VIOLATIONS OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSOCIATION
Freedom of the Press
The PA has displayed an intolerance of criticism and has encouraged self-censorship, although the self-rule areas have not become a place where all who dare to criticize are persecuted. The PA has sought to control the content of Palestinian reporting through a pattern of intimidation, detention and acts of violence against journalists. It has sought to impose its own views on the press, and has blocked distribution and suspended and closed newspapers. The primary electronic media in the Palestinian self-rule areas, Voice of Palestine Radio and two television stations, are government-controlled and, by all accounts, serve as mouthpieces for the PA.
One encouraging development has been the founding of small, local television and radio stations. As of the summer of 1997, there were a total of nineteen private television stations and four radio stations on the West Bank, though none in the Gaza Strip. While none of these stations could be considered a voice of opposition or dissent, some of them provided forums for airing issues of political consequence through call-in shows and the airing of unedited sessions of the Palestinian Legislative Council. However, in June 1997, authorities blocked broadcasts of the council meetings, which had become popular evening fare on the local West Bank television stations (see above, Summary of this report).
As this report went to press, a committee headed by Minister of Information Yasser Abed Rabbo was drafting legislation to permit and regulate private broadcasting stations on the West Bank. It remained to be seen whether the new law would be one designed to regulate access to the airwaves in a neutral fashion or, rather, one that enabled the authorities to discriminate against broadcasters that displeased them.98
While the number of Palestinian newspapers has grown since self-rule began, major newspapers have had to adopt a pro-PA or at least noncritical stance and most opposition newspapers have not survived.
The Palestinian Press Law was signed by Yasir Arafat as Chairman of the PLO and head of the PA on June 25, 1995, pursuant to the 1962 Basic Law of the Gaza Strip.99 The Basic Law, which was issued by the Egyptian government when it administered the Gaza Strip, permits the executive branch to pass emergency legislation. The Press Law guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and a free press and does not provide for formal censorship. However, it contains a number of vague and potentially restrictive provisions. For example, Article 37(3) prohibits the publication of articles that "may cause harm to national unity," a phrase that is not defined, and permits the confiscation of such materials. Although the PA has, on occasion, invoked the Press Law when trying to control the content of press coverage, widespread self-censorship has largely eliminated the need to do so.
Interference with Distribution and Closure of Newspapers
The PA has, on many occasions, interfered with the distribution of newspapers or closed them down. This occurred more frequently in 1994 and early 1995, before Palestinian journalists "had realized for themselves where the red lines were," in the words of one West Bank journalist.100 According to another journalist:
The first lesson that Palestinian journalists learned was from the closing of Al-Nahar [in 1994]. There was nothing to justify the closing of this newspaper, but some in the PA thought it was pro-Jordanian. After this incident, journalists began thinking too much about what they were writing and how it would make the PA feel. A kind of self-censorship began, where you didn't want to make the PA angry.101
Criticism of President Arafat and the PA is tolerated rarely if at all. In May 1995, Al-Umma (East Jerusalem), a small newspaper that had existed for only four months and had often been critical of the PA, ran an unflattering cartoon of Chairman Arafat. The newspaper received a phone call warning it not to issue that edition. The Preventive Security Service (PSS) then confiscated the issue, but some copies had already been distributed.102 Al-Umma then published a statement that was sharply critical of the authorities' conduct toward the newspaper.103 One week later, a fire damaged the paper's offices. Its owner reportedly received a threatening phone call following the fire. An investigation conducted by Israeli police and firemen who visited the scene determined the cause of the fire to be arson.104 The owner shut down the newspaper and it has not reopened since.
In August 1995, Palestinian authorities ordered Al-Quds, which has the largest circulation of any Palestinian newspaper, closed for one week. According to editor-in chief Marwan Abu Zalaf, there were several possible explanations:
The newspaper had just run a paid advertisement by Hamas, asking people not to attend a West Bank festival. On the same day, we had printed an interview with [PLO Foreign Minister] FaruqQaddumi, saying "Oslo" was a sell-out. Also, a new PLO-backed newspaper [Al-Hayat al-Jadida] was being launched that day and the PA might have wanted it to be available on a day when Al-Quds was absent.
