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Human Rights Developments

The Middle East and North Africa remain plagued by severe human rights problems. The torture of political detainees is commonplace, and often routine. Extrajudicial executions and executions after trials lacking in due process take place with regularity in Iraq, Iran and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia. In the past, the Syrian authorities have been guilty of this abuse as well. Arguably, the killing of suspected militants in Egypt and the Israeli-occupied territories, when arrests could have been effected-a feature of the civil strife plaguing both regions-also constitute extrajudicial executions by government agents. In counterpoint, armed underground groups often assassinate suspected opponents in these regions, as well as in Algeria.

The officially sanctioned persecution of religious or ethnic minorities, or the absence of government protection in the face of attacks by members of the majority community, is an endemic problem in parts of the Middle East. For instance, during 1992, Palestinians and Bedoon residents of Kuwait endured unrelenting pressures aimed at forcing them out of the country; Baha'is and evangelical Christians faced renewed persecution in Iran. The arbitrary detention of government opponents is also rampant throughout the region. From Morocco to Iran, tens of thousands are in jail on politically motivated grounds; even the Kurdish authorities, ruling over an autonomous enclave of some 3.5 million people in northern Iraq, resorted in late 1992 to the detention without charge of hundreds of sympathizers of militant parties.

The end of the Cold War and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union transformed prospects for the promotion of human rights in the Middle East and North Africa (the Maghreb states). Without the superpower rivalries that produced competing patterns of client states, and allowed geopolitical considerations to override a client's domestic record, there is little excuse any longer to ignore rights abuses. Other considerations-the maintenance of the U.S.-led military alliance against Iraq, in 1990 and 1991, and the coaxing of Arab states into peace negotiations with Israel, later in 1991-have been used by U.S. officials to justify the overlooking, or subordination, of legitimate human rights concerns. In Middle East Watch's judgement, however, such arguments are short-sighted and fail to respond to the propitious climate in the regional countries themselves for a consistent policy based on universal principles.

Governments in the region are showing heightened, albeit usually grudging, recognition of the need to take human rights principles into account in dealing with their own people and with foreign powers. Although they remain banned in many parts, local monitoring groups have become increasingly vocal in countries as diverse as Egypt, Syria and Kuwait. The lead taken by the United Nations Security Council in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War strengthened this trend. By intervening to avert a human rights crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan, and then, in 1992, by treating Iraq's human rights record as a matter integral to the maintenance of peace and security, the Security Council imbued the principles of human rights with added importance.

In the context of the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, which entered their second year in October 1992, there were indications that some regional parties to the talks saw human rights principles as a useful component of regional accords. In late summer, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations agreed to establish working groups on human rights matters in their bilateral discussions.

Filling a perceived spiritual and ideological vacuum in the region is the growth of groups seeking to establish theocratic states. The spread of political Islam has brought new threats to rights, particularly from violent fringe groups using the Islamic slogan to wage war against civil society and political establishments. The assassination in Egypt of an avowedly secular writer, Dr. Faraj Fouda, by the Jama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) was one such example.

The challenge of political Islam triggered a harsh response by several governments. Algeria and Tunisia provided dismal examples of governments that had previously encouraged freer expression and association, but in 1992 slid back into old repressive ways. In the course of suppressing their respectiveIslamist parties, the Islamic Salvation Front (fis) and al-Nahda, the Algerian and Tunisian regimes subverted normal legal processes, abused detainees and curbed press freedom. Egypt adopted a troublesome two-pronged response: seemingly tolerating some of the abuses being committed by Islamist militants against the Coptic Christian minority, while giving security forces virtually unrestrained license to torture and detain for lengthy periods suspected Islamic extremists.

Even those governments that avowedly base their legitimacy on religious grounds, such as Iran, or uphold strict interpretations of Islam, as in Saudi Arabia, faced internal challenges in 1992 from religious extremists. While their demands differed, they were openly hostile to core principles enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Rights abuses committed, or condoned, by authorities often seemed to flow from these internal pressures. The enforcement of stricter standards in Iran with respect to women's public dress and appearance, already severely constrained by official guidelines, was one example. Another was the renewed persecution of Baha'is, always a convenient scapegoat. Or Saudi Arabia's increased zeal in the persecution, and in one case execution, of perceived heretics, or the virtual closure of its borders to any form of international scrutiny, whether by journalists or human rights organizations.

