Report on Human Rights Practices
for 1997The 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, including responsibility for education,
culture, health, tourism, taxation, social welfare, statistics,
local government, insurance, commerce, industry, fuel, gas, agriculture,
and labor. Israel continues to retain responsibility in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip for external security, foreign relations,
the overall security of Israelis, including public order in the
Israeli settlements, and certain other matters. Negotiations
on the final status of the occupied territories as well as of
Jerusalem, borders, Israeli settlements, refugees, and other matters
began in May 1996 but were immediately adjourned and have not
been resumed. According to the timetable set out in the 1993
Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles, the interim period is to
conclude in May 1999.
In addition to most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, which
was turned over to the PA in May 1994, Israel began redeploying
its forces in the West Bank and turning over major towns and villages
to the PA in late 1995. Pursuant to the Interim Agreement and
the "Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron," concluded
on January 15, Israel also redeployed its forces in Hebron. Israel
continues to control some civil functions and is responsible for
all security in portions of the occupied territories categorized
as Zone C, which includes the Israeli settlements. The PA has
jurisdiction over civil affairs and shares security responsibilities
with Israel in areas known as Zone B, and the PA has control over
civil affairs and security in Zone A. The PA also has jurisdiction
over some civil affairs in Zone C. Accordingly, this report discusses
the policies and practices of both the Israeli Government and
the PA in the areas where they exercise jurisdiction and control.
Israel continues to exercise civil authority in some areas of
the West Bank through the Israeli Ministry of Defense's Office
of Coordination and Liaison, known by the Hebrew acronym MATAK,
which replaced the now defunct Civil Administration (CIVAD).
The approximately 150,000 Israeli settlers living in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip are subject to Israeli law and are better
treated by Israeli authorities than are Palestinians. The body
of law governing Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled portions
of the territories derives from Ottoman, British Mandate, Jordanian,
and Egyptian law, and Israeli military orders. In Palestinian-
controlled areas, laws and regulations promulgated by the PA are
also in force. The United States and 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, which were generally well-conducted.
The 88-member Council and the Chairman of the Executive Authority
were elected. The PA also has a cabinet of 20 appointed ministers
who oversee 23 ministries. PA 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
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Council meets regularly
and discusses a range of issues significant to the Palestinian
people and the development of an open, democratic society in the
Gaza Strip and West Bank. Pursuant to the agreements signed between
the PLO and Israel, the PA has full or partial control over most
major Palestinians population centers in the Gaza Strip and West
Israeli security forces in Israeli-controlled parts of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip consist of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF);
the General Security Service (GSS or Shin Bet); 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 human rights abuses.
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); General Intelligence
Service, or Mukhabarat; the Palestinian Presidential Security
Force; emergency services and rescue; and the Palestinian Coastal
Police. Other quasi-military security organizations, such as
military intelligence, also exercise law enforcement powers.
Palestinian police are responsible for security and law enforcement
for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in PA-controlled areas
of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli settlers in the occupied
territories are not subject to PA security force jurisdiction.
Members of the PA security forces committed human rights abuses.
The economy of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is small, poorly developed,
and highly dependent on Israel. According to U.N. estimates,
Palestinian per capita gross national product (GNP) fell by 36
percent between 1992 and 1996 due principally, but not entirely,
to Israeli restrictions on the free movement of people and products
into Israel. These restrictions imposed for lengthy periods following
terrorist attacks are collectively referred to as "closure."
The economy relies on agriculture, services, and to a lesser
extent, light manufacturing. Many West Bank and Gaza workers
are employed at day jobs in Israel and Jerusalem, making their
employment vulnerable to disruption due to tightened closures.
In the wake of terrorist bombings in March, July, and September,
Israel tightened the existing closure, virtually sealing off the
West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israel, prohibiting most travel
between towns and villages within the West Bank (an "internal"
closure), denying Palestinian workers access to jobs in Israel,
and hampering the flow of goods and people between Israel and
the Occupied Territories. The "internal closure" was
lifted in each case after about 2 weeks. The "tightened
closures" of Gaza and the West Bank followed a pattern of
being eased after a period, but lasted longer, and were enforced
more strictly than in previous years.
There were some improvements in the human rights situation in
the Occupied Territories. However, both Israel and the PA were
responsible for serious human rights abuses.
Two militant groups, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) and
the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), continued to try to undermine
the authority of the PA and halt progress in the Israeli-Palestinian
peace process by killing Israeli civilians in a number of deadly
suicide bombing attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The most serious
incident occurred on July 30 when two suicide bombers attacked
an open air produce market in Jerusalem. Sixteen persons were
killed, including 1 U.S. citizen; 178 were injured. On September
4, three suicide bombers attacked a crowded Jerusalem pedestrian
mall, killing 5 people, including a 14-year-old American girl;
181 were injured. On March 21, a suicide bomber attacked an outdoor
cafe in Tel Aviv. The blast killed 3 Israelis and injured 48,
including a 6-month- old child.
In the aftermath of the terrorist bombings, Israeli authorities
arrested hundreds of Palestinians suspected of affiliation with
extremist Islamic opposition groups, to obtain information on
further terrorist attacks. Israeli security forces abused, and
in some cases tortured, Palestinians suspected of security offenses.
In May an alleged HAMAS activist from the West Bank village of
Surif, Omar Ghanimat, was allowed to testify in open court about
such torture, and to show his cuts and bruises to the Israeli
and Arabic press.
Israel also tightened its existing closure of the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, sealing off the occupied territories from Israel
and imposing an "internal closure." When it was discovered
that a terrorist cell based in Surif was responsible for the March
21 cafe bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel imposed a targeted closure
on the village (13,000 residents were unable to leave the town).
During the 7 weeks of the closure residents were also under a
curfew (i.e., they were unable to leave their homes except during
designated hours to purchase household necessities). Israeli
authorities demolished six homes of suicide bombers; four in the
village of Surif and two in the village of Assira Shamaliyya.
In the latter village, two other homes were permanently sealed
by filling them with concrete from floor to ceiling. Israel also
imposed a targeted closure on the northern West Bank village of
Assira Shamaliyyah in September, when it determined that four
of the five suicide bombers in the Jerusalem attacks were from
There was one credible report that on February 25, an Israeli
undercover unit, operating in the village of Hizma, shot and killed
a Palestinian. Israeli officials acknowledged that the unit acted
in a negligent manner without prior planning; however, the members
of the unit received only administrative reprimands. In a second
incident, an Israeli undercover unit shot and killed a youth on
April 30 in Ras Al Amud. The unit was investigating alleged terrorist
attacks when a skirmish broke out and the youth was killed. There
has been a marked decrease in this kind of activity by Israel
in the past 2 years. There were also credible reports from human
rights groups that Israeli authorities continue to abuse and torture
Palestinian detainees and prisoners. In May a Palestinian prisoner
undergoing treatment at a Jerusalem hospital was beaten to death
by Israeli police and private hospital security guards. The Israeli
Government investigated the incident, but has not revealed the
results. Prison conditions are poor, and Israeli authorities
arbitrarily arrest and detain persons. Prolonged detention, limits
on due process, and infringements on privacy rights remained problems.