We were supposed to be closed down for a week but we started publishing again after one day. Arafat's men came to the newspaper and pressured us to prevent us from printing. We reported this to the foreign and Israeli media. Then the Israeli police came and we ended up going to an Israeli court because Palestinian police had come to Jerusalem and we had not reported it.105
Arrests and Abuse of Journalists
The PA has arrested and detained numerous journalists, often more than once. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least twenty-five journalists were arrested during the first two years of self-rule alone. In one well-known incident on December 24, 1995, Maher Alameh, an editor of Al-Quds, received a phone call at midnight, telling him to move an article about Chairman Arafat's meeting with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch from page eight to page one of the Christmas day issue. Alameh refused and was subsequently detained in Jericho for five days by the PSS.106 Not a single Palestinian newspaper, including Al-Quds, reported on his detention.107
In February 1996, Asad al-Asad, publisher of the Ramallah-based Al-Bilad, was summoned by Col. Jibril Rajoub, head of the West Bank PSS, after the newspaper published an article about corruption. The Gaza correspondent of Al-Bilad was also detained by the police for two days in July 1996, and had his I.D. confiscated after publishing an article alleging that members of the PA were accepting bribes. According to an editor at Al-Bilad:
Muhammad Dahlan [the head of the PSS in Gaza] found out and apologized to us in a letter. We wrote about this on the front page, and stated that we were going to start an investigation. Dahlan wanted us not to write anything else until they had conducted their own investigation.108
Fayiz Nurraddin, a photographer for Agence France-Presse (AFP), was arrested on May 13, 1996, after he photographed some boys washing a donkey in the sea in Gaza. He was detained for ten hours by the Special Intelligence Service in Gaza, and was beaten, whipped with a belt and accused of having been paid by French intelligence authorities to take the picture. Nurraddin told Human Rights Watch:
I was attacked, saying that I took such a picture in order to harm the image of Palestinians. In the beginning, after I was released, I hesitated when taking pictures because I suffered a lot from the beating. I believe the people who beat me were following orders blindly-they had orders to beat Fayiz, so they did it, without thinking...The Palestinian newspapers dared to write about this because it was already a big story and the AFP was supporting me.109
On April 14, 1996, Palestinian police confiscated the camera of Khaled Zghari, a photographer for the Associated Press (AP), and beat him. Zghari, who lost consciousness and had to be taken to the hospital, had been photographing a demonstration in Ramallah demanding the release of Hamas prisoners. On April 16, a group of journalists demonstrated in Ramallah, demanding an investigation into the assault. The Palestinian police then apologized to Zghari, telling him the incident would not be repeated if he kept it quiet. Two weeks later, however, while photographing police beating women demonstrators in Nablus, police detained Zghari and several other photographers for about three hours and confiscated their film. Zghari told Human Rights Watch: "All photographers are afraid-they don't want to get involved. Even our news agencies cannot protect us."110
In August 1995, Abd al-Sattar Qasim, a well-known opponent of the Oslo Accords and critic of President Arafat, was shot and wounded by unknown assailants. One month earlier he had published an article in the Islamist newspaper Al-Watan in which he characterized President Arafat's rule as dictatorial.111 In the course of interrogating Imad Faluji, then editor-in-chief of Al-Watan, about the article, the Gaza police allegedly made threats against Qasim.112 Qasim said he believed his assailants to be members of the PSS, but the PSS West Bank commander, Col. Jibril Rajoub, denied this, stating: "I do not support what happened. My men have nothing to do with the shooting....He is not important enough for us to deal with."113
Control of Content and Self-Censorship
"There is no censorship, so officially, there is complete freedom," according to Ghassan Khatib, head of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC), which publishes the weekly English-language Palestine Report. However, he adds:
Unofficial practices are contrary to that. The problem is that there is no respect for the law and because the judicial system is weak, there is nobody strong enough to challenge these acts. Therefore newspapers are afraid to write anything that might annoy the PA. Instead, they count on WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, for what they know is okay to print.114
Most journalists interviewed by Human Rights Watch said there are areas that are clearly off limits, such as criticism of President Arafat or of the PA's security policies, while other issues, such as corruption or the PA's handling of economic problems such as unemployment, have often been raised without repercussions. One journalist observed:
We wish the PA would tell us exactly what we can and cannot publish-it would be easier. It seems that it is impossible to talk about the security and intelligence apparatus, or violations related to prisons, torture, trials and the president-the president is sacred. But you can write about anything related to the civilian apparatus of the Authority.115
