Relevant Background


Rights Under Israeli Occupation and the Palestinian Authority

Palestinians living in the territories occupied by Israel have lived under military occupation with severe restrictions on their access to jobs, land and public services. In addition they have been victims of human rights and humanitarian law violations. In July 1998 Israel presented its initial report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the U.N. body of independent experts responsible for monitoring implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its two Optional Protocols. It was the first time that Israel had reported on the full range of civil and political rights guaranteed under international law. In its "Concluding Observations" on Israel's report the Human Rights Committee acknowledged Israel's security concerns, but identified twenty-one areas of concern, in some cases recommending specific steps to end the violations. (1)

In particular the Committee expressed concern over Israeli interrogation practices, urging Israel to cease using methods of handcuffing in painful positions, hooding, violent shaking and sleep deprivation that are believed to be authorized in Israel's confidential Landau Commission interrogation guidelines; the use of administrative detention; the use of prolonged solitary confinement; discrimination against Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, in particular in regard to planning and building permits and access to land and water; the Israeli security forces "use of firearms and rubber-coated metal bullets in dispersing demonstrations - resulting in many deaths, including of children; restrictions on Palestinians" freedom of movement, and on residency in East Jerusalem; and the practice of demolishing Arab homes as a means of punishment or because they were "illegally" constructed.

With regard to the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Committee urged Israel "to respect the right to freedom of movement provided for under article 12, including the right to return to one's country."

The concerns raised by the Human Rights Committee echoed those raised over the years by Human Rights Watch as well as other international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups. Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern about violations of international humanitarian law by Israel, such as the expansion of settlements in Gaza and the West Bank that are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention because they constitute transfers of population into occupied territory.

Following the establishment in September 1993 of a Palestinian Authority (PA) over most of Gaza and parts of the West Bank, the PA began issuing Palestinian passports to residents. While these are now widely recognized travel documents - including by Israel, the United States, and member states of the European Union - these passports do not confer citizenship on their holders because the PA does not yet have legal sovereignty over any territory.

The human rights record of the Palestinian Authority can be characterized by arbitrary detention without charge or trial, torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, grossly unfair trials, and restrictions on freedom of expression and association. In addition, efforts by individuals, non-governmental organizations, and the Palestinian Legislative Council to document and combat these violations have been constrained by the lack of a legal framework clearly specifying the duties and responsibilities of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. For example, the chief executive has frequently stalled laws passed by the legislative branch and the security services have often ignored court rulings ordering them to release detainees.

(1) Human Rights Committee report, United Nations (CCPR/C/79/Add.98).

Additional Information:

Human Rights Watch Publications on Israel / Israeli-Occupied Territories / Palestinian Self-Rule Areas

Israel's Record of Occupation: Violations of Civil and Political Rights
Human Rights Watch, August 1998


Relevant Background
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948)

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  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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  • Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (28 July 1951)

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  • United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948

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  • The Human Rights Committee General Comment on Article 12 of the International Covenant on civil and Political Rights (November 1999)

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  • Treatment and Rights in Arab Host States

  • Rights Under Israeli Occupation and the Palestinian Authority