PA security forces committed a number of serious human rights
abuses during the year. Seven detainees died in prison; the
PA acknowledged that two died after being tortured. One was tortured
by Military Intelligence personnel in February, and the other
by members of the Presidential Security Force in June. The other
detainees died after suffering medical emergencies, and it remains
unclear whether the PA provided prompt medical attention.
In the wake of the three terrorist bombings in 1997, PA security
forces made fewer mass arrests than in the past, and there were
fewer complaints of human rights abuses. PA authorities arrested
approximately 200 people on suspicion of involvement in terrorist
activity. PA security forces subjected some of the detainees
to torture and repeated beatings. Although the PA claims to respect
its citizens' right to express themselves freely, the PA limited
freedom of speech and the press. The PA continued to harass,
detain, and abuse journalists. PA harassment has lead many Palestinian
commentators, reporters, and critics to practice self-censorship.
Fathi Sobh, a prominent university professor, and Daoud Kuttab,
a well-known journalist who criticized the PA, were both imprisoned
without charge during the year and Sobh was tortured. PA prison
conditions are very poor. PA security forces arbitrarily arrest
and detain persons. Prolonged detention and lack of due process
are problems. The courts are inefficient, lack staff and resources,
and do not ensure fair and expeditious trials. PA security forces
infringed on the right to privacy, and there were reports that
the PA placed some limits on the freedom of association. Discrimination
against women and the disabled is a problem.
In March Israel began constructing a controversial housing project
at Har Homa/Jebel Abu Ghanaim on the southeastern outskirts of
Jerusalem. The move sparked demonstrations by angry Palestinians
throughout the spring. However, unlike the demonstrations that
followed the 1996 opening of the controversial tunnel in Jerusalem's
old city, these demonstrations did not result in violence between
Israeli and PA security forces. The demonstrations did result
in charges that Israeli security forces, in several instances,
used excessive force against Palestinian protesters. During the
year, 10 Palestinian demonstrators, including a deaf and mentally-impaired
14-year-old boy in Gaza and an 8-year-old boy in Bethlehem, were
killed in incidents involving the IDF's use of both live ammunition
and rubber-coated metal bullets. No Israeli civilians or security
personnel were killed or seriously wounded by demonstrators.
Israeli settlers continued to harass and threaten Palestinians
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For example, on January 1, a
settler in the IDF reserve opened fire on a crowded Hebron market
place, injuring nine Palestinians. In 1996 settlers killed three
Palestinians. After two separate stonethrowing incidents in April,
three Palestinians were shot by settlers near Ramallah and Hebron.
In general settlers are not prosecuted for these crimes and rarely
serve prison sentences even when convicted of a crime.
In November an unidentified gunman shot two Jewish religious students
in Jerusalem, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person,
Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
In February members of a 3-man Israeli undercover unit, disguised
as Arabs, entered the Palestinian village of Hizma north of Jerusalem.
Villagers detected the unit, and during the subsequent altercation
57-year-old Mohammed Abdel Aziz al Hilu was shot and beaten.
His death was attributed to the beating and delayed medical treatment
for the gunshot wound to his leg. Three other Palestinians were
wounded, one seriously, during the incident. A senior IDF officer
attributed the incident to a miscalculation by the commander who
sent the unit to the village without sufficient backup. The spokesman
said that the unit acted in a negligent manner, without prior
organized planning. According to the IDF, three officers received
a reprimand for the way in which the training exercise was prepared
and "internal measures" were taken against the force
commander, including prohibiting him from holding future command
positions. The Israeli investigation did not include interviews
with any Palestinian eyewitnesses.
In another incident, an Israeli undercover unit shot and killed
17-year-old Samer Jawdat Shweiki in Ras Al Amud on April 30 during
a skirmish that broke out when unit was investigating alleged
Although there are credible reports of other Israeli undercover
activity in PA areas, there were no other reports of death. The
number of Palestinian deaths attributed to Israeli undercover
units in 1996 (one) and 1997 (two) is a marked decrease from the
trend in earlier years.
Israeli authorities acknowledge that undercover units conduct
operations among Palestinians wanted for investigation, but claim
that such units observe the same rules of engagement as other
IDF units. They also claim that all killings and allegations of
misbehavior by undercover units are investigated fully. However,
the investigations rarely lead to serious punishment. The IDF
does not readily announce the findings of its investigations.
One Palestinian was beaten to death while in Israeli government
On May 21, Khalil Abu Daiya, a Palestinian prisoner who was being
treated for medical problems, died in Israeli custody. An Israeli
pathologist conducted an autopsy and concluded that Abu Daiya
had been beaten to death. Israeli officials contend that Abu
Daiya, who was being guarded while in an Israeli hospital for
medical treatment, attacked those guarding him, and that the force
needed to restrain him caused his death. Abu Daiya's hands and
feet were cuffed to a bed at the time of the beating, according
to accounts given by hospital personnel. The autopsy revealed
deep cuts on Abu Daiya's wrists and ankles. Abu Daiya's family
requested an inquiry be carried out by an Israeli magistrate's
court. That inquiry was not concluded by year's end.
Members of the Israeli security forces killed four Palestinians
at military checkpoints and roadblocks inside the occupied territories.
In these cases, Israel stated that the individuals were shot
after failing to obey orders to halt or after trying to attack
the soldiers manning the checkpoints. For example, on April 1,
a Kamel Sidqi Al-Zaru was shot by the IDF after getting out of
his car and trying to run away from a checkpoint near Kiryat Arba.
On July 13, Israeli border police shot 17-year-old Ashraf Al
Jaber at a checkpoint in Beit Sahour. On July 29, Israeli security
forces shot 19-yer-old Mua'di Alaune, when in fled a checkpoint
near Nablus, claiming that he had tried to stab a border police
officer. Palestinian Jimmy Kanawati, was shot and killed by border
police on November 22 after failing to stop at the Bethlehem checkpoint.
During the year, violent clashes between Palestinian demonstrators
and Israeli security forces resulted in 10 Palestinian deaths.
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 policy, soldiers should direct fire at the legs
only and may fire at a fleeing suspect only if they believe that
a serious felony has occurred and they have exhausted other means
to apprehend the suspect. It is forbidden to open fire in the
direction of children or women, even in cases of severe public
disorder, unless there is an immediate and obvious danger to a
soldier's life. However, Israeli soldiers and police sometimes
used live ammunition or rubber-coated metal bullets, which can
be lethal, in situations other than when their lives were in danger
and sometimes shot suspects in the upper body and head. On March
29, a Palestinian was shot and killed by the IDF during demonstrations
in Ramallah protesting the Israeli construction on Har Homa.
On April 1, an off-duty PA police officer was killed at a demonstration
outside of Nablus. Two Palestinians were shot and killed when
IDF forces fired rubber-coated metal bullets in Hebron during
April 8 demonstrations sparked by news of Israeli settlement expansion.
On April 27, a 20-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed near
Hebron after an IDF patrol fired live ammunition at youths throwing
stones. A 14-year-old Palestinian boy was severely wounded during
a June protest in Rafah over Israeli settlement expansion, when
a rubber-coated metal bullet fired by an IDF member struck him
in the head.