Rawiya Shawa, a member of the Legislative Council, writes a weekly column in Al-Quds called "Citizens' Corner," in which she is often quite critical of the PA. In a July 18, 1996 column, for example, she criticized members of the PA for having large numbers of personal guards. According to the JMCC's Khatib, "This is perceived as a critical column, but it can be tolerated, especially because Shawa comes from a powerful family in Gaza."116
One publication that has on occasion been quite critical of the PA is Al-Bilad, which was founded in late 1995 and reports a circulation of 3,000 to 5,000. Khatib explained why he believes the publication has escaped closure:
Al-Bilad does not have a high circulation so it is not threatening to the PA. Also, it has a reputation for being critical, but the issues they select are minor. What counts is what you say about the president or his policies. Like other third world countries, you can criticize the government, but not the president or the king.117
An editor at Al-Bilad observed, "When we criticize, we make sure to criticize constructively. And timing is also important."118
One journalist said, "There is no formal censorship because the editor-in-chief serves as the censor. Otherwise, he knows there will be problems."119 Another commented, "The issue is not that Arafat doesn't want these things to be in the newspaper, but that journalists are afraid that maybe he won't like it-so they just stay quiet."120
Interference with coverage has frustrated Palestinian journalists and made them question the value of their work. One West Bank journalist told Human Rights Watch:
If the Palestinian newspapers are so afraid it would be better to close them. The press should not just be ads and stories from Reuter and Agence France-Presse [news agencies.] There is no point of view expressed. They prefer that we just write against the Israelis-that is what a real press should do. But we can criticize the Israelis and also write what's happening with the authority.121
Efforts to control the written word have not been limited to the press. In August 1996, Palestinian security forces seized books written by Palestinian-American writer Edward Said, a vocal critic of the Oslo accords and of President Arafat, from bookstores in the self-rule areas and in East Jerusalem. It was unclear who had ordered theban on Said's books, and officials of the Ministry of Information, in whose name the ban had been carried out, denied having ordered it.122 Yet, the books were not returned to the shelves of bookstores.
PA efforts to control news content have often been ineffective, however. Both the Israeli Hebrew press, accessible to the many Palestinians who understand that language, and the Arabic services of Israeli radio and television, cover the West Bank and Gaza and provide detailed information about many of the issues that the PA has tried to cover up. Still, according to a report issued by Peace Watch, "The Israeli-run stations are somewhat pluralistic but stop far short of allowing for systematic airing of views which challenge the PA or its head, Yasir Arafat."123 Nevertheless, when the Israeli media have provided extensive coverage of a detention or a harsh police response to a demonstration, it has been more difficult for the Palestinian press to ignore the incident altogether. In such cases, Palestinian newspapers have often simply reported that a demonstration took place or that someone was detained, without providing criticism or analysis.
In the case of the detention of psychiatrist Dr. Eyad Sarraj, for example, which received intensive international coverage, Palestinian newspapers printed excerpts from statements by human rights organizations asking for his release. However, according to an East Jerusalem-based journalist:
The statements they printed did not explain what exactly had happened to Sarraj, or criticize the PA for accusing him of being a drug-dealer. When he was released, there were small statements saying that he been released. No Palestinian newspaper even did a small interview with him. Ha'aretz [an Israeli daily] and Israeli radio did interview him.124
It is often the packaging that counts. One journalist explained to Human Rights Watch:
If there is a demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners, you can write about it as an event of solidarity with prisoners, but not as a demonstration, because a demonstration is against the authority.125
Targeting the Islamist Opposition
The PA's repressive policies have been directed at various political opposition groups, but the Islamist opposition has been the most systematically targeted. Although the PA outlawed the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad following the February-March 1996 suicide bombings, it did not outlaw the political wings of these groups.126
The vast majority of those detained by the PA have been suspected Islamist activists or sympathizers. At the same time, as described below, the Islamist press was virtually eliminated during 1996 due to harassment and the arrest of its major figures. At the time a Hamas leader in Gaza observed, "The members of Hamas are now afraid; they have [understood] that if they participate in any Hamas activity-including social or political-they will bearrested."127 This fear was apparently less pervasive on campuses, where Islamist student groups continued to operate despite the arrests of hundreds of students in early 1996. During the May 8, 1996 student elections at Birzeit University, for example, the Islamist bloc defeated the pro-Fatah Shabiba youth movement. During the election campaign, Islamist students participated in skits mocking Chairman Arafat and the PA, and faced no apparent repercussions.
