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United Nations
In March Kofi Annan made the first official visit by a United Nations secretary-general to Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in June issued a statement deploring Israel’s expansion of the boundaries of Jerusalem. The Security Council adopted a presidential statement on July 13 calling on Israel not to proceed with its plan to expand Jerusalem’s boundaries and urging it to abide by its Fourth Geneva Convention obligations.

Hannu Halinen, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, noted in his March report to the U.N. that his work had been limited by the uncooperativeness of the Israeli government, which failed to provide direct information or to allow him to visit prisons in Israel.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviewed Israel’s periodic report on March 4 and 5, and found the convention to be “far from fully implemented in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The committee recommended Israel introduce legislation to implement its obligations under Articles 4 and 5, which address the prohibition of racial and ethnic discrimination and the guarantee of equality under the law, and give high priority to ensuring the right of Palestinians to return and possess their homes in Israel or claim compensation.

The Committee against Torture reviewed Israel’s periodic report on May 14 and 18, and reiterated its position that Israeli interrogation practices violated Articles 1, 2, and 16 of the convention, which define torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment and the state’s obligation to prevent it. It called upon Israel to incorporate the convention’s provisions into Israeli law, and publish its “Landau” interrogation procedures. The committee also recommended Israel review its practice of administrative detention in the occupied territories to ensure conformity with Article 16, which obligates states to prevent cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Human Rights Committee reviewed Israel’s first report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on July 15 and 16. The committee identified twenty-one areas of concern, including practices discriminating against Palestinians living in the OccupiedTerritories, Arab Israelis, women, and Bedouin; the use of rubber-coated bullets in dispersing demonstrations; the use of prolonged solitary confinement; and the lack of provision for civil marriage and burial. It found Israel’s interrogation and administrative detention practices, including holding persons as “bargaining chips,” to violate the convention’s non-derogable prohibition of torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and it criticized Israel’s failure to incorporate the covenant into domestic law and to fully apply it in all the territories it controlled, including those in Lebanon.

The General Assembly, meeting in Emergency Special Sessions on November 13, 1997 and March 17, 1998, passed resolutions calling for the high contracting parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to convene a conference on measures to enforce the convention in the occupied Palestinian territories. The resolutions recommended Switzerland convene a meeting of experts to prepare for the conference, and set February and then April as target dates for the meeting. In July the Swiss sponsored a closed meeting of Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the International Committee of the Red Cross to discuss matters related to the convention’s effective application in the territories, but as of mid-October had not set a date for a conference of high contracting parties.

The General Assembly voted on July 7 to upgrade Palestine’s status in the U.N., increasing its delegation to six members, and granting it additional rights and privileges to participate in the General Assembly and U.N. conferences. The new status did not include the right to vote or nominate candidates.

European Union
European Union foreign ministers expressed concern with the stalemate in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and sharply criticized Israeli settlement policies, but rarely publicly raised human rights concerns. In February the E.U. Council of Ministers expressed “grave concern” over closures and other Israeli obstacles to Palestinian economic development. Following Britain’s assumption of the E.U. presidency, Prime Minister Tony Blair noted the negative economic impact of “restrictions on the free movement of Palestinian goods and people,” but did not address the closures as a form of collective punishment prohibited under international humanitarian law. In mid-May the European Commission criticized Israel for interfering with the operation of an interim E.U. trade agreement with the PA and for attempting improperly to market in Europe as “made in Israel” goods originating in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories under the preferential provisions of an interim Israel-E.U. trade agreement.

As of October, France and Belgium had yet to ratify the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the E.U. and Israel.

The E.U. continued to be the largest single donor to the PA, including funding of security forces and a counterterrorism program. Between 1993 and 1997, the E.U. allocated ECU 1.68 billion (U.S. $ 1.88 billion) for the Palestinian-controlled areas and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Council of Ministers, in its statement following the February 23 meeting, underlined E.U. concern regarding the PA’s adherence to commitments regarding transparency and accountability. On March 6, U.K. Foreign Minister Robin Cook, then president of the E.U. Council of Ministers, announced an extension of E.U. funding to the PA, continuing at the rate of approximately ECU 80 million per year, and ECU 30 million to UNRWA. On March 17, Foreign Minister Cook announced the establishment of a European Union/Palestinian Joint Permanent Security Committee, towards which the E.U. was contributing LS 5 million (U.S. $8.3 million). A Joint Declaration on E.U./Palestinian Security Cooperation, which remained classified, was signed at British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s meeting with PA President Yasir ‘Arafat in Gaza in April. On July 9 Foreign Minister Cook said that the U.K. had also seconded a security advisor to the staff of E.U. Special Envoy Miguel Moratinos.

United States
Israel remained the largest recipient of U.S. bilateral aid, receiving approximately U.S.$3 billion in economic and military assistance. The U.S. continued to be the principle third party in the Israeli-PLO negotiations, where its diplomatic efforts focussed on meeting Israeli security concerns, further Israeli troop redeployments, movement toward permanent status talks, and what Secretary of State Albright termed “a time-out on unhelpful unilateral steps.” In practice, this meant U.S. criticism of “provocative” actions it saw as undermining the negotiations, such as Israel’s June decision to expand Jerusalem’s borders, but almost no discussion of Israeli human rights abuses.

The U.S. continued to pressure the PA to act decisively against anti-Israeli violence. U.S. pressure was often applied in a manner that, in light of the past record of the PA, condoned arbitrary arrests and other abuses in the name of containing this violence. In December 1997 the U.S. drafted a Memorandum of Understanding on principles to govern PA performance on security and counterterrorism, which was incorporated into the Wye Memorandum, signed by Israel and the PA on October 23. The memorandum, a result of nine days of high level U.S.-sponsored negotiations, included Israeli and PA commitments to “take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime, and hostilities.” PA implementation of the security aspects of the memorandum was to be supervised by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency officials. The agreement did not include a clear commitment by all sides to safeguard human rights.

The U.S. provided an annual U.S.$100 million in economic support funds to the West Bank and Gaza, most for programs supporting economic development and strengthening administrative and policy-making institutions.

Relevant Human Rights Watch reports:
Israel’s Record of Occupation: Violations of Civil and Political Rights , 8/98







Israel, The Occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority Territories

Saudi Arabia





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