The Algerian coup of January 1992, aimed at preventing the fis from assuming power peacefully through the ballot box, was followed by the banning of the party, dissolution of fis-run municipal councils, and arbitrary detention of thousands of its suspected followers. As of the end of November, no new date had been set for a restoration of the democratic process that was so rudely interrupted by a political and military establishment that preferred the status quo to allowing a freely elected Islamist party to control parliament.

In the summer of 1992, Tunisia used the pretext of an alleged conspiracy in 1990-1991 by the Nahda party (to overthrow the government and assassinate the president) to put nearly 300 persons on trial before military courts. Government officials privately described the lengthy jail terms resulting from the mass trials as the effective end of an Islamist party that had long troubled the secular ruling establishment. In Middle East Watch's view, the defendants' claims that many confessions used as government evidence had been obtained under torture, as well as irregularities in court procedures, undermined the validity of the judgments.

In the Israeli-occupied territories, severe human rights abuses continued on a large scale during 1992, despite two far-reaching developments that might have been expected to improve the human rights situation: the pursuit of regional peace talks, and the ouster of Israel's Likud-led government by a center-left coalition dominated by the Labor Party. While there was a decline in abusive forms of administrative control and punishment, such as deportations, administrative detention, school closings, house demolitions and round-the-clock curfews, there was no let-up in the use of often unjustified lethal force against Palestinian activists and the use of torture against suspects in detention. Some extremist Palestinians continued to kill suspected collaborators with Israeli authorities, sometimes after torture.

Not all the developments during 1992, from a rights standpoint, were bleak. Two countries where the overall situation has improved and institutions of civil society have begun to develop are Jordan and Yemen.

Since the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, over 40 political parties and scores of newspapers and magazines have sprung up, with opposition publications openly criticizing the government. Yemen's first parliamentary elections since unification, anticipated in November 1992, were delayed until April 1993 on administrative grounds. When it is held, the Yemeni poll will be the first legislative contest in the Arabian peninsula based on universal suffrage and competition between political parties. Politically motivated assassinations mar this otherwise promising prospect.

In Jordan, the new era of pluralism ushered in by the 1989 parliamentary election continued. In April 1992, King Hussein decreed the full repeal of much-criticized martial law, in force since 1967. Over 50 political groups nowoperate openly. A political parties law that would allow these groups to apply for formal legal status was passed by parliament, and came into effect in August. Political parties had been banned in Jordan since 1957.

Elections in Kuwait, in October 1992, were considered to be open and fairly contested; opposition candidates gained an unexpected plurality of elected seats in the restored National Assembly. But the poll was flawed by the exclusion of women and the narrowness of the electorate, restricted to some 11 percent of the native population.

Apparently in response to external pressures, a number of regional states have taken modest steps to improve their human rights records. In late 1991, Syria released several thousand political prisoners; starting in August 1992, hundreds of other long-term detainees, in some cases held without charges for over a decade, were put on trial before state security courts. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, introduced a Basic Law, in its first move toward establishing the constitutionality of its government system.

Desirable though such measures may appear at first sight, they often failed to tackle underlying institutional flaws stemming from the intentions of rulers to preserve themselves in power. The changes in Syria coincided with President Hafez al-Asad's renewal of his own mandate for a fourth consecutive seven-year term, while the state security trials have been a charade in which many defendants were, in essence, prosecuted for their peaceful exercise of their rights to free expression and association. The Saudi reforms, far from introducing participatory democracy, had the effect of strengthening royal autocracy.

What characterized the behavior of both Iran and its neighbor Iraq was an evident determination on the part of ruling groups who originally came to power by force to maintain their grip at all costs. Faced with widespread economic discontent, especially in urban slum districts, and with persistent violence in ethnic minority regions of Iran, the Rafsanjani government resorted to summary justice and exemplary executions. It also arranged the outcome of elections to the Islamic Majlis, or parliament, in April and May, to give a clear majority to the president's supporters.