In 1997, the pressure on Islamist groups has diminished. Most of those arrested in 1996 have been released from detention. Authorities licensed a new Hamas-affiliated weekly in Gaza, Al-Risala (The Message), which began publication in February. However, on September 4, the PA reportedly ordered it shut in the wake of suicide bombings in West Jerusalem earlier that day.
The PA, unlike Israeli occupation authorities, initially permitted militant Islamist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to publish newspapers. But it later harassed and suspended them. In 1995, the PA twice suspended Al-Watan, the newspaper of Hamas, for three-month periods, without giving any official reason. The state security court in Gaza also sentenced the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Sayyid Musa Abu Musamah, to two years in prison for "writing inciting articles."128 The first suspension began on May 14, 1995 and lasted three months. The paper was suspended for a second time on August 6, 1995. According to a former editor, this occurred after Al-Watan published an article, based on a British news report, stating that Chairman Arafat had accepted money for allowing an European news agency to publish a photograph of his infant daughter.129 Shortly after its suspension was over, the editors themselves decided to shut the newspaper down. According to a former editor:
Every time we published an issue, the [General Intelligence Service] would come in and question us about everything we wrote. Sometimes they would threaten us and tell us that we were not allowed to write anything critical of Arafat. They consider him as holy and nobody can criticize him.130
The PA repeatedly arrested staff members of Al-Istiqlal (Independence), the newspaper of the Islamic Jihad, including editor-in-chief Ala Saftawi. The PA also suspended the newspaper at least three times before closing it down permanently in March 1996, following the suicide bombings in Israel, some of which were claimed by the military wing of Islamic Jihad. In an interview following the closure of the paper on February 17, 1996, Hassan al-Kashif, director general of the Palestinian Information Ministry in Gaza, stated flatly that the closure was "a political issue:
It is a natural outcome of the confused relationship between the PNA and Islamic Jihad. Unless the two sides' relationship is not straightened out by a clear political agreement, such incidents will recur. I will not give formal explanations or justifications and say, for example, that...Al-Istiqlal has not obtained a license from the Information Ministry.131
In the wake of the February and March 1996 suicide bombings, the PA not only carried out mass arrests of suspected Islamists and closed down Islamist newspapers, but also took steps to dismantle charitable, educational and health organizations affiliated with the political wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In Gaza, in particular, Islamic charitable associations had stepped in to fill the huge gaps in the health, education, and welfare sectors. In at least thirty raids carried out in March 1996, the PA entered clinics, schools, welfare and charitable organizations, confiscating computers, printers, fax machines, and even buses used to transport children. Two hundred Palestinian police raided the Islamic University in Gaza on March 6; in a show of force lasting six hours, policemen shot open or broke doors in the presence of television cameras.132 The force was unnecessary, university officials stated in a press release, since university guards had offered to open all doors to the security forces. The PA closed down many of the organizations it had raided; others were no longer able to operate due to confiscation of equipment.133
Targeting of Human Rights Activists and Lawyers
The PA has generally not prevented the operation of human rights organizations in the West Bank and Gaza. However, President Arafat has declined to commit himself publicly to guaranteeing their freedom to operate. For example, when Pierre Sané, the secretary general of Amnesty International, sought such assurances during a February 1996 meeting, President Arafat cautioned that no one was "above the law." And, according to an Amnesty International press release, President Arafat "gave no guarantee ... that the work of human rights groups would not be hindered in [the] future."134 More recently, Maj. Gen. Ghazi al-Jabali, the chief of police, criticized human rights organizations that charged the PA with torture of detainees. He called the charges inaccurate, adding, "There are entities whose role it is to make us look bad, but they are not important."135
Most of the Palestinian human rights groups with whom Human Rights Watch spoke had not experienced any threats as organizations, although some had received phone calls or visits from officials. Far more common has been the targeting by the PA of individual activists, creating fear among others that they could be next. According to a West Bank-based human rights activist:
They act against individuals, not institutions, because so far, PA human rights violations have not been on every organization's agenda since some have close ties with the PA. Also, some Palestinian organizations have close ties with international organizations and the PA is afraid of that.136
