Amnesty slates Israel and Palestinians in report

By Bernard Josephs, May 30, 2008

Both the Palestinians and Israel have been heavily criticised in a major report issued this week by Amnesty International to mark the 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights.

Launching the report, the organisation’s secretary-general Irene Khan said it covered countries all over the world, but noted that in the Middle East the brunt seemed “to fall on civilians taking no part in conflict”.

She said: “Human-rights flashpoints demand immediate action. Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today.”

In its Middle East section, the London report said that both the Palestinians and Israel were guilty of a range of offences, including the targeting of civilians, the use of torture and the denial of economic and social rights.

But Israel appeared to attract most of the criticism, with its actions against Palestinian extremists being blamed for creating political and economic crises in Gaza and the West Bank.

Pinpointing Israel’s actions to prevent Palestinian rocket attacks against Negev townships, Amnesty said that 330 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, including children, were killed in the first four months of this year.

In the same period, 14 Israeli civilians and nine soldiers were killed in attacks by Palestinian armed groups using “home-made” Kassam rockets.

The human-rights situation in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories was “dire”, Amnesty said.

“The Israeli authorities continue to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and elsewhere and more than 500 military roadblocks continued to impede the movement of Palestinians.”

In Gaza, the Israeli blockade “had an increasingly disastrous impact” on its 1.5 million-strong population.

Methods used by Israel to interrogate suspected terrorists breached human-rights codes, said the report. They included “beating, lying in painful positions for prolonged periods and threats to harm the detainee’s relatives”.

In the Palestinian Authority,
Amnesty said that inter-factional political violence had escalated “dramatically” over the past year, with both Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas “committing grave human-rights abuses, including killings, arbitrary detention and torture”.

More than 300 Palestinians were killed in the fighting between the two groups and the “climate of lawlessness and impunity”, had escalated. There were cases of Hamas gunmen throwing Fatah officials and supporters from buildings.

From the report

“Israeli authorities frequently denied visiting permits to relatives of Palestinian detainees: the prohibition often appeared arbitrary. In June, the Israeli authorities suspended all family visits for 900 detainees from the Gaza Strip... no Israelis serving prison sentences were subjected to such restrictions...

“Many Hamas detainees alleged that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated by being beaten, tied in painful positions, and threatened. At least two died in detention."

Last updated: 10:40am, May 29 2008