women, such as domestic violence,
equal access to education and employment, and laws concerning marriage and
inheritance. Women who marry outside of their faith, particularly
Christian women who marry Muslim men, often are disowned by their
families and sometimes are harassed and threatened with death by members of
their community. Local officials sometimes attempt to convince such
women to leave their communities in order to protect themselves.
A growing number of Palestinian women work outside the
home, where they tend to encounter discrimination. There are no
special laws that provide for women's rights in the workplace. Women are
underrepresented in most aspects of professional life. Despite the fact
that there is a small group of women who are prominent in politics,
medicine, law, teaching, and NGO's, women for the most part are seriously
underrepresented in the decisionmaking positions in these fields.
Personal status law for Palestinians is based on
religious law. For Muslim Palestinians, personal status law is derived from
Shari'a (Islamic law), and the varied ecclesiastical courts rule on
personal status issues for Christians. In the West Bank and Gaza,
Shari'a 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 do. The marriage law
allows men to take more than one wife, although few do so. Women are
permitted to make "stipulations" in the marriage contract to
protect them in the event of divorce and questions of child custody.
However, only an estimated 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. Ecclesiastical courts also often favor men
over women in divorce and child custody cases.
The PA requires compulsory education up to 12 years of
age. However, early marriage in certain sectors of society frequently
prevents girls from completing the mandatory level of schooling. Currently
British Mandate, Jordanian, and military laws, from which West Bank and
Gaza law is derived, offer protection to children under the Labor and Penal
Codes. Existing laws designed to protect children, such as a law that
sets the minimum employment age, are not always enforced. While there
is no juvenile court system, judges specializing in children's cases
generally sit for juvenile offenders. In cases in which 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
it affords children.
The sustained closure imposed by Israel affected
students' ability to attend school during the year. In areas under
curfew, all classes were cancelled. Furthermore, teachers were unable
to reach their schools in different villages and towns (see Section 2.d.).
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.
Additionally, medical relief organizations estimated that approximately
one-sixth of the 10,600 Palestinians injured during the "al-Aqsa
Intifada" would be disabled permanently. Some Palestinian
institutions care for and train disabled persons; however, their efforts
are chronically underfunded. 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.
In the past, there were reports that a small number of
Muslim converts to Christianity in the Palestinian community sometimes were
subject to societal discrimination and harassment by PA officials.
However, there was no pattern of PA discrimination and harassment against
Christians (see Section 2.c.).
On October 7, following the IDF withdrawal from the
Jewish religious site of Joseph's Tomb, about 1,000 Palestinian protesters
entered the religious site, burned it, and damaged the roof and an outer
wall in an unsuccessful attempt to demolish the tomb (see Section 2.c.).
On October 12, Palestinian civilians reportedly burned a synagogue in
On November 21, Israeli settlers set a mosque on fire in
Huwara, reportedly in reaction to the killing of an Israeli settler by a
settler earlier in the day.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Labor affairs in the West Bank came under Palestinian
responsibility 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 previous Israeli requirement that all proposed
West Bank unions apply for a permit no longer is enforced. Israeli
authorities previously licensed about 35 of the estimated 185 union
branches now in existence. Following a process to consolidate trade
unions in the West Bank, there now are 12 trade unions there.
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 belong simultaneously to unions
affiliated with West Bank federations and the Israeli Histadrut Labor
West Bank unions are not affiliated with the Israeli
Histadrut Federation. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who
work 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 1996, but
funds have yet to be transferred.
Palestinians who work in Israel are required to
contribute to the National Insurance Institute (NII), which provides
unemployment insurance and other benefits. Palestinians from the West
Bank and Gaza are eligible for some, but not all, NII benefits.
According to the Interim Agreement, Palestinians working in Israel and
Jerusalem continue to be insured for injuries occurring in Israel, the
bankruptcy of a worker's employer, and allowances for maternity leave.
There are outstanding cases of Palestinian workers who
have attempted to sue their Israeli employers for non-payment of wages but
are unable to travel to the relevant courts because they are unable to
receive the proper permits.
The great majority of West Bank unions belong to the
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The PGFTU was
involved 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 and Gaza unions to better represent the
union members' interests; the reorganization had not been finalized by
An estimated 92,000 workers in the West Bank are members
of the PGFTU, the largest union bloc, which consists of 12 trade unions in
the West Bank and 8 in Gaza. The organization has about 46,500
members in Gaza. The PGFTU estimates actual organized membership,
i.e., dues-paying members, at about 30 percent of all Palestinian workers.
No unions were dissolved by administrative or
legislative action during the year. Palestinian unions that seek 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. In practice,
such workers have little or no protection from an employer's retribution.
For several months, teachers throughout the West Bank
held a strike. On May 5, PA officials arrested one of the strike
leaders and closed down the radio station that broadcast an interview in
which the leader accused the PA of inefficiency (see Sections 1.d. and
2.a.). The teachers suspended their strike on May 17, despite the
fact that none of their demands were met.
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 U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the PA, or 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.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
PA law does not prohibit specifically forced or
compulsory labor, including by children, but there were no reports of such
practices during the year.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for
The minimum working age in the West Bank and Gaza is 14
years. Most observers agree that a significant number of Palestinian
children under the age of 16 years work. Many children under the age
of 12 are engaged in some work activities. Most such employment is
believed to involve work on family farms, in family shops, or as urban
street vendors. Some employment of children also is reported to occur
in small manufacturing enterprises, such as shoe and textile factories.
The law does not prohibit specifically forced or compulsory labor by
children, but there were no reports of its use (see Section 6.c.).
The PA's capacity to enforce existing laws is limited.
It has only 40 labor inspectors to inspect an estimated 65,000 enterprises.
The International Labor Organization and UNICEF are working with the PA to
study the nature and extent of the problem and to develop the capacity to
enforce and update child labor laws.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There currently is no minimum wage in the West Bank or
Gaza Strip. The average wage for full-time workers appears to provide
a worker and family with a decent standard of living.
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
The PA Ministry of Labor is responsible for inspecting
workplaces and enforcing safety standards in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Ministry of Labor states that new factories and workplaces meet
international health and safety standards but that older ones fail to meet
minimum standards. There is no specific legal protection afforded
workers that allows them to remove themselves from an unhealthy or unsafe
work setting without risking loss of employment.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons;
however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked in, to,
through, or from the occupied territories.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S. State Department,