Another activist from the same organization told Human Rights Watch that the PA and particularly President Arafat personalize everything:
They assume that if you speak against violations, it is to show your opposition to the peace process. If you criticize a policy, it is to show your opposition to Arafat. In general, if you say that anything bad is due to Arafat, it's a problem.137
The fact that very few human rights activists were willing to speak to Human Rights Watch on the record is evidence of the fear that incidents such as the ones described below have instilled in lawyers and activists. One lawyer told Human Rights Watch:
I was a lawyer during the occupation and I gave interviews to journalists and others. I was not afraid to use my name. Now, I ask you not to use my name. I'm not afraid for my position. No, I'm afraid for myself.138
Another lawyer observed:
Under the occupation I would give you my name. It could give me problems but I wasn't afraid. Now the situation is different. Today, even personal problems with someone might harm you if he knows people in the authority. So you have to be careful.139
Many activists continue their work despite the pressures. Some pointed to regional variations in the degree of intimidation. Shawqi Issa, executive director of the Bethlehem office of LAW, said that while "many people are afraid, it's easier in the West Bank because it's more open to the world; Gaza is totally closed and isolated, and the central leadership [of the PA] is there. So the security forces are more active and their behavior is worse."140
In addition, activists who are residents of East Jerusalem carry Israeli I.D. cards and are not formally under the PA's jurisdiction; thus, they have in general felt more protected and tended to be more openly critical than residents of the West Bank and Gaza.
In February 1995, the PA twice detained Raji Sourani, then-head of the Gaza Center for Rights and Law and a prominent lawyer and critic of the PA's human rights practices. On February 15, Sourani was detained and questioned for about sixteen hours, after the center published a statement condemning the decree establishing the state security courts as "the most serious violation of human rights" since the inception of self-rule in May 1994.141 General al-Qidrah reportedly told Sourani that President Arafat "feels completely offended that you have communicated such incredible insults."142 Sourani was detained again two days later and reportedly warned to "keep a low profile with the media."143
In August 1995, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem published a report entitled Neither Law Nor Justice, which documented a pattern of human rights violations by the Preventive Security Services (PSS) in the WestBank. The head of the PSS, Col. Jibril Rajoub, denounced Bassem `Eid, the report's chief researcher, as an Israeli agent-a statement that Rajoub never retracted.144
On January 1, 1996, the PA detained Bassem `Eid at the headquarters of Force 17, President Arafat's elite guards. When he asked if there was a warrant for his arrest, `Eid was informed that he had not been arrested, but was there as a "guest." According to `Eid, who now directs the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, a PA official named Abu Fuad told him:
"I have some advice for you. Your children and your wife are more important than your work. We are not a democratic government; what goes on in Iraq and Syria will also happen here. Maybe it will be even worse here. We can't take criticism. You have to be careful." I told him: "Are you advising me to stay silent, keep my mouth shut?" He said: "You are the one who said it."145
Twenty-four hours after being brought in, `Eid was told that he been held due to a "misunderstanding," and was released from custody.146
Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist and the commissioner-general of the quasi-official Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights (PICCR), has been detained on three separate occasions. On December 7, 1995, Sarraj was detained and questioned for approximately eight hours; although not formally charged, he was accused of having "defamed" the PA. The previous day, at a meeting organized by an European organization called Peace Media, Sarraj had remarked that the PICCR had received no responses to the 400 complaints and interventions it had sent to the attorney general's office.147
Sarraj was arrested again on May 18, 1996, after he was quoted in the New York Times as saying:
People [in Gaza] are intimidated. There is an overwhelming sense of fear. The regime is corrupt, dictatorial, oppressive. I say this with sadness, but during the Israeli occupation I was 100 times freer.148
Attorney General al-Qidrah reportedly said that Sarraj was under investigative detention for slandering the PA, although he was not charged at that time.149 Sarraj was denied access to a lawyer during the first forty-eight hours of his detention, and his detention was then extended three times by the state security court. The arrest of Sarraj prompted an outpouring of protest. The United States and many European governments that provide economic assistance to the PA expressed concern to President Arafat and his advisors.