In July a deaf and mentally-impaired Palestinian youth died after
being struck in the heart by IDF fire, as Israeli security forces
attempted to quell a violent demonstration near Morag settlement
in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian human rights organization charged
that the IDF used live ammunition; an IDF spokesman stated that
the boy was hit by a rubber-coated metal bullet meant to be fired
at the leg.
On July 21, a 13-year-old Hebron youth died of a gunshot wound
to the head during clashes with IDF troops on July 11
On August 14, a 16-year-old Hebron youth died of wounds inflicted
during clashes with IDF troops on July 4.
On November 11, IDF soldiers killed an 8-year-old Palestinian
boy with a rubber-coated metal bullet during demonstrations at
Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem. The IDF says that soldiers were trying
to disperse adult demonstrators and that the child was accidentally
hit in the head. Credible eyewitnesses at the scene said that
they saw only 9- to 12-year old boys demonstrating at the site,
that no IDF lives were threatened by the rock- and bottle-throwing
youths, and that the children were fleeing when the IDF fired
Another victim of the September 1996 rioting at the Ramallah checkpoint,
Yasser Abdul Ghani Abdul Rahim, died from injuries on February
During 1997 two Palestinians died in PA custody, after being tortured.
In 1996 two Palestinians who died in PA custody also were tortured.
In the most egregious case, Yusif Baba, who was being held without
charge in Nablus, died on January 31 after being tortured by PA
Military Intelligence officials. Baba's autopsy showed contusions
from repeated blows to the head, rope burns around his head and
feet, cigarette burns on the right shoulder, and burns caused
by an electrical instrument on many parts of his body. The PA
admitted that Baba had been tortured to death, but never charged
any of the security officials involved with a crime.
On June 30, 28-year-old Nasser Abed Radwan from the Gaza Strip
was killed in detention while being held without charge by PA
Presidential Security (Force 17). Force 17 authorities told
Radwan's family that he banged his head on the wall, but a PA
autopsy concluded that Radwan had been tortured to death. A PA
military court sentenced three of the Force 17 bodyguards involved
to death and three others to prison terms ranging from 6 months
to 5 years. The wife of Hakim Qamhawi, who died in PA custody
in June, told the press that his body showed signs of torture
(see Section 1.c.).
In April five undercover members of the Palestinian Intelligence
Service shot and killed a Palestinian woman outside of Ramallah
when the vehicle she was riding in failed to heed the agents'
signal to stop. In a subsequent trial, a PA court convicted the
five security officials involved of causing a death through negligence.
The intelligence official who fired the shot that killed the
women was sentenced to 5 years in prison, the commander of the
unit was sentenced to a 1-year prison term for failing to maintain
discipline among his unit, the three other men in the unit were
sentenced to 2 months each for failing to prevent a crime.
On May 5, PA Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein announced that
the death penalty would be imposed on anyone convicted of ceding
"one inch" to Israel. Later that month, two Arab land
dealers were killed. Farih Bashiti, a real estate dealer from
Jerusalem who was accused of selling land to Jews, was found dead
in Ramallah. Two persons were arrested in the case. In another
incident, Harbi Abu Sara was shot and killed in Ramallah 8 days
after Bashiti's body was found. PA officials deny any involvement
in the killings. The PA has arrested and continues to hold several
suspected land dealers for violating the Jordanian law (in force
in the West Bank), which prohibits the sale of land to foreigners.
In early January, Israel released Nahum Koorman, an Israeli settler
charged with kicking a Palestinian boy to death in 1996 for throwing
stones at his car, after 8 months in detention. Koorman is awaiting
trial. In 1996 settlers killed three Palestinians.
On November 20, an unidentified gunman shot two Jewish religious
students in Jerusalem, killing one and seriously wounding the
other. The Israeli investigation into the case is ongoing, but
no suspects have been arrested at year's end.
A security court sentenced the principal killers of two Israeli
settlers, Etta Tsur and her 12-year-old son Ephraim, (killed on
December 11, 1996) to 25 years' imprisonment and an accomplice
to 15 years' imprisonment.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances
attributed to the Israeli security services. In November an Israeli
court convicted Palestinian Preventive Security officer Moussa
Mustafa of abducting a suspected Arab informer for Israel from
Jerusalem, torturing him, and holding him for 5 months (see Section
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
Israeli security forces abuse, and in some cases torture, Palestinians
suspected of security offenses. There continue to be a high number
of complaints of mistreatment and torture during interrogation,
especially from Palestinians suspected of belonging to Islamic
groups. Interrogation sessions are long and severe, and solitary
confinement is used frequently for long periods. The GSS systematically
uses interrogation methods that do not result in detectable traces
of mistreatment of the victims, or which leave marks that disappear
after a short period of time. Common interrogation practices
include hooding; forced standing or squatting for long periods
of time; prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures; tying or
chaining the detainee in contorted and painful positions; blows
and beatings with fists, sticks, and other instruments; confinement
in small and often filthy spaces; sleep and food deprivation;
and threats against the detainee's life or family. Israeli interrogators
continued to subject prisoners to violent "shaking,"
which in at least one past case resulted in death.
In May an alleged HAMAS activist Omar Ghanimat was allowed to
show his cuts and bruises to the Israeli High Court. In June
the Court rejected Ghanimat's plea to halt the use of physical
In 1987 the Israeli government-appointed Landau Judicial Commission
condemned torture but allowed for the use of "moderate physical
and psychological pressure" to secure confessions and obtain
information. In addition, although the Israeli Penal Code prohibits
the use of force or violence by a public official to obtain information,
the GSS chief is permitted by law to allow interrogators to employ
"special measures" that exceed the use of "moderate
physical and psychological pressure" when it is deemed necessary
to obtain information that could potentially save Israeli lives
in certain "ticking bomb" cases. The GSS first permitted
interrogators "greater flexibility" in applying the
guidelines shortly after a bus bombing in Tel Aviv in October
1994 that killed 22 Israelis. The Government has not defined
the meaning of "greater flexibility" or what might constitute
a "ticking bomb" case. At roughly quarterly intervals,
the Government has approved the continued use of "special
measures." On August 22, Israel's ministerial committee
on GSS interrogations authorized the continued use of "special
measures," including shaking.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) declared in
1992 that such practices violate the Geneva Convention. Human
rights groups and attorneys challenged the use of "special
measures," especially shaking, before the Israeli High Court
a number of times during the year. In each case the court either
rejected the petition or ruled in favor of the GSS.
Israeli authorities maintain that torture is not condoned but
acknowledge that abuses sometimes occur and are investigated.
However, the Government does not generally make public the results
of such investigations. Israel has conducted two official investigations
into the 35 complaints received in 1997.
In 28 of the cases, Israeli authorities determined that findings
did not justify any steps to be taken. Seven complaints are still
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. It is likely that some Palestinian
detainees fail to make complaints either from fear of retribution
or because they assume that such complaints would be ignored.
Of the 35 complaints filed during the year, there were no known
cases in which a confession was disqualified because of improper
means of investigation or interrogation.
Israeli authorities also frequently treat Palestinians in an
abusive manner at checkpoints. Two Palestinians were shot and
killed at checkpoints (see Section 1.a.). The human rights group
B'tselem reported that severe beatings often occur when Israeli
border police deal with Palestinians. Dozens of incidents have
been reported of excessive beatings and unjustified abuse. In
some cases, victims were denied medical attention after being
beaten. Israeli authorities investigated and punished the perpetrators.
