Adalah Participates in Meeting with Ms. Mary
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
NGO Meeting in Jerusalem, 9 November, 2000
Statement of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority
Rights in Israel
Presented before Ms. Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, NGO Meeting in Jerusalem, 9 November, 2000
We would like to thank the UN High Commissioner, Ms. Mary Robinson, for holding this meeting today with Palestinian and Israeli NGOs. We know that this meeting was difficult to arrange, as the Israeli government excluded the NGO community from your scheduled appointments. We appreciate the efforts you took, through different channels, to meet with us.
We understand that you are visiting Israel pursuant to the UN Human Rights Commission Resolution of 19 October to establish an International Inquiry Committee to investigate human rights abuses by the Israeli government against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. We welcome you in this capacity; however, we deeply regret the fact that the mandate of the international inquiry commission excludes an investigation of human rights abuses against the Palestinian minority within Israel. As you know, 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel were shot and killed by Israeli police during clashes, and hundreds more were injured. A representative of Adalah, Mr. Muhammed Dahleh, presented a well-documented report of Adalah’s findings of human rights abuses to the UN Human Rights Commission Emergency Session on Israel/Palestine on 17-18 October 2000. However, an investigation of human rights abuses against Palestinian citizens of Israel was exluded from the International Inqury Committee’s mandate.
For the past few weeks, Adalah, the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian community in Israel as a whole, has struggled with the Israeli government to form a legally sanctioned Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights abuses on a national scale. These efforts have proved successful, thus far, as yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Barak rescinded plans to form a Committee of Examination, which would have had limited powers, and instead announced the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry in accordance with the 1968 law of Commissions of Inquiry. This Commission will have a greater ability to collect information and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes. Adalah welcomes this decision of the Israeli government; however, we regret that it took the government so long to reach this decision, and we express concern that this decision alone is not enough to ensure that justice will be served.
The President of the Supreme Court, Justice Aharon Barak, will appoint the members of the Commission. Adalah hopes that Justice Barak will appoint members whose commitment to human rights is not in question. The composition of the Commission is vital; as otherwise, serious questions will arise as to whether the Commission is being used as a tool to legitimize police brutality against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Adalah is also concerned about the mandate of the Commission. Adalah urges the Commission of Inquiry to adopt a strong mandate to investigate the circumstances under which 13 Palestinian citizens were shot to death and hundreds more were wounded, and to examine the policy under which the police and security forces acted, rather than focusing on the “inciters” of the clashes, as is emphasized in the appointing document of the Commission.
The main issue we wish to bring before you today is the issue of Palestinian detainees. According to official statistics, between September 28 and October 30, about 1000 Israeli citizens were arrested, 660 of who are Palestinian, and 203 Palestinian citizens of Israel are held without bond until the end of their trials. (Please see attached: Statistics on the Arrested and Detained, 9/28-10/30/00, obtained by Adalah from the Ministry of Justice and the Police.)
Since October 30, the Israeli police have massively arrested more Palestinians including tens of minors. Of extreme concern is the detention of Palestinian minors, and the discriminatory treatment of Palestinian detainees by the Israel’s courts.
Police have entered Arab villages in the early hours of the morning and arrested tens of Palestinian citizens each night in their homes. Furthermore, police cars have waited at village entrances to check IDs. At these internal checkpoints, tens of arrests have also been made.
Two days ago, 17 Palestinian citizens of Israel from Nazareth, ten of whom are minors, were arrested at 3am from their homes by 25 armed police officers. This also occurred three days ago in the Arab village of Jatt in the Triangle, when 12 Palestinians were arrested, seven of who are minors.
In every case involving Palestinian citizens, the Attorney General and State Prosecutor’s policy is to request detention without bond until the end of their trials and maximum punishment for all of those already indicted. The State Prosecutor’s office also appeals every decision of release involving Palestinian detainees obtained in the Magistrate and District courts. The State Prosecutor’s office does not follow this policy for Israeli Jewish detainees and thus discriminates between Palestinians and Israeli Jews. The purpose of these policies is deterrence. This is illegal according to Israeli law. The Supreme Court of Israel has also accepted these policies as legal and legitimate.
In October, the Supreme Court heard seven appeals of people detained without bond until the end of their trials. In each case, the Supreme Court decided to keep people including minors under detention on the grounds that calm has not yet been restored. The Court held that only when the country returns to calm, would it consider the release of the detainees. This is also a clear violation of Israeli law on detention. The Court refused to consider the legally mandated factors of detention including dangerousness and alternatives to incarceration.
We hope that the High Commissioner will consider our statement and all the written materials that we have provided to you today. And we hope that the High Commissioner will investigate the rights abuses against Palestinian citizens of Israel under her mandate as the chief UN human rights enforcer.