Its back to the wall, Saddam Hussein's regime lashed out against a variety of targets. In a climate of mounting terror, some 600 merchants accused of profiteering were believed to have been arrested. Forty-two were executed after travesties of legal proceedings or none at all. In the marshes region of southern Iraq, government forces indiscriminately attacked suspected rebel hideouts, reportedly causing hundreds of civilian casualties, in blatant violation of humanitarian law. An economic siege was imposed on much of the marshes, following similar measures initiated in late 1991 against Iraqi Kurdistan-actions which gradually cut off supplies of food, fuel and medicines to local inhabitants. By August 1992, the siege of the Kurdish region was near total, covering all goods and cash brought from government-controlled districts.

The risks to civilians of indiscriminate government abuse became so great that Max van der Stoel, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Iraq, issued an unprecedented call for human rights monitors to be stationed in Iraq on behalf of the United Nations. If the proposal is approved by the Security Council, it will be the first time that U.N. human rights monitors have been dispatched to a country against the wishes of the government concerned. In late November, a draft resolution to this effect was on the verge of being debated by the Security Council.

The potential withdrawal from Turkey, at some date in 1993, of combat aircraft provided by Britain, France and the United States to protect northern Iraq from government forces could have grave consequences for the semi-independent Kurdish enclave. Although Middle East Watch, like other parts of Human Rights Watch, takes no position on the political issue of self-determination, it notes that elections for a regional parliament in Iraqi Kurdistan, carried out in May amid great popular enthusiasm, were regarded by international observers as broadly free and fair. The polling stood in striking contrast to the Ba'th party regime in Baghdad, which retains power largely through the public's fear of its ubiquitous security services.

The Right to Monitor

Few governments in the region covered by Middle East Watch acknowledge that their own citizens have a right, per se, to act as watchdogs against official abuses. The only states where indigenous human rights monitoring groups are both free to operate without constraint and legally recognized are Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and Israel. The Tunisian Ligue, one of the oldest established human rights organizations in the Arab world, dissolved itself during 1992, rather than submit to a new law of associations. In Lebanon, Syrian hostility to rights monitoring makes the investigation, and publication, of violations almost impossible. In the Israeli-occupied territories, Palestinian organizations are permitted to function and publish, but face daily difficulties in carrying out their work.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the elected local authorities proclaimed their respect for human rights; in this spirit, a Kurdish human rights organization has become the first such body to operate openly on Iraqi soil. However, this organization has so far preferred to concentrate on Iraqi government abuses rather than investigate the actions of its own authorities. Elsewhere in Iraq, monitoring by either local or foreign organizations is virtually out of the question.

In January 1992, the U.N. Special Rapporteur was able to travel to Iraq and gather information about current violations. But a series of strongly worded reports-one of which, in July 1992, described the regime as having the worst human rights record since the Nazi Holocaust-provoked a stream of official vituperation, and the withdrawal of even limited cooperation. Baghdad has permitted, even encouraged, humanitarian relief bodies from the West to investigate the dire effects of U.N. trade sanctions on the Iraqi populace. But it has never allowed a human rights organization such as Middle East Watch or Amnesty International to visit the country and conduct an independent investigation of alleged government abuses.

Egypt and Kuwait both permit independent rights organizations to operate, while withholding official recognition and refusing to respond to their enquiries. In effect, this compels local monitors to operate outside the law, giving officials the power to close their organizations. Despite the lack of formal legal status, rights organizations in both countries are vigorous and effective. Elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, the conservative hereditary rulers of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia bar any form of rights monitoring, whether by local or foreign organizations. Exiled political groups attempt to gather and disseminate information about conditions in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but their reports, which concentrate on the treatment of their supporters, are sometimes difficult to verify independently.

Nor do the authoritarian regimes in Iran, Syria and Libya permit any form of independent human rights monitoring, from whatever quarter. The three-year-old Syrian organization known as the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights (cdf), a peaceful body that operates clandestinely inside Syria and openly abroad, was severely dealt with during 1992. After circulating pamphlets in December 1991 criticizing the manner in which President Asad was reelected and calling for greater respect for human rights, cdf members and sympathizers were arrested and tortured, before being put on trial before a state security court. Leading figures drew prison terms of up to ten years, with hard labor. Syrian authorities correspond, belatedly and very partially, with various U.N. human rights organs, but they have never acknowledged any communication from Middle East Watch, let alone permitted a visit to the country.