Press accounts indicated that President Arafat had ordered the arrest of Sarraj after taking personal offense at Sarraj's remarks to the New York Times. On May 24, while still in detention, Sarraj sent an open letter addressed to President Arafat and reprinted in many newspapers, including Al-Quds. He wrote, "...I have never allowed myself nor will I ever allow myself to personally attack you or to personally attack any of the PNA's leaders."150 Two days later, Sarraj was released on bail, although he had never been formally charged with an offense.
Sarraj was rearrested on June 10, 1996. In an interview with the press, Attorney General al-Qidrah stated that Sarraj's arrest "is not related to his human rights activities, the work of his association or his freedom of expression."151 Following his arrest, Dr. Sarraj's office at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program was searched by PA officials who announced that they had found hashish. Sarraj was charged with drug possession.
On June 13, Sarraj was brought before the state security court, which extended his detention for fifteen days on charges that he had assaulted a policeman. The basis for bringing such a charge before the state security court was never explained. Moreover, according to Sarraj, it was the policeman who had beaten him while in PA custody: "[The policeman] started punching me and calling me dirty names. When I collapsed on the floor, he kicked my back with his boots several times before other officers came in and shouted him away."152
Sarraj was also brought before a magistrate court on June 13, on charges of drug possession. That court ordered his release due to a lack of evidence. However, because of the detention order handed down by the state security court, Dr. Sarraj remained in custody.153 Seventeen days after his original arrest, Sarraj was released on bail after signing a statement saying he would "abide by the law when it comes to publishing anything to do with the authorities."154 Moreover, the charges against him were not dropped.
Human Rights Watch believes that the drug charges against Dr. Sarraj were fabricated in order to silence him and other critics of the PA.155 A West Bank human rights activist told Human Rights Watch: "There were concerns among human rights workers after [what happened to] Sarraj. They will continue to do this work but they know it can happen to them. Sarraj was well-known and nobody believed the drug charges against him. But what might happen to someone who is not known?"156
On August 12, 1996, the General Intelligence Service arrested Muhammad Dahman, director of the Gaza branch of Addameer, a prisoner support organization. Addameer had issued a public statement calling for an investigation into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the August 7 death in Palestinian custody of twenty-four-year-old Gazan Nahid Dahlan (see above and Appendix A). Dahman was charged with publishing false information. Attorney General al-Qidrah reported that an autopsy had found that Nahid Dahlan had committed suicide and thatno marks of torture were found on his body.157 Three days later, Dahman was brought before the state security court, which extended his detention for fifteen days while police investigated the case. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights:
The press release issued by Addameer contained information the organisation believed to be true. Until the ongoing official investigation is concluded, it cannot be determined whether Addameer published false information concerning Dahlan's case, and there appears to be no basis for Dahman's arrest.158
Dahman was held until August 27, 1996.