B'tselem believes that the steps taken were insufficient to deter
further incidents. In March a border police officer was demoted
and sentenced to a 3-week military prison term, and another was
confined for 3 weeks for beating two Palestinian children in Hebron
who had cursed them. In April two border police officers were
dismissed for abusing a 17-year-old Palestinian after he refused
to obey the officers demand to remove rocks from the road near
Surif. Four other border police officers are being investigated
for dragging a Palestinian behind their jeep near Bethlehem.
Israeli security forces assigned to checkpoints often act capriciously
in honoring permits and travel passes held by Palestinians.
Prison conditions in Israeli facilities are poor, according to
credible human rights lawyers. 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. Palestinians
in Israeli prisons also held several strikes to protest being
held in administrative detention (detention without trial), lack
of visits by family members or lawyers, and to protest abuse by
Israel permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, although
human rights groups and diplomats sometimes encounter difficulties
gaining access to specific detainees.
Israeli settlers have continued to harass and threaten Palestinians
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On January 1, a settler in the
IDF reserve opened fire on a crowded Hebron market place, injuring
nine Palestinians. On April 7, two Palestinians were shot by
settlers after a stonethrowing incident near Ramallah. The settlers
were questioned but never charged over the incident. On April
8, a yeshiva student in Hebron shot a Palestinian after a stone
throwing incident; the student was never charged with a crime.
In general settlers are not prosecuted for these crimes and rarely
serve prison sentences even when convicted of a crime.
In November an Israeli court convicted a Palestinian security
official of abducting and torturing a suspected Arab informer
for Israel. The court sentenced Moussa Mustafa, a member of the
Palestinian Preventive Security Service, to 5 years' imprisonment.
Mustafa took the suspected informer by force from Jerusalem to
a PA compound in Jericho, where he was held for 5 months and tortured.
PA security forces reportedly abused, and sometimes tortured,
Palestinian detainees. Such abuse generally took place after
arrest and during interrogation. The PA does not prohibit by
law the use of force or torture against detainees. In 1995 the
Gaza Civil Police commander issued to police officers in the West
Bank and Gaza a 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.
PA security officials abuse prisoners by hooding, beating, tying
in painful positions, sleep and food deprivation, threats, and
burning detainees with cigarettes and hot instruments. International
human rights monitoring groups have documented widespread arbitrary
and abusive conduct by the PA. Gaza University professor Fathi
Sobh reported that he was subjected to torture by sleep deprivation,
being forced to stand for long periods, and being shackled.
During the year, seven Palestinians died in PA custody, two after
being tortured (see Section 1.a.). In 1996 two of the four Palestinians
who died in PA custody also were tortured. In December the Palestinian
Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) reported that the PA has
not sufficiently investigated deaths in custody. The PHRMG added
that the PA has tried to cover up incidents by claiming that several
deaths were the result of heart attacks or suicides. In mid-June
Hakam Qamhawi died while in PA General Intelligence custody in
Jericho. PA officials said that Qamhawi committed suicide and
died on the way to the hospital, but his wife told the press that
his body showed signs of torture. A PA forensic expert stated
that Qamhawi died of a heart attack. No official autopsy was
Prison conditions in PA facilities are very poor. Facilities
are overcrowded and dilapidated. Food and clothing for prisoners
is inadequate and must be supplemented by donations from families
and humanitarian groups. Palestinian inmates held periodic strikes
and protests throughout the year in support of a number of causes
and to protest prison conditions.
In January Fayez Qamsieh died while in the custody of PA Military
Intelligence in Bethlehem. The PA claimed that Qamsieh, who had
a history of heart trouble, died of a heart attack. Doctors
observing the autopsy on behalf of Qamsieh's relatives agreed
that he died of a heart attack, but bruises on his body suggest
that mistreatment may have triggered his death. There were complaints
that Qamsieh had not received prompt medical attention. The PA
said that it would investigate this charge, but has never published
the results of its investigation.
Sami Abed Rabbo, held in Saraya prison in Gaza without charge,
died on July 4, also under the custody of PA General Intelligence.
Family members were told he died of a heart attack. Despite
demands from human rights groups for an official autopsy, there
has been no official response. The PHRMG stated that his death
does not appear to be the result of torture or denial of medical
treatment, his lengthy illegal detention may have contributed
to his illness (liver disease and mental illness).
On October 14, Ibrahim Al-Sheikh died of a heart attack while
serving a prison sentence in Nablus for involvement in a murder.
On November 9, Nafea Mardawi died in a Nablus prison also of
an apparent heart attack. He was serving a sentence for selling
land illegally to Israelis. Human rights groups concur that both
men had preexisting medical conditions that support the PA's assertion
that they died of heart attacks. However, concerns linger that
the prisoners were not provided the most prompt or thorough preventive
The PA permits independent monitoring of its prisons, although
human rights groups and lawyers encountered difficulties arranging
visits or gaining access to specific detainees. Pursuant to an
agreement signed in September 1996, the ICRC conducts prison visits
but can be denied access to a detainee for 14 days. If abuses
occur, they frequently happen during this 2-week period.
In December West Bank Intelligence (Mukhabarat) Chief Tawfiq Tirawi
lifted a 6-month ban on visits to Mukhabarat prisons by representatives
of the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights
and the Environment (LAWE). Tirawi promised to appoint a special
liaison officer to coordinate relations with human rights groups.
There were a number of attacks on Israelis during the year. For
example, in November an unidentified gunman shot two Jewish religious
students in Jerusalem, killing one and seriously wounding the
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Any Israeli policeman or border guard may arrest without warrant
a person who has committed, or is suspected of having committed,
a criminal or security offense in the occupied territories, except
for areas under exclusive PA control.
Israeli soldiers also may arrest without warrant Palestinians
and hold them for questioning for the same reasons. Most of these
arbitrary arrests and detentions are for alleged security offenses.
Persons arrested for common crimes are usually provided with
a statement of charges and access to an attorney and may apply
for bail. However, these procedures are sometimes delayed.
Israeli authorities issue special summonses for security offenses.
Israeli Military Order 1369 stipulates a 7-year prison term for
anyone who does not respond to a special summons delivered to
a family member or posted in the MATAK office nearest the suspect's
home address. Bail is rarely available to those arrested for
security offenses. Although Israeli law does not allow Israelis
between the ages of 13 and 16 to be tried as adults, Israeli courts
treat Palestinians over the age of 12 as adults.
Israeli authorities may hold persons in custody without a warrant
for 96 hours; they must be released unless a warrant is issued.
Prearraignment detention can last up to 11 days for Palestinians
arrested in the occupied territories and up to 8 days for minors
and those accused of less serious offenses. Authorities must
obtain a court order for longer 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 is often not allowed
to see or hear the evidence against his client. Detainees are
either 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 detention.
