Delegation of Inquiry of the International Committee for Palestinian Human Rights (ICPHR) to the Occupied Palestinian Territories
-- Dr. Norbert Wimmer, Professor of Public Law at the University of
Innsbruck, alternate member of the Constitutional Court of Austria
-- Dr. Josef Unterweger, Attorney-at-Law, member of the Association of Critical Jurists, Vienna (Austria)
the Situation in the Occupied Territories
in Regard to the Hague Declaration and the Human Rights Convention
undersigned have been retained at the request of the International Progress
Organization and the Austrian-Arab Society between the 21st and 25th of February
1988 for investigate purposes in the Arab territories occupied by Israel (West
Bank and Gaza-Strip).
particular their commission called for the collection of facts and information
that would make possible a judgement on the human rights situation in this area.
In pursuit of this commission, the experts visited the cities of Jerusalem,
Hebron, Nablus and Gaza.
all these cities, they spoke with representatives of the Palestinian trade
unions, lawyers and distinguished Palestinian journalists. On the basis of their
on-the-spot-inquiries and their numerous interviews, the undersigned arrive at
the following statement.
II. General Situation
our own perceptions, the situation in the occupied territories presents itself
generally as follows:
December of 1987, the Palestinians proclaimed a general strike that at the time,
with few exceptions, was completely followed.
essence, this means that the businesses stay open only three hours (either in
the morning or in the afternoon). The schools are also closed. The entire public
life of the Palestinian territories stagnates. Until its lifting, the general
strike would just strengthen and intensify as the businesses were totally closed
an the twenty-third and twenty-fourth of February.
visitors, the occupied territories presented themselves as no-man's-land. The
streets, in particular in Gaza, Nablus and Hebron, were totally empty as is the
case for the eastern part of Jerusalem. People were only to be seen as lone
individuals; mostly youths, some of which carried stones in their hands. This
occurrence in the territories is not harmless -as Palestinian contacts
confirmed; the Palestinians take all passing cars and their passengers as strike
breakers and therefore assault them with stones. At any rate, the experts only
observed these "street-fighters" sporadically in Gaza.
more attention is raised by the presence of the Israeli occupying forces. The
occupied territories are completely encompassed by military forces. Heavily
armed military patrols police the settlements, and check-points have been
erected on the access roads.
noticeable tension fills the air that always finds expression in clashes between
the Palestinian civilian population and the military power. It is nevertheless
evident for the observer that potential disruptions by the Palestinians could be
kept under control by the Israelis on account of their military superiority.
general it should be noted that the entire infrastructure of the occupied
territories is in a thoroughly deplorable state. Long stretches of roads are
destroyed; when it rains they turn into little lakes that hardly permit transit.
The public buildings are devastated. Schools and public hospitals are in deep
it should be noted that the Palestinians suffer greatly under the general
strike, but they carry on, on account of its political meaning.
description to this point concerns the occupied territories in general. The
situation in the refugee camps is in itself still more precarious. Here there is
the particular danger, as also in the occupied territories, of an imminent
famine. Already the prices climb such that the population can hardly still
ensure their daily nutrition.
situation of Human Rights
following statement concerning human rights in the occupied territories is
orientated around the Hague Declaration of 1899 and the Additional Protocol to
the IVth Geneva Convention concerning the Protection of Civilians in Time of
War. From this basis, the following can be stated:
may be maintained for the time being that according to Article 43 of the Hague
Declaration, the public life in the occupied territories is to be upheld as long
as no imperative obstacle exists, "under observance of the laws of the
land", in which case current (Jordanian) law is to be applied.
contrast to this, it is obvious that valid laws preceding the occupation (i.e.
Jordanian laws) are extensively overshadowed and superseded by military orders.
From this principle, one can conclude that the occupying law breaks the law of
This condition becomes hardened by the
quantity of the existing military orders. There are over 1,200 military orders
in force at the moment, all of which supersede any previous provisions.
for only a fraction of these occupying laws an acceptable "compelling"
reason exists is demonstrated by example: the obtaining of a driver's license by
a Palestinian is dependent an the issue of permission from the military
governor. Also, the planting of a tree requires the permission of the occupying
replacement of Jordanian laws with the laws of the occupying power further
aggravates the situation because until 1981 the military orders were not
publicized. Since then they have been published but only in part and in Hebrew.
The least one could ask of a legal state is the publication of the laws, this
having been neglected.
Protection of Life
46 of the Hague Declaration,
life of the civilian population is protected under both Article 46 of the Hague
Declaration and Article 2 of the Human Rights Convention.
to this is the fact that since the beginning of the general strike in December
of 1987, more than sixty people have lost their lives at the hands of the
Israeli security forces.
examining each case, it can't be accepted by the comparison of the mostly
youthful victims and the well equipped and fully protected soldiers that in
every case, the latter must have taken such drastic measures in self-defense
against the youths.
experts were given an account in Nablus of two people from a nearby neighborhood
who were shot and then flogged as they lay on the ground.
present conflict has led not only to deaths but also to injuries. It was evident
during a visit to a private hospital in Nablus that a large number of the
heavily wounded were minors. In one case, even a disabled person (infantile
paralysis) was shot by a soldier. Wounds were found only seldom in the area of
the legs. A greater number were found an the upper and middle body.
on x-ray photographs and conversations with the attendant doctors, it was
ascertained that some of the bullets used were designed to explode within the
one case where several burns were diagnosed, it was established by a statement
from the victim that Israeli settlers doused the victim with gasoline and then
set fire to him.
summation, at the very least, it may be maintained that observance of the above
mentioned human rights provisions was not given in certain cases.