Activists note that fear on the part of the public and noncooperation on the part of the authorities have complicated the task of human rights fieldwork. According to the veteran human rights worker Bassem `Eid:
During the occupation, everyone liked to give information, everyone was willing to be a witness. Now, the first thing people ask is if I'm not afraid to ask these questions. When you have people warning you against your own authority it is very painful. Today it takes more to persuade people to talk to you, and I understand why people are frightened.159
Another activist added:
The security people are everywhere, using many ways to gather information from the people. The normal person fears that if he criticizes or requests certain rights, he will be punished....People are unwilling to talk. Victims are watched and they get warning phone calls. Previous cases have been very brutal, so people are afraid.160
Most activists interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that when they submitted protests or requests for information, the PA rarely responded, and certainly not in writing.161 When authorities did respond, it was usually to disclaim responsibility for the problem. For example, according to Shkirat of LAW:
We wrote a letter to the attorney general about thirty-nine detainees who we were representing, who were being held without charge. He responded that they were not arrested under his authority and we should contact the military authorities. We contacted them and the commander said, I'm not responsible, contact Arafat.162
A West Bank human rights activist cited another common PA response: "When people come to us and complain about human rights violations, we raise this with the PA, but they [dismiss the complaint and] say this person was a collaborator.'163
Publicizing human rights abuses and educating the public about their concerns is difficult for human rights groups, since what might have been the primary means available to them-the press-has usually not been accessible. According to Shkirat: "Editors will not publish anything that is critical of the authority. So they will not publish our press releases and reports."164 For example, according to LAW, Al-Quds newspaper refused to publish, as a paid advertisement, an announcement for a July 6, 1996 meeting organized by LAW and several Legislative Council members to discuss issues of concern to families of detainees being held without charge by the PA.
Human rights activists agreed that the rare cases where the PA has responded to protests have been incidents that had already received public attention, usually via Israeli or other foreign media. Ordinary people are unlikely to obtain redress for alleged abuses at the hands of the PA unless lawyers or human rights organizations intervene on their behalf. A high-ranking member of the PA who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Human Rights Watch:
There is a department of complaints in al-Saraya [the public security headquarters in Gaza] where people are supposed to bring any complaints or questions about the way they have been treated by the security forces. But the people are afraid-they are afraid even to enter al-Saraya-because they have lost faith in the PA. They see by the behavior of the PA that they will not have any protection if they complain.16598 On the implications for freedom of expression of a restrictive broadcasting law in Lebanon, see Human Rights Watch/Middle East, "Lebanon: Restrictions on Broadcasting: In Whose Interest?"A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 9, no. 1, April 1997. 99 See Orayb Aref Najjar, "The Palestinian Press Law: A Comparative Study," Communication Law and Policy, vol. 2, no. 1 (Winter 1997). 100 Human Rights Watch interview, Nablus, July 22, 1996. 101 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. 102 Human Rights Watch interview with a person close to the owner of al-Umma, Ramallah, July 20, 1996. 103 Peace Watch, Freedom of the Press under the Palestinian Authority, January 16, 1996, p. 20. Peace Watch is an independent nongovernmental organization in West Jerusalem that "monitors the implementation of agreements signed by Israel and its Arab neighbors." 104 Ha'aretz, May 5, 1995, as quoted in Peace Watch, Freedom of the Press Under the Palestinian Authority, p. 20. 105 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. The operation of Palestinian police in East Jerusalem is a violation of Article XVII of Oslo II, which limits the jurisdiction of the PA to areas from which the Israeli army has redeployed. 106 Human Rights Watch interview with Marwan Abu-Zalaf, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds newspaper, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. 107 Peace Watch, Freedom of the Press under the Palestinian Authority, p. 29. 108 Human Rights Watch interview, Ramallah, July 18, 1996. 109 Human Rights Watch interview, Gaza City, July 27, 1996. 