The Palestinian Human Rights
Monitoring Group (PHRMG)
Annual Report 1999
Volume 4, Issue # 1, March 2000
by: Attorney Mervat Jaber, Researcher Nuha Abu-Diab & Walid Hadi
by: Bassem Eid, Rustom Khalayleh, Nisreen al-Muhtaseb, Nuha Abu-Diab
and Izzeddin al-Ruzzi
The Government of the Netherlands
The Moriah Fund
Norwegian Human Rights Fund
Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation
Finnish Representative Office to the PA
The John Merck Fund
The printing of this report was funded by:
The Palestinian Rights Programme of the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (UK) managed by the British Council
The PHRMG wishes also to thank the volunteers in the 1999 programme who
contributed to the work of the PHRMG, namely:
Michael Silverman, USA
Gerald Simpson, UK
Jessica Lieberman, USA
Samy Khalil, USA
Freedom: What is the Value of Citizenship?
In 1999, the Palestinian Authority continued
to violate the human rights of the Palestinian citizens, much to the
disappointment of the populace. The lack of police security in the
community and the absence of the rule of law have reduced the political
freedoms of Palestinian citizens. “Citizenship” in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip is being replaced by emergency laws and the stabilization of
military rule. According to the PHRMG, the PA disrespects Palestinian
human rights and establishes an atmosphere of aggression and brutality
which continually breaches the freedom of the citizens. During 1999, the
PA violated its citizens’ rights of personal freedom and security by
making arrests for strictly political reasons. They squelched freedom of
belief, expression and opinion by disrupting peaceful gatherings and
freedom of organisation by banning political parties.
Not only does this report shed light on the
violations committed in the areas mentioned in the contents, but it also
documents and analyses them in detail. The topics discussed here are
inextricably linked, and they are closely related to political freedoms
and rights. Our purpose here is to discuss them in detail and to present
them in a clear format.
Because “torture” is one of the topics that
deserves great attention, we have placed it in a separate section,
mentioning all forms of torture committed by all Palestinian security
services against political detainees. In 1999 at least one person died in
custody inside the PA’s prisons as a result of torture, and another
because of medical carelessness. Moreover, political detainees continue to
face harsh and degrading treatment by both interrogators and prison
We contend that every human holds the right
to freedom of opinion and expression. This includes adopting ideas without
interference, the freedom to look for and obtain information, and the
freedom to transmit the information through the media regardless of any
borders. Article 19 in the International Declaration of Human Rights
states that every individual has: a) the right to adopt opinions without
interference, and b) the right of free expression.
Similarly, the local legislation of the PA
(Article 9) states that every human being has the right to express
him/herself in writing, speech, media or art, in accordance with the rules
of the law. Article 2 of the press law # 5 for 1995 (issued by the PA)
states that press and printing are two distinct freedoms, and that the
freedom of expression is guaranteed for every Palestinian. Moreover, the
Article claims that each Palestinian may express his/her opinion freely
through all means of media and expression.
Yet these declarations of freedom of
expression have not prevented the PA from arresting and abusing the
academic and political figures who signed the “Petition-20.”
Petition-20 … a promising breakthrough, aborted by the PA
“After six years of Oslo, more land is
confiscated, settlements expand and increase, conspiracies against the
issue of refugees take place behind the scenes, Palestinian prisons are
filled with the sons of Palestine, Jerusalem is still occupied, and the
people are divided into two categories: a minority that tyrannize and
plunder, and a majority that suffer and seek salvation…” with such words,
20 Palestinian intellectuals and Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)
members exploded with outrage, ringing the bell of danger in every
Palestinian village, camp and town, after a six-year period of supressed
This was the Petition-20, “The homeland
calls for us!” which exposed the PA’s lies and deliberate attempts to
mislead the Palestinian populace.
Contrary to views held by the PA, this
document was not written by a derelict few. It is a public message which
expressed growing frustration and outrage regarding the performance of the
PA in both the negotiations (with Israel) and the internal situation.
President Arafat asked all members of the Fateh block in the Palestinian
Legislative Council to consider lifting parliamentary immunity from those
members who had signed the Petition-20 and to present them to the State
Security Court if they didn’t rescind their positions. The PA detained
some signatories and placed them under house arrest, accusing them of
having “connections with parties outside the country,” deliberately
stirring internal dispute. These actions contradict the right of citizens
to express their opinions and oppose the basic principles of democracy. In
fact, the PA’s reaction perpetuated the practice of political detention,
and further factionalized the Palestinian community.
On Wednesday, 1 December 1999, the Fateh
movement in Ramallah organised a rally, and the PA asked schools to stop
teaching so that people could participate in it. The young men of Fateh
shot explosives from the roofs of buildings during the rally. It is
interesting to note that while Fateh members were allowed to express their
opinions through gunfire, members of other political parties are not
permitted to express themselves in writing.
On that same day, the PLC announced its
decision regarding the Petition-20 after a closed session held in Gaza.
The PHRMG wishes to respond to that by stating the following points:
We condemn discussing this important issue
in a closed session away from the mass media and the public, because the
Palestinian people have the right to know what transpires in the PLC,
particularly if the case concerns the whole of society.
The petition itself is a precise description
of the current Palestinian situation. It is clearly not a call for
internal dispute or incitement; but on the contrary, is an expression of
angst from honest individuals who have become spectators in the workings
of their own alleged democracy.
condemnation must be addressed to that minority who intentionally misled
the judiciary, and encouraged the absence of justice and law. Apology must
be presented to the Palestinian people who suffered many years, and
continue to suffer from injustice and corruption.
WHO SHOULD WARN, CONDEMN, AND APOLOGIZE?
The PA cannot
successfully stifle facts and opinions by attacking those who attempt to
speak their minds, violating their freedoms, or attempting to erase
memories of political injustice.
will never be achieved in the absence of a democratic political regime
based on pluralism, and any peace agreements with Israel will not be legal
unless they are supported by a wide Palestinian national referendum.
The PLC’s decision to
form a special committee to observe the behavior of its members represents
a serious precedent that contradicts parliamentary norms and standards,
since this committee, according to the decision, will have the power to
recommend lifting the immunity from members of the PLC. This, in turn,
means that the PLC will become busy observing and evaluating the behaviour
of its members, instead of evaluating the performance of the Executive
Authority. More dangerous than this is that this decision resulted from a
demand presented by the Executive Authority.
Since its formation,
the PLC has never forced a single demand on the Executive Authority. Thus,
the Executive Authority has grown to dominate the legislative body, which
violates the democratic principle of separation of powers.
After a period
that has witnessed disrespect of public freedoms, disregarding of human
rights, and the prevalence of corruption, Petition-20 came as a new light
of hope and a promising new start. Yet the prevailing powers killed it in