Although a detainee generally has the right to consult with a
lawyer as soon as possible, in security cases authorities may
delay access to counsel for up to 15 days. Higher-ranking officials
or judges may extend this period. Access to counsel is routinely
denied while a suspect is being interrogated, which sometimes
can last several weeks. Authorities must inform detainees of
their right to an attorney and whether there are any orders prohibiting
A number of factors hamper contacts between lawyers and their
clients in Israeli prison and detention facilities. Israel's
policy of transferring detainees from the occupied territories
to prisons in Israel, makes visits of lawyers and family members
difficult, and in some cases, impossible. 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 trouble traveling to see their clients during
Israeli-imposed closures. Israel does not allow Palestinian attorneys
who do not have East Jerusalem identity cards and licenses issued
by the Israeli Bar Association or by an official Israeli governmental
body such as MATAK to visit detainees in Israeli prisons.
Israeli authorities claim that they attempt to post notification
of arrest within 48 hours. Nevertheless, Palestinian suspects
are often kept incommunicado for longer than 48 hours. Even if
an arrest becomes known, it is often difficult to get information
on where a detainee is being held or whether he has access to
an attorney. Palestinians generally locate detained family members
through their own efforts. Palestinians can 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, attorneys,
and diplomatic officials. A military commander may appeal to
a judge to extend this period in security cases for an unlimited
time. Israeli district military commanders may order administrative
detention for up to 6 months without formal charges, but the original
detention order may be extended indefinitely.
At the end of the year, there were 382 Palestinians in administrative
detention in Israel, compared with 270 at the end of 1996. A
total of 138 Palestinian administrative detainees have been imprisoned
for over a year, without being officially charged of any wrongdoing;
45 of them have been held for more than 2 years. There are 40
children below the age of 16 being held in administrative detention.
Many Palestinians under administration detention during the past
2 years have had their detention orders renewed repeatedly without
meaningful chance of appeal.
Evidence used at hearings for administrative detentions is secret
and unavailable to the detainee or his attorney. During hearings
to appeal detention orders, the detainee and defense lawyer are
required to leave the courtroom when secret evidence is presented.
Israeli authorities maintain that they are unable to present
evidence in open court because doing so would compromise the method
of acquiring the evidence. 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,
there were no successful appeals requesting the cancellation of
administrative detention orders.
At year's end, 3,565 Palestinian prisoners and detainees were
incarcerated in Israeli prisons, military detention centers, and
holding centers, a decrease from 3,800 in 1996. The Israeli Government
routinely transfers Palestinians arrested in Israeli-controlled
areas of the occupied territories to facilities in Israel, especially
Megiddo military detention center near Afula.
Families, human rights organizations, and lawyers have encountered
barriers trying to gain access to Palestinian detainees and prisoners
held in facilities in Israel as a result of closures of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. Family access to Palestinian prisoners held
in Israeli jails has improved slightly improved in 1997 compared
with the sharp decline in 1996. Only parents and female family
members are allowed to visit relatives in facilities in Israel.
Male family members between 16 and 40 years of age and family
members with security records are barred from visiting. The transfer
of prisoners between facilities also makes it difficult for families,
lawyers, and human rights organizations to locate and visit detainees.
Due to travel restrictions, the ICRC suspended its family visits
program to detainees in Israeli prisons several times during the
Israeli security forces conducted several mass arrests of Palestinians
in response to acts or threats of violence against Israelis.
Israel arrested 87 Palestinians suspected of affiliation with
terrorist groups after suicide bombings in March, July, and September.
Of these, more than 66 were still being held in administrative
detention at year's end.
Israel did not forcibly deport any Palestinians from the occupied
territories in 1997.
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
are not observed in 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 can extend the detention
PA authorities generally permit prisoners to receive visits from
family members, attorneys, and human rights monitors, except for
prisoners held for alleged security offenses. PA security officials
are not always aware that lawyers have a right to see their clients.
In principle detainees may notify their families of their arrest,
but this is not always permitted.
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 people at various times. The operating procedures and
regulations for conduct of PA security personnel in the various
services 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.
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 ignorant of proper arrest, detention,
and interrogation procedures, as well as basic human rights standards.
Human rights groups continue to provide basic human rights training
to PA security services. During 1997 human rights groups provided
training to representatives of all the PA security services, including
the PA military intelligence service. In 1997 more than 60 PA
security officials participated in human rights courses, bringing
the total number of security officials who have graduated from
human rights courses to almost 700, according to human rights
PA security forces continued to arrest arbitrarily and detain
journalists, professors, political activists, and human rights
advocates, who criticized the PA, including journalist Daoud Kuttab
and university professor Fahti Sobh (see Sections 1.c. and 2.a.).
PA security services in Gaza and the West Bank arrested dozens
of Palestinians in the wake of the three 1997 suicide bombing
attacks, a more targeted campaign than in past years. The majority
of arrests were conducted without warrants; most of those arrested
in these campaigns remain in detention without being charged.
Human rights organizations estimate that the PA has held approximately
120 people for more than a year without charge, and the total
number of Palestinians in PA jails reached 725 by November.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Palestinians accused by Israel of security offenses in Israeli-
controlled areas of the occupied territories are tried in Israeli
military courts. Security offenses are broadly defined and may
include charges of political activity, such as membership in outlawed
organizations. Charges are brought by military prosecutors.
Serious charges are tried before three-judge panels; lesser offenses
are tried before one judge. Defendants have the right to counsel
and to appeal verdicts to the Court of Military Appeals, which
may accept appeals based on the law applied in the case, the sentence,
or both. The right of appeal does not apply in all cases and
sometimes requires court permission. The Israeli military courts
rarely acquit Palestinians of security offenses, but sentences
are sometimes reduced on appeal.
Trials are sometimes delayed for several reasons: Witnesses,
including Israeli military or police officers, do not appear;
the defendant is not brought to court; files are lost; or attorneys
fail to appear, sometimes because they have not been informed
of the trial date or because of travel restrictions on Palestinian
lawyers. These delays add pressure on defendants to plead guilty
to 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. Diplomats are allowed to attend military court proceedings
involving foreign citizens, but there have been delays in gaining
admission. Most convictions in military courts are based on confessions.
Evidence that is not available to the defendant or his attorney
may be used in court to convict persons of security offenses.
There is frequently 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 can induce security detainees
to sign confessions. Confessions are usually spoken in Arabic
but translated into Hebrew for the record because, authorities
maintain, many Israeli court personnel speak Arabic but few read
it. Palestinian detainees seldom read Hebrew and therefore often
sign confessions that they cannot 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 occupation decrees.
Settlers convicted in Israeli courts of crimes against Palestinians
regularly receive lighter punishment than Palestinians convicted
in Israeli courts of similar crimes against either Israelis or
The PA inherited a court system based on structures and legal
codes predating the 1967 Israeli occupation. The Gaza legal code
derives from British Mandate law, Egyptian law, and PA directives
and laws. Pre-1967 Jordanian law applies in PA-controlled areas
of the West Bank. Bodies of law in the Gaza Strip and West Bank
have been substantially modified by Israeli military orders.
According to the DOP and the Interim Agreement, Israeli military
decrees issued during the occupation theoretically remain valid
in both areas and are subject to review pursuant to specific procedure.
The PA states that it is undertaking efforts to unify the Gaza
and West Bank legal codes, but in 3 years little progress has
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 lack of skills and
training; court procedures and record-keeping are archaic and
chaotic; and the delivery of justice is often slow and uneven.
The ability of the courts to enforce decisions is extremely weak,
and there is administrative confusion in the appeals process.