Local branches of Amnesty International are permitted to exist in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen. The Cairo-based Arab Organization of Human Rights (aohr) similarly counts independent chapters in eight countries. Other encouraging signs of transnational and regional cooperation to promote human rights include meetings of Israeli and Palestinian rights organizations and of rights activists from Turkey, Israel and the Arab world. Thus, despite the many obstacles placed in their way by governments, the ability to monitor human rights conditions, if not the right, appears to be improving.

U.S. Policy

Many of the policy issues confronting the Bush administration in the MiddleEast during 1992 concerned Iraq. A second major preoccupation was the maintenance of the slow-paced Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Third, the resurgent power of Iran, a state with an atrocious domestic record and proven willingness to use terrorism abroad, concerned U.S. officials. Similar considerations are expected to preoccupy the officials of the Clinton administration when they take office in January. In all three areas, human rights considerations loom large.

Perhaps the first challenge to confront the U.S. in 1993 will be the threat of a renewed onslaught by Iraqi government forces against that country's 3.5 million-strong Kurdish community. On the evidence gathered so far by Middle East Watch, past attacks, which reached a crescendo from 1987-1989, appear to have been genocidal in scale and character. Since then, there has been little to suggest that President Saddam Hussein has changed his intentions toward Iraq's main non-Arab minority. In an afp dispatch from government-controlled Kirkuk, the provincial governor, Yasir Hassan Sultan, was quoted as saying that the Kurds could not indefinitely defy Baghdad. "All those who oppose Iraq will regret it," the official added.

At the end of November 1992, the renewal by Turkey for a further six months of a military forces' basing agreement, providing an air shield over much of Iraqi Kurdistan, once more hung in the balance. In force since mid-1991, the agreement is due to expire on December 31, 1992-in the midst of a winter relief operation for the besieged region being carried out by the U.S. and United Nations. Middle East Watch urges that protection of the Kurds not be withdrawn in a fashion that would expose them to the dangers of enforced famine, arrest or other forms of reprisal by the Iraqi authorities. It also called for U.N. trade sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 war to be lifted selectively, with respect to those regions of the country where the government has withdrawn its authority and imposed a siege.

While questioning its belated timing, Middle East Watch welcomed the aerial protection provided by the West in the latter months of 1992 to the neglected Shi'a of southern Iraq. Similar action taken in the spring of 1991 could have provided significant protection as government forces engaged in large-scale reprisals against Shi'a civilians and institutions. Commencing in August 1992, a "no-fly" zone was imposed by the U.S., together with Britain and France, over regions of Iraq south of the 32nd parallel-matching a similar ban on Iraqi aircraft entering territory north of the 36th parallel. Unlike the northern zone, renewed every six months by agreement with Turkey, the latter is open-ended. While this protective measure has been successful in halting flights by Iraqi combat aircraft and helicopters, previously used to bomb marsh villages suspected of housing rebel fighters, it has not stopped indiscriminate artillery shelling and other forms of repression.

In 1992, the Bush administration was supportive of efforts by Middle East Watch and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to bring out of the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq many tons of Iraqi secret police documents captured by Kurdish fighters during their abortive uprising in March 1991. These important documents may demonstrate that the 1988 Anfal campaign launched by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds was tantamount to genocide. They form an integral element in evidence being gathered for possible legal action against Iraq at the International Court of Justice (the World Court).

However, Middle East Watch deplores the administration's decision not to pursue evidence of war crimes committed by Iraqi forces in occupied Kuwait, during 1990 and 1991, as collected by U.S. investigators. The rationale for not seeking the prosecution of President Saddam Hussein, Defense Minister Ali Hassan al-Majid (the overlord of both Kurdistan during the Anfal campaign and occupied Kuwait) and other members of the Iraqi security apparatus was that such action would lessen the chances of an internal coup against the Iraqi ruler.

Middle East Watch calls on the new Clinton administration to discard the short-sighted, tactical considerations that guided its predecessor's actions toward Iraq. Instead, it should take a principled stand in the face of evidence of gross violations of human rights, such as those perpetrated in recent years by the Ba'th regime.