110 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, East Jerusalem, July 29, 1996. 111 "I Won't Shut My Mouth," Interview with Dr. Abdel-Sitar Qassem in News From Within, vol. XI, no. 9 (September 1995), p. 22 112 Ibid. 113 Mary Curtius, "Palestinian Security Unit Accused of Torture," Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1996. 114 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996 115 Human Rights Watch interview, Nablus, July 21, 1996. 116 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. 117 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. 118 Human Rights Watch interview, Ramallah, July 18, 1996. 119 Human Rights Watch interview, Nablus, July 21, 1996. 120 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. 121 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. 122 Serge Schmemann, "Palestinian Security Agents Ban Books by a Critic of Arafat," New York Times, August 25, 1996. 123 Peace Watch, Freedom of the Press under the Palestinian Authority, p. 6. 124 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 18, 1996. 125 Human Rights Watch interview, Nablus, July 21, 1996. 126 Gaza Center for Rights and Law, press release, ref. no. 19/1996, March 31, 1996. 127 Human Rights Watch interview, Gaza City, July 24, 1996. 128 Abu Musamah was released from prison on December 13, 1995, apparently in order to participate in negotiations between Hamas and the PA. 129 Human Rights Watch interview, Gaza City, July 24, 1996, and Davar newspaper, August 7, 1995. 130 Human Rights Watch interview, Gaza City, July 24, 1996. 131 "Closure of Islamic Jihad Newspaper Thought Unlikely to Mar Ties with Opposition," Arabic-language Interview with MBC TV (London), as reported by BBC Monitoring Service, 1800 gmt, February 18, 1996. 132 "Palestinian Police Raid Islamic University in Gaza," Reuter, March 6, 1996. 133 Gaza Center for Rights and Law, "The Detention Attack has Caught a Large Number of the `Hamas' and `Islamic Jihad' Supporters in the Governorate of Gaza," March 31, 1996. 134 Amnesty International, "Amnesty International Delegation Discusses Human Rights Issues with President Arafat" (AI Index: MDE 15/10/96), February 8, 1997. 135 Interviewed in al-Quds (Jerusalem) daily, February 2, 1997. As reported by FBIS-NES, February 2, 1997. 136 Human Rights Watch interview, West Bank, July 13, 1996. 137 Human Rights Watch interview, West Bank, July 13, 1996. 138 Human Rights Watch interview, Ramallah, July 14, 1996. 139 Human Rights Watch interview, West Bank , July 16, 1996. 140 Human Rights Watch interview, Bethlehem, July 16, 1996. 141 Joel Greenberg, "Arafat Critic is Detained in Gaza," New York Times, February 16, 1995. 142 Barton Gellman, "Arafat Critics Harassed in Gaza Strip," Washington Post, April 11, 1995. 143 Ibid. 144 Barton Gellman, "Palestinian Secret Police Wield Power in West Bank," Washington Post, August 28, 1995. 145 B'Tselem, "Detention of Bassem `Eid by "Force 17" agents, 2 January 1996, 11:00 p.m.- 4 January 1996, 12:00 a.m.," Testimony of Bassem `Eid, B'Tselem field worker, as recorded by him on 7 January 1996." 146 Ibid. 147 Al-Haq, "Detention and Interrogation of Dr. Iyad Al-Sarraj," December 11, 1995. 148 Anthony Lewis, "Darkness in Gaza," New York Times, May 6, 1996. 149 Amnesty International Urgent Action (AI Index: MDE 15/34/96), May 20, 1996. 150 "Sarraj: I Earned the Right to Criticize," Palestine Report, May 31, 1996, p. 7. 151 LAW, "Dr. Sarraj Arrested Again," June 12, 1996. 152 Dr. Eyad Sarraj, "Justice in Heavens," open statement following his third release, July 15, 1996. 153 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Raji Sourani, Dr. Sarraj's attorney, Gaza City, June 13, 1996. 154 Sarraj, "Justice in Heavens." 155 See, for example, "Ten U.S. Human Rights Groups Protest Third Arrest of Dr. Sarraj," June 12, 1996. 156 Human Rights Watch interview, Ramallah, July 17, 1996. 157 See Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, "State Security Court extends detention of Mohammed Dahman, Director of Addameer," August 18, 1996, and Amnesty International Urgent Action (AI Index MDE 15/56/96), August 15, 1996. 158 Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, urgent communiqué, August 18, 1996. 159 Human Rights Watch interview, West Jerusalem, July 11, 1996. 160 Human Rights Watch interview, Ramallah, July 13, 1996. 161 One interesting exception is an exchange of letters between Al-Haq and Brig. Gen. Ghazi al-Jabali, chief of the Palestinian Police, on restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression. These letters are reprinted and analyzed in Al-Haq, The Right to Freedom of Assembly: An Analysis of the Position of the Palestinian National Authority, Occasional Paper No. 12, March 1997. 162 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 12, 1996. 163 Human Rights Watch interview, West Bank, July 12, 1996. 164 Human Rights Watch interview, East Jerusalem, July 12, 1996. 165 Human Rights Watch interview, Gaza City, July 28, 1996.