The PA Ministry of Justice appoints all civil judges for 10-year
terms. The Attorney General, an appointed official, reports to
the Minister of Justice and supervises judicial operations in
both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
In 1995 the PA established state security courts in Gaza and the
West Bank to try cases involving security issues. Three military
judges preside over each court. A senior police official heads
the state security court in Jericho, and three judges preside
over it. There is no right of appeal, but verdicts may be either
ratified or repealed by the PA Chairman, Yasir Arafat. The PA
Ministry of Justice has no jurisdiction over the state security
courts, which appear to be subordinate only to the Chairman of
the PA. In 1997 PA security courts sentenced 14 defendants:
3 received death sentences, bringing the total number of Palestinians
sentenced to death to 13. To date none of these death sentences
has been carried out; Chairman Arafat has not commuted any death
The PA usually ignores the legal limits on the length of prearraignment
detention of detainees suspected of security offenses. Defendants
are often brought to court without knowledge of the charges against
them or sufficient time to prepare a defense. Defendants are
typically represented by court-appointed lawyers. Court sessions
often take place on short notice in the middle of the night and
without lawyers present, all violations of defendants' right to
due process. In some instances, security courts try cases, issue
verdicts, and impose sentences in a single session lasting several
Palestinian Attorney General Fayez Abu Rahme acknowledged that
at least 100 political prisoners are being held by the PA.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family,
Home, or Correspondence
Israeli military authorities in areas of the West Bank under their
control may enter private Palestinian homes and institutions without
a warrant on security grounds when authorized by an officer of
the rank of lieutenant colonel. In conducting searches, the IDF
has forced entry and has sometimes beaten occupants and destroyed
property. Israeli authorities say that forced entry may lawfully
occur only when incident to an arrest and when entry is resisted.
Authorities say that beatings and arbitrary destruction of property
during searches are punishable violations of military regulations,
and that compensation is due to victims in such case. 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.
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 (formerly CIVAD) 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.
Israeli authorities destroyed eight Palestinian homes in 1997,
compared with eight in 1996, and one in 1995. In Surif four homes
were demolished. In Assira Shamaliyya, two homes were demolished
and two filled with concrete.
Since 1994 the Israeli Government has allowed owners to apply
to regional military commanders for permits to rebuild or unseal
homes closed or demolished due to security offenses committed
by themselves or a family member after their release--or the release
of their family member--from prison. In 1997 the Israeli Government
did not allow any homes to be rebuilt or unsealed. In 1996 the
Israeli Government allowed one home to be unsealed.
In the Gaza Strip and PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, the
PA requires the Attorney General to issue warrants for entry and
searches of private property. These requirements are frequently
ignored by Palestinian security services. PA police have searched
homes without consent of their owners. In some cases, police
have forcibly entered premises and destroyed property.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Israeli Government generally respects freedom of speech in
the occupied territories but prohibits public expressions of support
for Islamic extremist groups, such as HAMAS and other groups dedicated
to the destruction of Israel. Continuing a policy it began in
1994, the Israeli Government generally did not enforce its prohibition
on the display of Palestinian political symbols, such as flags,
national colors, and graffiti, acts that are punishable by fines
Overall, Israeli censorship of specific press pieces continued
to be low. Israeli authorities continue to monitor the Arabic
press based in 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
are also subject to review by Israeli military censors for security
issues, and the satellite feed used by many foreign journalists
Israel often closes areas to journalists when it has imposed a
curfew or closure. Israeli authorities have denied entry permits
to Palestinian journalists traveling to their place of work in
Jerusalem during closures of the territories.
The IDF requires a permit for publications sold in the occupied
territories still under its control. Publications may be censored
or banned for anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli content. Possession
of banned materials is punishable by a fine and imprisonment.
In 1997 Israel refused to allow publications, including newspapers,
into the Gaza Strip during closures.
Israeli-imposed closures also severely disrupted the operations
of West Bank and Gaza universities, colleges, and schools during
the year. Educational institutions in the West Bank and Jerusalem
closed for periods of time as a result of internal closures in
the West Bank. Significant numbers of students and staff could
not travel to the schools from neighboring towns and villages.
Gaza students experience difficulty obtaining permits to attend
West Bank universities.
The PA has a generally poor record on freedom of expression and
freedom of the press, although it professes to tolerate varying
political views and criticism. In general PA authorities do not
permit criticism of Yasir Arafat or his policies or style of government.
Press freedom in PA-controlled areas is subject to a 1995 Press
Law that does not adequately protect the press. PA security services
further stifle the independence of the press by periodically harassing
or detaining media members. PA officials imposed restrictions
on the press in several instances, including closing some opposition
newspapers. In May PA security officials detained Palestinian-American
journalist Daoud Kuttab for over a week. He was never charged
but came to the attention of the PA when he broadcast a Palestinian
Council session that discussed PA corruption.
The PA has authority over all levels of education in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. PA security services in the Gaza Strip arrested
prominent university professor Fahti Sobh in July after he allegedly
asked students, as a final exam question, what they would do about
PA corruption. Sobh reported that he was subjected to torture.
He did not pay a fine. He faces a fine up to approximately $7,000
(5000 Jordanian dinars) if he is apprehended again. This detention
was the only instance of PA interference in academic freedom during
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
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
Private Palestinian organizations are required to register with
the Israeli authorities in areas under Israeli control, though
some operate without licenses. The authorities permit Palestinian
charitable, community, professional, and self-help organizations
to operate unless their activities are viewed by Israeli authorities
as a security problem. Israeli authorities have forced some Palestinian
organizations in East Jerusalem to close because of alleged links
to the PA.
The PA does not impose restrictions on freedom of assembly, although
it does require permits for rallies, demonstrations, and large
cultural events. These permits are rarely denied. In Gaza police
approval is required for "political" meetings at several
specific large meeting halls. Written permission is also required
for buses to transport passengers to attend political meetings.
In West Bank cities, the PA requires permits for outdoor rallies
and demonstrations and prohibits calls for violence, a display
of arms, and racist slogans, although this is not always enforced.
There were periodic complaints during the year from Palestinian
political parties, social and professional groups, and other NGO's
that the PA tried to limit their ability to act autonomously.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Israeli Government respects freedom of religion and does not
ban any group or sect on religious grounds. It permits all faiths
to operate schools and institutions. Religious publications are
subject to the publications laws (see Section 2.a.). In 1997
the IDF temporarily closed at least five mosques in the course
of investigating communities in which terrorist suspects were
believed to be operating.
The PA does not restrict freedom of religion. There are periodic
credible allegations that a small number of Muslim converts to
Christianity are subject to societal discrimination and sometimes
harassment by PA officials. The PA investigates such complaints.