To Middle East Watch's regret, the Bush administration failed to take advantage of the historic opportunities present in the Middle East and NorthAfrica to press publicly for greater commitments to democracy and respect for human rights. Further, its failure to speak out where abuses were perpetrated by its close allies, notably Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait was shameful. Its argument that to do so might prejudice the Arab-Israeli peace talks seemed simplistic. Rather, as experience elsewhere in the world has shown, greater regional respect for human rights would facilitate the confidence needed to reach a peace agreement.

The outgoing administration's reluctance to condemn events such as the Algerian coup in January confirmed many Arabs in their suspicions that the U.S., and the West as a whole, took a selective approach to democracy. Where there was a potential political price to pay for speaking out about systematic abuses, the Bush administration usually remained silent. Its annual statement on human rights conditions around the world, the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1991, was largely accurate in its characterization of government abuses in the Middle East and North Africa. But with a few exceptions, the State Department failed to use its undoubted muscle to press for reforms or respect for human rights.

In Kuwait, where the U.S. holds a special advantage because of its decisive role in ending the Iraqi occupation and restoring the Sabah family to power, it soft-pedalled over continuing abuses by the authorities. In Israel, the administration remained silent about new evidence of torture and the unjustified killing of Palestinians, while praising public relations-minded gestures by the new Rabin government. In Saudi Arabia, President Bush himself praised new legislation as being a step toward greater democracy, against the evidence that it would have the reverse effect. In a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in November, the administration also opposed an attempt by a U.S. citizen to obtain compensation from the Saudi government for his arbitrary detention and torture by Saudi authorities. In Egypt, the administration stood four-square behind President Hosni Mubarak in his battle against militant Islamic fundamentalism, ignoring the gross abuses of torture and long term detention without charge committed by Egyptian authorities in the process.

The Clinton administration has an opportunity to start with a clean slate, as well as unprecedentedly favorable conditions for the exercise of U.S. influence in a manner more consistent with human rights norms. The President-elect's statement on the eve of his November 4 election victory, as published in the Washington magazine Middle East Insight, that a Clinton administration would seek to promote human rights in Saudi Arabia "and elsewhere in the Middle East" is welcome. The then presidential candidate told the magazine that the U.S. "must not ignore any country's human rights abuses." Clinton's apparent willingness to take on a key U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, needs to be translated into an even-handed determination to address human rights abuses wherever they might be found. For example, while Israel itself may be a democracy, Palestinian residents of the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have no opportunity to exercise democratic rights, and many violations are committed by Israeli security forces.

Middle East Watch urges the new administration to give life to widely ignored provisions in the Foreign Assistance Act to link the provision of U.S. aid to a recipient's human rights record. Under Section 502B, for example, security assistance should be cut off to governments that are responsible for a consistent pattern of gross abuses of human rights, including extrajudicial execution, torture and prolonged arbitrary detention. On a strict application of these criteria, all of the leading recipients of U.S. aid in the region are vulnerable. In the case of Israel, for example, the Bush administration boldly insisted on linking Israel's request for $10 billion in loan guarantees to a halt in the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. The Clinton administration should attempt to use the same kind of leverage to curb torture and unjustified killings of Palestinians.

The Clinton administration should not follow its predecessors' policies of treating the Middle East as an exception to the rule that democracy and human rights deserve promotion on their own merits. In a region poised on the edge of change, a more consistent and forthright encouragement of human rights is imperative.

The Work of Middle East Watch

In 1992, Middle East Watch broadened its efforts of the previous three years to document the Iraqi government's Anfal campaign against the Kurds. With unimpeded access to much of northern Iraq possible for the first time, it sent researchers to the region for six months. They interviewed several hundred persons with first-hand accounts of mass deportations, village clearances, mass executions, the use of chemical weapons, and other gross abuses, committed between 1987 and 1989. Middle East Watch was able to establish that tens of thousands of persons disappeared, and are presumed dead, after being transported to various remote destinations in central and southern Iraq. Among those interviewed were seven persons who survived mass deportations and executions in 1988.

Evidence about the Iraqi government's crimes against the Kurds was also gathered in two other ways: from the exhumation of collective graves, and the analysis of captured Iraqi documents. Between December 1991 and June 1992, Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, the Boston-based organization, sent two teams of forensic anthropologists and archaeologists to northern Iraq.