Remarks to the UN HCHR Visit Report – Palestinian
Citizens of Israel
18 December 2000
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Via Fax: 014-41-22-917-9003 (3 pages)
Re: Remarks to the UN HCHR Visit Report – Palestinian Citizens of Israel
Dear Ms. Robinson,
On behalf of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, I want to thank you for meeting with representatives of the organization, as well as with other Palestinian and Israeli NGOs in Jerusalem last month. It is very important to us that you afforded time, despite all political obstacles and the exclusion of the Palestinian minority from the UN Human Rights Commission’s 19 October Resolution, to listen to the concerns of Palestinian NGOs regarding Israel’s gross violation of human rights against Palestinian citizens during the current intifada.
We recently received and reviewed your visit report of 29 November 2000 entitled “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights; Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine.” We wish to convey our remarks concerning the report, both positive and critical. It is our hope that by doing so, our position will become clearer and our future cooperation will be enhanced.
It is extremely important that Israel’s violations of human rights against Palestinian citizens be addressed in international forums, such as the United Nations, with the mandate to hold governments responsible for upholding international human rights standards and norms. Thus, we welcome your report, and its description of the situation of Palestinian citizens in Israel. However, we regret that the High Commissioner for Human Rights used language far more descriptive than normative. According to the report, the mandate of your visit, among other things, “…requires [you] to promote and protect the effective enjoyment by all of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.” This is a strong mandate, and we believe that the report does not fulfill this requirement.
We were disappointed to see that the report dedicated 6 paragraphs (about 1 page of 20) to the situation of Palestinians in Israel, generally, and specific human rights abuses during the intifada. While we welcome the report’s mention of the historical and continuing discrimination; the Israeli police’s use of brutal and excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators, which led to the death of 13 Palestinian citizens and the wounding of hundreds more; the illegal arrest and detention policy of the Attorney General; the detention of Palestinian minors; and Palestinian NGO skepticism over the newly-appointed Commission of Inquiry, we regret that these issues were afforded nearly the same amount of attention as Israel’s possible establishment of a national, independent human rights commission and a meeting with Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak and the Court’s recent decision (parenthetically, which has not been implemented). The very urgent, pressing and emergency human rights concerns of a vulnerable, minority community – politically, economically and socially – with more than 700 Palestinian citizens arrested and about 250 detained without bond until the end of their trials, certainly warrants more attention from the UN Office of the High Commissioner. See also Amnesty International Report, “Israel and the Occupied Territories: Mass Arrests and Police Brutality,” November 2000.
Most troubling however is the report’s lack of a specific call to the Israeli government to halt its continuing human rights violations against Palestinian citizens of the state. Not one of the report’s “conclusions and recommendations” specifically addresses the illegal police actions, the excessive use of lethal force, and the denial of due process rights of Palestinian citizen detainees brought before the Israeli courts. While the report briefly describes these abuses, it does not condemn the Israeli government’s gross violation of human rights against Palestinian citizens, nor does it demand that Israeli human rights violators be held accountable for and brought to justice.
Lastly, we wish to point out that the term “Arab Israelis,” as used in the report, is a term coined by the Israeli government, and does not represent the identity of the Palestinian minority in Israel. The community self-identifies as Arab and Palestinian citizens of Israel. We hope that international organizations, such as the United Nations, will begin to use our terms of self-identification, rather than supporting the government’s classification, which undermines the perception of the group as a national minority.
Regarding the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, we welcome your support for the widespread call for an international monitoring presence and international protection, and for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to begin to assume their responsibilities under the Convention. Your conclusions and recommendations on these points are very important to the Palestinian community everywhere. We take issue, nonetheless, with the report’s attempt to unfairly balance the situation. The report states that the history of this region is extremely complex, and that each side has its own narrative. However, international human rights standards and UN Resolutions are clear, as are their violation on a day-to-day basis. We believe that the report, by using a terminology of balance, places the concerns of the occupying force, Israel, on the same level as the occupied, the Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. By juxtapositioning the “daily reality of life under occupation” with Israel’s security concerns, as in paragraph 23, the report seems to equate these two realities and somehow legitimize the army’s excessive use of force against Palestinians, the closure, the economic sanctions, the destruction of property, the settlements, etc. In light of the fact that from 29 September to 2 December 2000, Israeli security forces killed more than 200 Palestinian civilians and wounded about 10,000 more, we believe that the report should have taken a strong and clear stand against Israeli violations of human rights standards as such.
Again, we appreciated the opportunity to meet with you, and we welcome the inclusion of some information about discrimination and human rights abuses by the Israeli government against Palestinian citizens in the report. With both of these actions, we believe that a new channel of communication has opened between us, and that issues relating to the Palestinian minority in Israel are beginning to receive some urgently needed attention by the international community. It is in this spirit that we offer our remarks to the report, and hope that in the future, the Office of the Human Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Commission will examine and investigate the systematic discrimination and human rights abuses against Palestinian citizens, and hold the Israeli government to its commitments under international human rights law.
Prime Minister, Ehud Barak
Minister of Justice, Yossi Beilin
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shlomo Ben Ami
Chairman, High Follow-up Committee for Arab Affairs, Muhammed Zeidan
Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, Chief Technical Advisor, OHCHR, Gaza Office
Karim Ghezraoui, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR, Geneva