In certain aspects, the year 1998
witnessed a decrease in the human rights violations committed by the
Palestinian National Authority (PNA). In other aspects, violations
have decreased compared to those committed in 1997.
is finally beginning to realize the importance of avoiding committing
violations that provoke local and international public opinion. Only
two deaths in Palestinian prisons were reported during 1998, compared
to seven deaths during 1997.
Palestinian Television and radio stations were closed down by the PNA
during the British American aggression against Iraq on 16 December
1998, claiming that these stations broadcast material such as
demonstrations, in support of Iraq. However, this closure barely
lasted one day, compared to that which took place during the crisis
with Iraq in February 1998, where TV and radio stations were closed
for three months. It seems that the PNA is beginning to acknowledge
the widespread depression among the Palestinian people, and realize
that the PNA's own human rights abuses contributes to the people's
despair. The PNA understands that such violations damage its
credibility, and places a question mark on the genuineness of its
intentions to building a free civil society based on law and the
safeguarding of human rights. The PNA also realizes that its
violations of human rights are apparent, and easy to ascertain through
the work conducted by the PHRMG which monitors these violations
constantly, especially the violations committed by the security forces
against detainees in prisons and detention centers, who number about
151 in the areas controlled by the PNA.
due to the great advancements in telecommunications, the world seems
to be a very small place. This makes the PNA sense that it is subject
to heavy international monitoring, as well as international pressure.
The PNA duly recognizes the power of public opinion and its influence
through the material published in the media.
decrease in the number of deaths in Palestinian custody is only a
small compensation. Palestinian prisons remain crowded with prisoners,
some of whom have spent two or more years without being tried or
charged. The practice of torturing prisoners is increasingly
widespread. During the first six months of 1998, the PHRMG
managed to obtain 70 testimonies from directly from victims of torture
or from heir families. This number is astonishing. Moreover, the
numbers are probably even greater as dozens of victims and their
families have not found the courage to file complaints and give their
testimonies, either to the PHRMG, or to other human rights
PHRMG released a report on torture for the first six months of
1998 entitled: Torture: A State’s Tyranny. Some of those who
tortured Palestinian detainees were themselves victims of torture
under Israeli interrogation. This situation is very unfortunate
because it shatters the dreams of those who longed for a just peace
and a democratic Palestinian State.
of the press is still violated. Israel violated this freedom during
the thirty years of occupation, and today, the PNA joined Israel in
this in the areas under its control (less than 6%). Israeli violations
are increasing, especially in Hebron. Eight Palestinian journalists
were under heavy Israeli gunfire attack last March (13/3/1998). Most
of them were wounded by rubber bullets because they were filming the
settler’s attack on the residents of Abu Sneineh neighborhood in
PNA said that a free press exists in Palestine, it forced
self-censorship on the Palestinian media, whether in Jerusalem, in the
West Bank, or in Gaza. Palestinian security forces closed down most TV
and radio stations during the United Nations Gulf in February 1998.
Palestinian journalists were forbidden from filming demonstrations
against the American aggression on Iraq. They were especially
forbidden from filming demonstrators while they burnt the American and
Israeli flags. The Palestinian Ministry of Information released orders
to the local media not to release any comments related to the Iraqi
demonstrations in support of the Iraqi people, many Palestinian
journalists were arrested and severely beaten. In addition to their
cameras being destroyed.
October 1998, during the Wye Plantation signing ceremony, the
Palestinian police arrested 11 journalists, among them one American,
leaving the home of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin who was under house arrest.
The journalists were forbidden from making any interviews with Sheikh
Yassin, whose phone lines were disconnected. The PNA ordered that
anyone wishing to visit Yassin, obtain an order from the security
November 1998, in correlation with the Wye Plantation Agreement,
President Yasser Arafat released an order warning against any
provoking activities contrary to the agreement causing legislators and
judges to question its legality. The President, according to
constitutional regulations, has the right to release such orders in
the absence of the committee of representatives, but he does not have
the right to release them when a legislative authority in the
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is present. Only the Legislative
Authority has the right to release laws concerning the public.
the presidential order also included unclear statements. While using
the terms ‘provocation’ or ‘racial discrimination’, the order did not
define either. In the absence of a stable judicial system, which might
be able to interpret such orders, this situation causes unnecessary
misunderstanding regarding of the content of the order.