There was no pattern of PA discrimination and harassment against
d. Freedom of Movement within the Occupied
Territories, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Israel requires that all West Bank and Gaza residents obtain identification
cards to qualify for permits to enter Israel and Jerusalem. However,
Israel often denies applicants permits with no explanation, and
does not allow effective means of appeal. 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, even though they were
traveling on special passes issued by Israel. In general Palestinians
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip find it difficult to obtain permits
to work, visit, study, obtain medical care, or attend religious
services outside of the West Bank or Gaza. Palestinian residents
of Jerusalem are sometimes prohibited from entering PA-controlled
areas of the West Bank, and they require written permits from
Israel to travel to the Gaza Strip. Residents of the Gaza Strip
are rarely able to obtain permission to travel to the West Bank,
or residents of the West Bank to enter the Gaza Strip; this is
even true of residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip who regularly
receive permission to enter Israel. Israeli authorities do not
permit Gazans to bring vehicles into Israel and rarely permit
West Bank vehicles to enter Jerusalem or Israel. Except for senior
PA officials, Palestinians of all ages entering (or exiting) the
Gaza Strip from (or into) 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. Israel
and the PA have yet to establish "safe passage" to facilitate
travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip as set out in the
1995 Interim Agreement.
Israel continues to apply its policy, begun in 1993, of closure
of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, following terrorist attacks.
On occasion Israel also imposes a tightened version of closure
in the wake of terrorist incidents. During these times Israel
tends to cancel all travel permits and prevents Palestinians,
even those with valid work permits, from entering Israel or Jerusalem.
Israel often imposes an "internal closure" during the
"an initial limited period." An "internal closure"
prohibits Palestinians from traveling between West Bank towns
and villages. Tightened closures, especially those that include
an internal closure, severely hamper the flow of food, medicine,
students, doctors, and patients into and out of the occupied territories,
and they seriously disrupt commercial activity. A tightened closure
was imposed after the March 21, July 30, and September 4 terrorist
bombings. Tightened closures imposed during the year lasted longer
and were more strictly enforced than those from past years. After
both the July 30 and September 4 bombings, an "internal"
closure was imposed for almost 2 weeks, while the tightened closure
lasted for about a month.
As a security precaution, Israel also routinely tightens the closure
of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during major Jewish or Muslim
holy days, as well as during times of political sensitivity for
Israel continued to impose periodic curfews in areas of the West
Bank under its jurisdiction in response to its security concerns,
in anticipation of incidents, or as part of ongoing security operations.
Israelis are generally free to move about during curfews, while
Palestinians are confined to their homes. A curfew was imposed
on the southern West Bank village of Surif in March and on the
northern West Bank village of Assira Shamaliyyah in September.
During periods of tightened closure, Israeli settlers were prevented
from entering Palestinian-controlled zones.
The Israeli Government restricted travel for some Israeli settlers,
prohibiting them from entering sensitive locations in the West
Bank. The Yesha Council, an umbrella group of settler organizations,
reported that six Israelis were placed under administrative detention
during the year.
The Israeli Government requires all Palestinian residents in areas
under its control to obtain permits for foreign travel and has
restricted the travel of some political activists. Bridge-crossing
permits to Jordan may be obtained at post offices without a screening
process. However, in the case of East Jerusalem Palestinians,
the fear of losing one's residency is an obstacle to travel.
Palestinian males between the ages of 16 and 25 who cross into
Jordan must remain outside the occupied territories for 9 months.
Restriction on residence, tourist visas, reentry, and family
reunification apply only to Palestinian residents of the occupied
territories. Israeli authorities sometimes refuse to renew the
laissez-passers of Palestinians from the occupied territories
who live or work abroad, on the grounds that they have abandoned
Palestinians who live in the part of Jerusalem that was occupied
during the 1967 War generally do not accept Israeli citizenship.
They are, therefore, issued a residence permit, or Jerusalem ID
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 nationality of another country,
or acquires permanent residence in another country. Such persons
are permitted to return only as tourists and are sometimes denied
entry. The Israeli Government does not apply these same restrictions
to Israeli citizens. Israeli government officials deny that more
stringent enforcement of the Jerusalem residency requirements
in 1997 reflects a concerted policy to decrease the Palestinian
population in the city. Human rights groups estimate that approximately
5,000 Palestinian residents had their residency permits revoked
in 1996 and 1997.
Invoking the 1952 law, Israeli officials routinely tell Palestinian
residents of Jerusalem who possess other nationalities that they
have to renounce their other nationalities in order to retain
the right to live in Jerusalem. Over 175 Palestinian-Americans
have been told that they must renounce their U.S. citizenship
in order to retain their Jerusalem residency.
Israeli authorities also place restrictions on family reunification.
Most Palestinians who were abroad before or during the 1967 War,
or who have lost their residence permits for other reasons, are
not permitted to reside permanently with their families in 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. Only 1,500 family
reunification permits have been issued since the Interim Agreement
was signed in 1995.
Israeli security singles out young (often unmarried) Palestinian
males for more stringent restrictions than other Palestinians,
citing them as more likely to be security risks. They are generally
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, but do require reentry
permits. They can travel both over the Allenby Bridge to Jordan
and via Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. Palestinians who are Jerusalem
residents may not obtain Palestinian passports and must obtain
travel documents from the Government of Israel to travel abroad.
Those wishing to travel to Jordan must leave their ID documents
with Israeli authorities at the Allenby Bridge. There is also
a requirement that Jerusalem Palestinians have a special permit
to cross the Allenby Bridge, available for $40 (125 New Israeli
Shekel--nis) from the Ministry of Interior. Palestinians, including
Palestinian-Americans who are residents of the West Bank, the
Gaza strip, or Jerusalem, are not allowed to cross at the Sheikh
Hussein or Arava crossings with Jordan.
Palestinians with passports from other countries are required
by Israel to exit and enter (either via Ben Gurion or via land
crossings) with a Palestinian passport. Israel asserts that the
requirement results from the Interim Agreement. Palestinian officials
dispute this interpretation and characterize this requirement
as "harassment." On several occasions in 1997 following
terrorist incidents, Israel has restricted foreign travel of all
those who hold Palestinian passports. This has sometimes resulted
in Palestinians being unable to leave or to enter Israel. At
all times, West Bank and Gazan Palestinians require a special
permit, issued by Israel, to enter Jerusalem.
The PA does not control its borders. All persons entering PA-controlled
areas must be granted permission by Israel. The issue of Palestinian
refugees is a matter to be discussed between Israel and the PA
in final status negotiations.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right
of Citizens to Change Their Government
Palestinian residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem
chose their first popularly-elected government in 1996. They
elected an 88-member Council and the Ra'ees (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 or critics of Arafat and his
Fatah faction. International observers concluded that the election
could be reasonably regarded as an accurate expression of the
will of the voters, despite some irregularities. During the year,
the Council debated numerous draft laws and some 168 resolutions.
Some members of the Council complained of its relative lack of
power in relation to the executive branch of government; the Council
and the Executive Authority work within the boundaries set out
in the 1995 Interim Agreement. The Council's mandate runs to
mid-1999, the end of the interim period set out in the accords.
Most Palestinians in Jerusalem do not recognize the jurisdiction
of the Municipality of Jerusalem. Less than 7 percent of Jerusalem's
Palestinian population voted in the 1993 municipal elections.
No Palestinian resident of Jerusalem sits on the city council.
Women are underrepresented in government and politics. There
are 5 women in the 88-member Council, and 2 women serve in ministerial-level
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
Many local groups--Israeli, Palestinian, and international--monitored
the Israeli Government's human rights practices. The Israeli
Government normally cooperates with human rights organizations;
officials normally agree to meet with human rights monitors.
The Israeli Government permits human rights groups to publish
and hold press conferences.
