As of early September 2001, the PA had sentenced twelve people to death since the Intifada began, more than in any other similar period since the PA was established.160 Eleven of the sixteen alleged collaborators tried by the State Security and Military Courts since the Intifada began have been sentenced to death, as well as one of the accused convicted by the State Security Court in Gaza in May 2001 for killing a member of the security forces.
After a twenty-two month de facto moratorium on executions, two death sentences of alleged collaborators were ratified by President Arafat and carried out: ‛Alam Bani ‛Odeh (see above) was executed on January 13, 2001 in Nablus. The cruelty of the punishment was aggravated by being carried out publicly in front of a crowd of hundreds in the courtyard of the main administration building in Nablus. Majdi Muhammad Ahmad Makawi (27) was sentenced to death on January 11, 2001 in Gaza by the State Security Court for allegedly assisting Israel in killing two Fatah activists and two others in the same vehicle, at a checkpoint on November 22, 2000. Majdi Makawi was executed by firing squad on January 13, 2001.
Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases as a violation of the right to life, both because of its inherent cruelty and because of the possibility that individuals wrongly convicted may be executed. These concerns are heightened by the blatantly unfair trials in the State Security Court. The international outcry after these executions, especially from the European Union, may account for the fact that President Arafat has not ratified any more death sentences as of early November 2001. The head of the PLC's Human Rights and Oversight Committee agreed that fair procedures should be followed especially in death penalty because "If you find out after the execution that there has been a mistake, it is not only the person [executed] who pays, but his brothers, wives, uncles."161
Street Injustice: Vigilante Killings of Alleged Collaborators
Patterns of Killings
With no semblance of due process, completely outside the justice system, it is not surprising that the killings are carried out for a wide range of motives, some personal. Palestinians have been killed for: allegedly assisting Israel in specific assassinations of Palestinians; cooperating with Israel over long periods, often years ago; and selling land to Israelis. In many cases there is only an ill-defined public accusation of "collaborating with Israel." In some cases murders arising from personal and family disputes are cloaked in the justification of eliminating a collaborator.164 As Dr. Said Zeedani, director of the PICCR, has said, "we will encounter... `mixed motives' or `ulterior motives' or issues relating to family honor and political and social issues; the intertwining and intermingling of these motives."165
In some cases the victim has apparently been mistaken for someone else. Hussam As‛ad `Awad,
Similarly, 43-year-old Muhammad Fares al-Khatib from Tulkarem was shot dead by an assailant on June 27, 2001 as he walked with his niece on the streets of nearby Qalqiliya. In a letter sent to his widow the following month, Ism`ail Hassan Abu Jabal, the head of PA security forces in the northern district of the West Bank, suggested that Muhammad Fares al-Khatib was mistaken for his brother who had been a "security" suspect during the first Intifada. The letter declared her husband a "martyr" and promised financial assistance that families of martyrs receive from the PA.167 The letter also promised that because he was considered a martyr, the killing would be investigated further to find the perpetrator. However, no perpetrator has yet been brought to justice.
The social consequences for the family of a Palestinian killed by vigilantes for alleged collaboration can be as severe as that suffered by relatives of those convicted by the State Security Court. In the evening of July 31, 2001 two men wearing PA police uniforms went to the house of 57-year-old Jamal `Eid Shahin in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. Jamal `Eid Shahin walked some distance from the house to talk with the men, who then hit him on his legs and head or neck with an axe before shooting him to death. The Wihdat al-Tasfiyya (Elimination Unit) of the Jihaz al-Amn al-Thawri/Kata'ib Shuhadaa al-Aqsa (Revolutionary Security System/al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade) claimed responsibility in a leaflet which proclaimed, "The hand of traitors would not have reached our heroes if it was not for those corrupt ones who sold their conscience and their religion and dignity." The leaflet warned, "We say to those traitors who are left that their time is near. We will not forgive them the blood of the martyrs that they have taken." The imam at the local mosque reportedly refused to pray for the soul of Jamal `Eid Shahin, which brought further shame on the family and forced them to pray outside the mosque.168
The Perpetrators and Response of the Palestinian Authority
In contrast to the past,170 PA officials have publicly discouraged Palestinians from killing suspected collaborators-yet not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice. Faisal Husseini, the senior PLO and Fatah leader in Jerusalem before his death in May 2001, was reported in January 2001 as warning that "any attempt by an individual or group to...[take the law into their own hands] will bring charges on to them."171 After a killing in Bethlehem in August, the PA issued a statement in which it "rejects and condemns every attempt by any party to take the law into its hands."172 General Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the GIS in the West Bank, reaffirmed to Human Rights Watch that such vigilante killings are "bad for the Palestinian Authority and its image" and that therefore the PA does investigate and seek to prosecute.
