In a report issued today, Human Rights today calls on the Government of Israel to withdraw a draft law that would exempt the State and its security forces from liability for the wrongful injury and killing of Palestinians during the intifada. The law, if adopted by the Knesset, would prevent Palestinians from seeking damages in Israeli courts, and instead direct them, in a limited number of cases, to seek compensation from a government committee.

Until now, West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians have been able to sue for damages in Israeli courts and have, in a fair number of cases, been successful in collecting monetary damages from the State of Israel. Some 1,000 Palestinians were killed and approximately 18,000 were injured during the intifada, according to Israeli army records; human rights organizations state that the numbers are higher, especially with regard to injuries.

In its report, Legislating Impunity, Human Rights Watch charges that the draft law at once blatantly discriminates against Palestinians and seeks to deprive them of their internationally recognized right to seek fair compensation for human rights violations committed against them.

"This law should be simply abandoned because, however you amend its provisions, its very essence is to deprive persons who were wrongfully injured of their right to seek compensation," said Eric Goldstein, Acting Director of Human Rights Watch/Middle East. "If Israeli civil courts are stripped of jurisdiction over these complaints, it will weaken one of the few existing mechanisms for holding Israeli security forces accountable for their treatment of Palestinians, and remove a deterrent against the commission of abuses in the future."

In issuing this report, Human Rights Watch endorses the call by a coalition of leading Israeli human rights organizations to withdraw the draft law.