of the Council
- Press Office -
Brussels, 21 September 1999
EU HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT
(1 FEBRUARY - 15 JUNE 1999)
The EU Member States' Consuls general in Jerusalem and Heads of Mission in Tel Aviv regularly draw up reports on the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories ("EU Human Rights Watch").
Following is a summary of their latest watch report, covering the period 1 February - 15 June 1999.
1. During the period under review, Israel's position on torture has remained the same: that is to say that what is described as "moderate physical pressure" is allowed by law in certain situations. This can involve hooding, shackling, sleep deprivation and the placing of detainees in painful positions for several hours at a time. Human rights groups such as the Israeli group B'Tselem estimate that as many as 85 per cent of the 1000-1500 Palestinians interrogated by the Israeli GSS security service each year are exposed to these techniques. A Palestinian prisoner died at Beersheva prison on 17 May. His death was not believed to be related to interrogation techniques, but human rights groups have accused Israeli authorities of medical negligence.
2. The Israeli Supreme Court is presently considering an NGO appeal to end the practice of moderate physical pressure.
3. The number of Palestinian administrative detainees held in Israeli prisons without trial stayed even at 72 across the period. But this figure conceals a round of arrests in February and some subsequent releases.
4. The number of Palestinians who died at the hands of the Israeli security forces was much lower in this period than the last, although it is not obvious that this resulted from any change in the Israeli security forces' policy towards the use of lethal force. A soldier shot dead a Palestinian at an improvised checkpoint on 3 June.
5. Closures were imposed on the Occupied Territories for 8 days during this period. These were for Israeli holidays/the elections, and were not prompted by specific security threats.
6. According to figures supplied by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior to an Israeli newspaper, 117 ID cards giving Jerusalem residency rights were withdrawn from Palestinians in the first five months of this year.
7. According to the B'Tselem human rights group, 45 structures belonging to Palestinians were demolished between 1 January and 10 June 1999.
II. CONDUCT OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
8. The Palestinians cannot ratify international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the Convention Against Torture, as Palestine is not an independent state, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is forbidden by the terms of the Oslo Agreement from doing so. But we recall that:
- President Arafat has publicly stated on several occasions that the PA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights standards and to incorporating them fully into Palestinian Law. For example he spoke to this effect at the Palestinian Legislative Council on 7 March 1998.
- The PA/PLO is a signatory to the Barcelona Declaration, whose basic principles include respect for the democratic process and for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- The PA/PLO is bound by its Interim Association Agreement with the EC whose article 2 states that respect of democratic principles and fundamental human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration should guide the parties' international policy and constitute an essential part of the agreement.
9. The situation in the areas under full control of the PA continues to fall short of required human rights standards.
10. Torture is reported to be frequent in Palestinian prisons and detention centers. One man required hospital treatment after apparently having been tortured while in detention.
11. At least 200 people continue in detention without trial, a large number of whom have been detained for over a year. Detainees whose release has been ordered by the High Courts remain in many cases still in detention.
12. Persons accused of tax evasion and fraud have again been tried in State Security Courts during this period.
13. It was reported by the Palestinian press that President Arafat has decided to establish a Supreme Judicial Council, a recommendation of human rights groups campaigning for a more effective judicial system. President Arafat appointed a Chief Justice and an Attorney General (another key recommendation).
14. An execution took place (of Ahmed Atiya Abu Mustafa, convicted of the sexual abuse of a minor and of incitement against the Palestinian Authority) and a death sentence was passed (against Raed al-Attar, for killing Preventive Security captain Rifaat Joudeh).
15. Two politically radical newspapers had their offices raided by Palestinian security forces, and a television station was closed down for an indefinite period because of alleged blasphemy.
16. A proposed law on NGOs has provoked a dispute between the Executive and the Legislative Council. Arafat has refused to sign the law as ratified by the Legislative Council. The Minister of Justice has accused human rights NGOs collectively of "fighting the Palestinian people" and of financial impropriety, and has promised strong measures against them.
17. Democratic municipal elections remain overdue, although there are indications that they may take place in 1999. The Basic Law, which would enshrine democratic norms and human rights standards in law, has not yet been ratified by Arafat.