It is not clear whether and to what extent there may be a link between the groups responsible for the killings and the PA or leaders in the PA, including whether political leaders or security forces have knowledge of the groups' actions but tolerate them. Groups claiming to be part of or close to Fatah, the political organization of President Arafat, have reportedly sometimes claimed responsibility, including one calling itself Quwwat al-`Asifa (Storm Forces).173 After Ahmad Shawqat Salah (29) was shot dead outside his home in al-Khader near Bethlehem on August 2, 2001, the Elimination Unit of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade claimed responsibility in a leaflet. It was reported that the assailants drove away from the shooting and were able to pass through a nearby military barrier controlled by Force17, an elite presidential unit, without being stopped like all other vehicles. As mentioned above, the killers of Jamal `Eid Shahin in Bethlehem reportedly wore police uniforms; this should be thoroughly investigated to determine whether or not they were in fact members of the police.
The PA aspires to statehood and should respect human rights laws that require governments to take reasonable steps to prevent or respond to such crimes even if they are carried out by private individuals. In the cases Human Rights Watch investigated in Tulkarem and Bethlehem, the police investigations appear to have been perfunctory at best. In some cases there was no investigation of the scene of the crime; in one the evidence was contaminated when handled by the police; in others there have been no signs of an investigation months after initial questioning of the victims' families. When a relative of one victim in Bethlehem asked the director of the Civil Police to investigate, the reply came, "I have only three things to tell you. A man was killed in [location]. His name is [name]. Who killed him is unknown."174 The widow of one victim told Human Rights Watch175 that the local police initially refused to help lift the body from where it lay because they said he was a collaborator. She later pleaded with the GIS (Mukhabarat) 176 to investigate. "The Mukhabarat said go to the governor," she explained, "and the governor said go to the Mukhabarat." When Human Rights Watch asked whether she was pushing for an investigation, she replied that only the governor could make this happen and "to go to the governor you need many people [to make a show of strength] and where will I get them?" Echoing the sentiments expressed by every victim's family Human Rights Watch spoke to, the brother of a man killed in Tulkarem said "I want to know who killed him. This is the most important thing for me."
It is important to note that far fewer Palestinians have been unlawfully killed as alleged collaborators than during the first Intifada, when an estimated 822 alleged collaborators died at the hands of other Palestinians between 1988 and April 1994.177 The smaller numbers are probably partly because a PA justice system now exists which can absorb some public anger by itself arresting alleged collaborators, and because the PA is more openly and clearly critical of the killings.
Nevertheless, about twenty alleged collaborators were killed in the first year of the first Intifada-similar to the death toll in these last twelve months. During subsequent years of the first Intifada the number of deaths surged dramatically, to about 150 in 1989 and thereafter 100 or more in most years. The escalation seems to have been a response to intensified Israeli operations to arrest suspects, often relying on Palestinian informants.178 There is a danger that today's vigilante killings will also escalate if Israel continues to liquidate Palestinians and use Palestinian informants, if the frustration and anger at the stalled peace process continues, and if the PA does not act decisively in every case to find and punish the perpetrators and to make it known at the highest level that such killings will not be tolerated.
160 The PHRMG has since reported one more death sentence in September 2001, imposed on September 24, 2001 by the Military Court in Hebron on 21-year-old ‛Imad Salah Fleifel for killing a colleague while on duty at a Palestinian checkpoint. Amnesty International figures for death sentences and executions, taken from its published annual reports:
Death sentences Executed
1995 1 0
164 For example, the Washington Post reported that the inhabitants of Burqin widely believed that the killing of Muhammad Musa Abd al-Rahman on January 15, 2001 arose out of a dispute he had with a Palestinian intelligence official over accusations of adultery. See Lee Hockstader, "Palestinians Battle the Enemy Within: Menace of Israeli Collaborators Spawns Executions, Vigilantism, Revenge Killings," Washington Post Foreign Service, February 2, 2001.
169 BBC News, "Death of Palestinian `Collaborator.'" January 16, 2001,
170 In the past, inflammatory comments have encouraged killings. For example, the PA minister of justice, Freih Abu Meddein, seemed to give the green light to violence against suspected land dealers when, following the death in May 1997 of a land dealer, he said, "As I have said before expect the unexpected for these matters because nobody from this moment will accept any traitor who sells his land to Israelis." (Human Rights Watch, World Report 1998, "Palestinian Authority").
171 BBC News, "Death of Palestinian `Collaborator,'" January 16, 2001,
172 BBC News, "Palestinians Round up `Collaborators,'" August 3, 2001,
173 See, for example, the report of the killing of Ma'mun Balar in Tulkarem on April 8, 2001, in which a group calling itself "Quwwat al-`Asifa" claimed responsibility. This was the name of Fatah's military branch during the 1960s. See Amira Hass, Amos Harel and Baruch Kra, "Palestinian Man with Israeli ID Killed in Tul Karm," Ha'aretz, April 9, 2001.
176 Investigating killings of collaborators is the responsibility of the Civil Police but also the mukhabarat and the Preventive Security Service because the question of collaborators is seen as related to the security of the PA areas-from Human Rights Watch interview with General Tawfiq Tiwari, head of the mukhabarat for the West Bank, September 7, 2001, Ramallah.
178 Figures and analysis of reasons for escalation during first Intifada, see B'Tselem Collaborators in the Occupied Territories: Human Rights Abuses and Violations, Jerusalem, B'Tselem, February 1995.