Exhumations were carried out near the cities of Erbil and Suleimaniyya, and in the villages of Koreme and Birjini in Dohuk governorate. The results were published in an initial report entitled Unquiet Graves and in a report to be released in early 1993 on "a genocide-in-miniature": the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the village of Koreme in August 1988, the on-site killing of 27 of its men, the deportation of its women and children, and the disappearance of its other males after being seized by government troops. Taking part in the latter investigation, which lasted a month, was a team of Latin American human rights experts drawn from groups experienced in exhuming victims of government death squads.

Aside from its own reports, Middle East Watch publicized its findings about the Anfal campaign through a CBS TV "Sixty Minutes" program broadcast in February and through a long magazine article in The New Yorker magazine. Many other articles in the U.S. and European press made reference to Middle East Watch's pioneering fieldwork, building a potential case for genocide. In September, a consultant writer began work on the organization's first, full-length report on the Anfal campaign. The book is also scheduled for release in early 1993.

The most dramatic aspect of the evidence-gathering process involved the airlifting to safekeeping in the United States, in May, of 14 tons of Iraqi secret police documents captured by the Kurds themselves the previous year. Middle East Watch acted as the custodian of documents entrusted to its care, and to the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (puk), one of two major Iraqi Kurdish parties. These documents were then stored in the U.S. National Archives, outside Washington, D.C. Work on the large task of classifying, translating and analyzing the millions of pages of documents began in October, under the direction of a newly created Middle East Watch team. Preliminary results of the research corroborate testimonial findings about the nature of government actions, in the process providing massive detail on the Iraqi bureaucracy of repression.

Middle East Watch was active in 1992 in pressing its concerns about Iraq at the U.S. Congress and State Department, as well as in various European foreign ministries. It also worked closely with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Iraq, Max van der Stoel. The possibility of legal action against Iraq at the International Court of Justice was explored with several parties; during 1993, Middle East Watch anticipates that this aspect of its work, embracing the building of a legal brief, will be expanded. Efforts also continue to bring further caches of captured documents held by other Kurdish parties out of northern Iraq, for safekeeping and research.

Together with other branches of Human Rights Watch, Middle East Watch participated during 1992 in international efforts to tackle the problem of uncharted land mines that have a disastrous effect on civilian life. The indiscriminate strewing of millions of land mines was a side-effect of the Iraqi government's various military actions in the Kurdish region, including the Anfal. As a result, thousands of civilians, many of them children, were either killed or lost limbs in Iraqi Kurdistan between March 1991 and the endof 1992. A Middle East Watch report on the problem, Hidden Death, was published in November.

Based on a 1991 mission to Iran and continued monitoring of Iraq from abroad, Middle East Watch issued a lengthy report in April 1992 entitled Endless Torment on rights abuses committed by the Iraqi authorities during and after the suppression of the March 1991 uprising in both the mainly Kurdish north and Shi'a south of Iraq. Further close monitoring of the situation in the south, where allegations of many grave abuses were reported, proved difficult, because of Iraq's continued refusal to permit a Middle East Watch investigative mission and Iran's failure to approve visa requests until December. Saudi Arabia also failed to respond to requests to visit its border regions, to gather information about Iraqi human rights conditions. However, a Middle East Watch researcher was able to travel to Jordan and Syria during the summer, to interview exiled Iraqis. A press statement was issued in September about a massacre of hundreds of Shi'a transported from the marshes region south of Amara after fighting with rebels, based on information gathered by a Middle East Watch researcher in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In October, Middle East Watch denounced human rights and humanitarian law violations in the Kurdish enclave of northern Iraq, following a decision by the local authorities to remove mainly Turkish Kurdish Workers' Party (pkk) guerrillas from the Iraq-Turkey border zone. A mission to the region the following month concluded that both the Turkish authorities and the pkk had been guilty of abuses, and that the Kurdish government was holding many prisoners without charge, some of whom had been tortured.

As in 1991, Iraq dominated Middle East Watch's work during the year, taking up much of its time and resources. But the organization was nonetheless able to monitor ten other countries and regions: Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and the Israeli-occupied territories. Formal missions were sent to Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia (together with the Washington-based International Human Rights Law Group), Kuwait (together with Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Project) and the Israeli-occupied territories. Researchers also made two unpublicized trips to Jordan and Syria, to gather information about conditions in Iraq and Syria itself.

A month-long mission to Egypt, in January and February, to investigate persistent allegations of the torture of detainees by State Security Investigation officers and soldiers, produced a major report, Behind Closed Doors: Torture and Detention in Egypt. Mission participants met with senior Egyptian officials and were granted permission to inspect any prison they chose; in the time available, they visited six prisons, including two maximum-security facilities. The report was released at a press conference in Cairo in July, and received widespread media coverage. A second report, on prison conditions, is due for release in January 1993.

Middle East Watch and the Women's Rights Project continued to monitor legal developments following the Egyptian authorities' closure in 1991 of the Arab Women's Solidarity Organization, the leading women's organization in the Arab world. They also collaborated on research into the mistreatment of Asian domestic employees in Kuwait. A mission to Kuwait resulted in a report that condemned the Kuwaiti authorities for their failure to address the problem. Middle East Watch continued to monitor Kuwait's abuses against Palestinian and Bedoon (stateless) residents. It was also compelled to issue a detailed rebuttal of renewed claims by the Kuwaiti government and their U.S. supporters that wartime allegations of mass killings of babies in incubators were accurate, rather than the false propaganda they had been proven to be.

Following King Fahd's promulgation of new constitutional and legal decrees, Middle East Watch issued a detailed critique of these so-called democratic reforms. Entitled Empty Reforms, the report concluded that the measures served, in fact, to strengthen royal autocracy. Attempts by the organization to meet with senior Saudi officials and to visit the country, to pursue a dialogue on various human rights concerns, were greeted with silence. Based on continuing research into the torture of prisoners in Saudi jails, Middle East Watch presented an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a petition brought by a U.S. citizen, Scott Nelson, who was seeking monetary damages for his torture and arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia.

Elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, Middle East Watch conducted its first research into human rights issues in Yemen. Two years after the unification of the former Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, human rights conditions have greatly improved, with a proliferation of political parties and news publications. A newsletter examined steps toward the building of civil society in Yemen ahead of general elections originally anticipated in November 1992.

In 1992, Middle East Watch resumed active work on Syria. Attention was directed initially at two issues: the persecution of the Syrian human rights monitoring group, cdf, and long-term prisoners remaining in the custody of the security services following mass releases in late 1991. The former issue was pursued through a newsletter published in March and a series of letters to Syrian authorities. The latter began with the collection of data from exile groups about prison numbers and the identity of prisoners, and it developed into a major report, Throwing Away the Key, that examined current interrogation and detention procedures against political prisoners.

In the Maghreb region, Middle East Watch focused during 1992 on two countries where the authorities battled with indigenous Islamist movements: Tunisia and Algeria. In Tunisia, it joined forces with the Washington-based International Human Rights Law Group to send an observer to the mass trial of Islamists, in July, before two military courts. Algeria posed a larger challenge, because of the crackdown that followed the January coup, which had blocked the Islamists from achieving power through the ballot box. Resolving that the coup was an unwarranted interruption of the democratic process, Middle East Watch issued a newsletter on abuses committed in the wake of the military intervention. It then sent a mission to Algeria in the summer, for three weeks, for a fuller investigation; a report on its findings was due for publication in early 1993.

In the Israeli-occupied territories, a report was issued in March on deaths in detention and the growing evidence that torture is used by investigators against Palestinian detainees. In the second half of the year, Middle East Watch undertook a lengthy research project on the recurrent killings of Palestinian activists by undercover Israeli squads. A report on the subject will be published in January 1993.

Although individual reports were not issued during the year on the countries concerned, researchers maintained a watching brief on Iran and Lebanon. As regards Iran, Middle East Watch paid particular attention to the manner in which popular unrest was put down by the authorities, and to the worsening climate for freedom of expression and women's rights. With Lebanon, curbs on media freedom were examined, along with politically motivated detention. Assessments of human rights conditions in these two countries are published separately in this report.

Middle East Watch was invited to testify before Congress on three occasions during 1992. In June, it presented testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Iraqi Anfal and on the significance of the captured Iraqi documents; it also testified the same month before the House Select Committee on Hunger, with respect to current conditions in Iraq. In September, Middle East Watch testified before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East devoted to the state of human rights in the Middle East.

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