However, some individual human rights workers have been subjected
to interference. A fieldwork coordinator for the Palestinian
human rights organization Al-Haq was arrested by Israel and has
been detained without charge since February 1996.
The Israeli Government withheld its cooperation from the U.N.
Special Committee to Investigate Practices Affecting the Human
Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied
Territories. The Special Committee was unable to visit the occupied
territories and reported that the Government of Israel did not
respond to communications addressed to it on the matter.
Many local human rights groups--mostly Palestinian--as well as
several international human rights organizations, monitored the
PA's human rights practices. The PA generally cooperates with
these organizations and PA officials normally meet with their
representatives. Several Palestinian human rights organizations
work behind the scenes 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 entreaties.
In December the West Bank intelligence service lifted a 6-month
ban on visits to its prisons by lawyers of one human rights group.
The ICRC operates in the PA areas 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 conducted routine
visits of PA-run prison facilities and to PA-held prisoners throughout
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
Under the complex mixture of laws and regulations that apply to
the occupied territories, Palestinians are disadvantaged under
Israeli law and practices compared with the treatment received
by Israeli settlers. This includes discrimination in residency,
land use, and access to health and social services.
The problems of rape, domestic violence, and violence related
to "family honor" have gained greater prominence in
the Palestinian community, but public discussion is generally
muted. Victims are often encouraged by relatives to remain quiet
and are themselves punished or blamed for the "shame"
that has been brought upon them and their families. Women's groups
seek to educate women on these problems, but women's rights advocates
claim that few resources are available to shelter the victims
of violence. They also maintain that society has not been receptive
to providing counseling or outreach services to victims of problems
that they see as more widespread than is acknowledged. 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 dealt with informally
by family members.
Palestinian women in both the Israeli- and PA-controlled areas
of the occupied territories endure various forms of social prejudice
and repression within their own society. Because of early marriage,
girls frequently do not finish the mandatory level of schooling.
Cultural restrictions sometimes prevent them from attending colleges
and universities. While there is an active women's movement in
the West Bank, attention has only recently shifted 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.
A growing number of Palestinian women work outside the home, where
they tend to encounter discrimination. There are no special laws
providing 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 in nongovernmental organizations, 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). In the West Bank and Gaza, Shari'a law pertaining
to women is part of the Jordanian Status Law of 1976, which includes
inheritance and marriage laws. Under the law, women inherit less
than male members of the family. The marriage law allows men
to take more than one wife, although few do so. Women are permitted
to make "stipulations" to protect them against 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. Following legal protests, the PA Ministry of Civil Affairs
in 1996 rescinded a law requiring women to obtain the written
consent of a male family member before it would issue them a travel
The PA requires compulsory education up to 12 years of age. Current
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. While there is no juvenile court system,
judges specializing in children's cases generally sit for juvenile
offenders. In cases where the child is the victim, judges have
the discretion to remove the child from a situation deemed harmful.
However, the system is not advanced in the protection afforded
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children among Palestinians.
People With Disabilities
There is no mandated accessibility to public facilities in the
occupied territories under either Israeli or Palestinian authority.
Approximately 130,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza
are disabled. Some Palestinian institutions care for and train
disabled persons; their efforts, however, are chronically underfunded.
Many Palestinians with disabilities are segregated and isolated
from Palestinian society; they are discriminated against in most
spheres, including education, employment, transportation, and
access to public buildings and facilities.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Labor affairs in the West Bank came under Palestinian 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 earlier Israeli stipulation
that all proposed West Bank unions apply for a permit is no longer
enforced. No new unions were established in 1997. Israeli authorities
previously have licensed about 35 of the estimated 185 union branches
now in existence. There are almost 30 licensed trade unions in
the West Bank and 6 in Gaza.
Palestinian workers in Jerusalem are governed by Israeli labor
law. They are free to establish their own unions. Although the
Government restricts Jerusalem unions from joining West Bank trade
union federations, this restriction has not been enforced. Palestinian
workers in Jerusalem may belong simultaneously to unions affiliated
with West Bank federations and the Israeli Histadrut Labor Federation.
West Bank unions are not affiliated with the Israeli Histadrut
federation. Palestinians 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 1995, 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. Palestinian workers are eligible
for some, but not all, NII benefits. According to the Interim
Agreement, Palestinians working in Israel continue to be insured
for injuries occurring in Israel, the bankruptcy of a worker's
employer, and allowances for maternity leave. The Israeli Government
agreed to transfer the NII fees collected from Palestinian workers
to the PA, which is to assume responsibility for the pensions
and social benefits of Palestinians working in Israel. Implementation
of this change is still underway.
The great majority of West Bank unions belong to the Palestinian
General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The PGFTU acted as
the informal coalition in the completion of the negotiations with
Histadrut regarding workers' fees. The reorganization of unions
under the PGFTU is intended to enable the West Bank unions and
Gaza unions to better represent the union members' interests;
the reorganization had not yet been finalized at year's end.
An estimated 86,000 workers are members of the PGFTU, the largest
union bloc. The PGFTU estimates actual organized membership,
i.e., dues-paying members, at about 30 percent of all Palestinian
No unions were dissolved by administrative or legislative action
during the year. Palestinian unions seeking to strike must submit
to arbitration by the PA Ministry of Labor. If the union disagrees
with the final arbitration and strikes, a tribunal of senior judges
appointed by the PA decides what, if any, disciplinary action
is to be taken. There are no laws in the territories that specifically
protect the rights of striking workers, and in practice, such
workers have little or no protection from an employer's retribution.
In March 25 members of the teachers union, who went on strike
over low wages, were imprisoned for 40 days in Nablus and Ramallah.
The PGFTU has applied for membership in the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
A majority of workers in the occupied territories are self-employed
or unpaid family helpers in agriculture or commerce. Only 35
percent of employment in the territories consists of wage jobs,
most with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),
the PA, or in municipalities. Collective bargaining is protected.
Labor disputes are adjudicated by committees of 3 to 5 members
in businesses employing more than 20 workers.
Existing laws and regulations do not offer real protection against
antiunion discrimination. One industrial zone is being developed
in the Gaza Strip.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
PA law does not specifically prohibit forced or compulsory labor,
including by children.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum
Age for Employment
The minimum working age in the West Bank and Gaza is 14 years,
but most observers agree that a significant number of Palestinian
children under the age of 16 years, and many under the age of
12 years, are engaged in some work activities. Most of this employment
is believed to involve work on family farms, in family shops,
or as urban street hawkers. Some employment of children is also
reported to occur in small manufacturing enterprises, such as
shoe and textile factories. The law does not specifically prohibit
forced or compulsory labor by children (see Section 6.c.).
The PA's capacity to enforce existing laws is limited, with 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 is currently no minimum wage in the West Bank or Gaza areas.
In the West Bank, the normal work week is 48 hours in most areas;
in Gaza the work week is 45 hours for day laborers and 40 hours
for salaried employees. There is no effective enforcement of
maximum work week laws.
The PA Ministry of Labor is responsible for inspecting work places
and enforcing safety standards in the West Bank and Gaza. The
Ministry of Labor says that newer factories and work places meet
international health and safety standards but that older ones
fail to meet minimum standards. 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.
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices