Human Rights Watch today urged U.N. Security Council members to establish an international observer mission to monitor and report on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the continuing violent clashes in Gaza and the West Bank.

November 14, 2000

Your Excellency,

Human Rights Watch is writing to urge that the Security Council take prompt action to authorize the establishment of an international observer mission to monitor and report on the continuing violent clashes in Gaza and the West Bank. Serious and persistent violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have played a major part in sparking and sustaining these clashes. Monitoring and reporting on these violations should be at the core of the mission's mandate. As an impartial international presence, the mission could improve security for civilians while providing the international community with the independent and credible information needed to protect civilians.

Human Rights Watch has sent two fact-finding teams to the region since the outbreak of violence on September 29. Our research has documented a pattern of excessive and indiscriminate use of lethal force by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) when responding to Palestinian protests. Violent attacks on civilians by Israeli settlers and Palestinians using guns and stones are also on the rise, often with the tacit consent of the authorities on each side. Israel is increasingly resorting to the use of heavy weaponry such as helicopter gunships, light rockets, and tank fire to respond to Palestinian rifle fire. Human Rights Watch is concerned that this escalation will increase the number of civilian casualties.

The deployment of an international monitoring mission in this crisis has relevant precedents. There is currently a small international monitoring presence with a limited mandate in the city of Hebron, known as the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). Residents of Hebron as well as independent international observers find that the TIPH has made a positive contribution to limiting tensions by providing accurate confidential reports about incidents to Israeli and Palestinian authorities and to the governments contributing to the mission, and by offering a platform for discussion between Israeli and Palestinian officials. The arrival of TIPH observers at the scene of incidents has reportedly helped to defuse a number of explosive situations.

However, the impact of the TIPH mission is hampered by the strict limits placed on its mandate, which does not include a focus on human rights violations and prohibits TIPH monitors from publicly reporting their findings. To be most effective, an international monitoring presence in the West Bank and Gaza should have human rights at the center of its mandate, be empowered to report its findings publicly, especially in the absence of corrective action by the relevant authorities, and receive adequate resources to carry out its mandate.

Human Rights Watch recommends that this mandate be established prior to the deployment of the monitors, and that it specifically empower and oblige the mission to:

1. Freely monitor and investigate human rights conditions:

* Receive complaints of human rights violations from any person or group is or who was in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
* Travel freely and visit any site, including any suspected or known place of detention.
* Interview persons freely and in private, including detainees who have not yet been charged with a crime.

2. Monitor, report, and publicize abuses committed by Israeli and Palestinian security forces:

* Monitor the behavior of Israeli and Palestinian security forces and investigate incidents of harassment of or violence against civilians, as well as other human rights violations, including acts by private individuals undertaken with the explicit or tacit consent of authorities.
* Raise cases of violations of international human rights or humanitarian law with the appropriate authorities and recommend corrective action, including dismissal or prosecution.
* Report publicly violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, particularly in cases where the authorities have failed to take corrective action.
* Issue periodic public reports and briefings about the mission's activities and findings.

3. Monitor, report, and publicize conditions of detention:

* Monitor the treatment of persons in detention through regular visits to prisons, police stations, and suspected places of detention, including those located outside the Occupied Territories but holding persons detained in connection with the conflict.
* Interview detainees, freely and in private, including those who have not yet been charged with a crime.
* Raise objections with the authorities when access to detention facilities is denied or conditions deviate from international standards.
* Recommend corrective action, including dismissal or prosecution, and publicize those conditions when the authorities fail to take corrective action, including the prosecution of responsible officials.

The international community has deployed international monitoring missions to other areas of crisis, and the seriousness of this situation, as well as the regional implications of continued violence and widespread human violations, certainly warrant such a response now. A mission of this sort would establish an accurate picture of current patterns of rights violations and contribute to the restoration of a safe and secure environment for the civilian population.

Sincerely,


/S/

Kenneth Roth

Executive Director


/S/

Joanna Weschler

United Nations Representative