Prohibition Against Torture
the violation of this human rights provision could be observed first-hand.
According to testimony by Palestinian attorneys, torture is presently a widely
practiced means of discipline and frequently a component part of the
investigation. As a means of torture, particularly mentioned were:
- long lasting light deprivation,
-forced, long-lasting detention in the cold
without appropriate clothing,
-deprivation of the opportunity to relieve
50 of the Hague Declaration)
to testimony by attorneys, collective punishments are also applied as a means of
terrorizing the civilian population, especially after demonstrations. To the
numerous collective punishments belong:
-closing of business,
-evacuation of residences,
-relocation to inhospitable areas.
these means of sanctions, we see that they may effect not only the potential
"law breaker", but others who are not at all involved.
46 of the Hague Declaration, Article 1 of the First
violation of this human right is examined in a number of cases.
one, strategically favorable hilltops are transferred as property from
Palestinian ownership to the ownership of either Israeli civilians or the
Israeli state. This conflicts with Articles 53 and 55 of the Hague Declaration.
Property violations also result from official procedure as shown by the
destruction of Palestinian houses and their furnishings.
heavy property seizure can also be found where the fees for social works,
workers' health fund, and pension insurance are raised without corresponding
improvements in insurance coverage returns. This can only be evaluated as a
confiscation operation of the wage earnings of the Palestinian workers..
6 of the Human Rights Convention)
reference to this point we should refer briefly to the historical development.
By Jordanian law there would be a five member body of judges. In the course of
the strike, the Jordanian judges resigned in 1979. Soon afterward, their
positions would be occupied by the Israeli military authority.
A further set-back in the legal development came when the military authorities enacted a large number of military orders. These were only printed in part and were hardly comprehensible.
On the one side the military authorities set up a military tribunal, which presented itself as the final authority an all matters of civil administration, an the other side they have set up military courts that dominate all criminal matters. The cases the military courts deal with entail violations seen as "security offenses". Here the jurisdiction does
not appear to be exactly defined and the cases are not subject to review in the sequence of the courts. Moreover, the military courts have the authority, on any grounds, to take on a law case which is pending in a court with proper jurisdiction. Based on interviews with attorneys, the defendants will not be informed of the evidence against them or the subject of the bill of indictment for security reasons.
the past five years, the military courts have had three judges on the bench, all
of which would be officers. Only the presiding judge must be a jurist. There is
no possibility for appeal against the decisions of the military courts. The
judgements receive no review.
have told the experts that during their interrogation contact with their lawyer
that is normally permitted is not allowed, and the defendant remains arrested
for 18 days without any opportunity for a conversation.
these events are made known, where the evidence against the defendant entails
"secret documents", it can only be concluded that Article 6 of the
Human Rights Convention is not being honored.
Preservation of Political Rights
exercise of political rights, particularly as laid out in the Human Rights
Convention, is presently very much obstructed. In contradiction to Article 11 of
the Human Rights Convention, the Palestinians may not assemble. The freedom of
the press is also affected by a censor. For example, newspapers printed in
Jerusalem will not be legally distributed in either the West Bank or the
Gaza-Strip. Freedom of association is not guaranteed. Also, trade unions will be
broken up and the exercise of their activities hindered. The founding of
political parties is prohibited.
3 of the Second Additional Protocol
the Human Rights Convention)
to testimony by attorneys, 1,500 Palestinians have been deported (mostly to
Lebanon). The deportations occur mainly without explanation. In Nablus, the
experts visited the wife of a deported man. The first she had heard of the
deportation of her husband was from the radio. Appeals to the authorities have
been fruitless. It seems most of the deported are well educated.
III. Conclusion and Inferences
investigation has found that altogether in the occupied territories, there is
presently an abundance of serious human rights violations being committed by the
Israeli occupying power.
basis of these restrictions on security considerations for the state of Israel
can in no way be recognized as legitimate. Although individual suspension of
human rights in view of the raison d’état of the occupying state may
conform with humanitarian law, it is nevertheless intolerable that the security
risks of a state should be so defined that they represent a convenient platform
for every encroachment on civil rights.
state of things regarding the occupying power is also unreasonable because the
Israelis have a practical power monopoly and no threat is evident, neither from
a military or a state power.
should be noted that it is not a question of the arbitrary acts of violence by
the Israeli occupying forces. It is more the organizational way in which basic
human rights are taken away.
is no wonder that the Palestinian people have no trust in the continuity of
their governance, in the objectiveness of the administration of justice, and in
the propriety of the legislation.
appears as "ideal" fertile soil for the constant acts of aggression by
the occupying power, which would react in disproportionate ways to actions by
the native population.
accumulated violations of human rights by the Israelis in the occupied
territories - viewed by Israel as a matter limited to an area in a state of
emergency - conflicts with their basic responsibilities by the lowest standards
of a constitutional state. The basic rights and the constitutional state are
simply indivisible. This is also true in regard to human rights. Even the
partial suspension of these basic rights implies the danger that Israel
increasingly degenerates into a lawless state.
Jerusalem, 25 February 1988