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<nettime> mission report

Patrice Riemens asked me to forward this text,
best regards,

     [de-wordified @ nettime]


17 October 2000-10-20

Original:   ENGLISH

Commission on Human Rights
Fifth special Session
17-18 October 2000
Item 3 of the provisional agenda

Mission report on Israelıs violations of human rights
in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,
submitted by Mr. Giorgio Giacomelli,
Special Rapporteur

In response to the recent developments and the acute situation in
the OPTs, the Special Rapporteur undertook a mission to the
region to ascertain the prevailing human rights conditions.  The
Commissionıs subsequent decision to convene the current special
session provides the occasion for the Special Rapporteur to bring
his findings to the Commission's attention as a reference for its

The recent mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)
from 11 to 15 October 2000, enabled the Special Rapporteur to
consult with a wide range of interlocutors in connection with his
mandate.  This included meetings in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and
Jerusalem with Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, international
organisations on the ground, grassroots and community
organisations, human rights monitors, Palestinian Authority
representatives, medical professionals and individuals wounded in
the recent confrontations.  He gathered oral testimony and
documentary information, as well as published materials from
additional sources.  The Special Rapporteur notes with regret
that again he was denied the opportunity to consult official
Israeli interlocutors, due to Israelıs continuing rejection of
the mandate and its refusal to cooperate with the Special

In compliance with the mandate, as formulated by the Commission
on Human Rights, this report addresses the subject of military
occupation, and actions and omissions of the Occupying Power
during the unfolding events of late September 2000 until today,
17 October 2000.

While concentrating his attention to the terms of reference
contained in the mandate, the Special Rapporteur feels he would
be remiss of his obligation as a mechanism of the Commission on
Human Rights if he were not to draw the attention of the
Commission to the fact that, in the very area covered by the
mandate and in areas geographically and substantively peripheral
to it, other serious violations are perpetrated.  It would be for
the Commission to decide how best to address these matters in the
interest of faithfully and comprehensively upholding human rights

In general, the full range of human rights violations reported in
the previous report to the 56th session remain constant
(E/CN.4.4/2000/25).  However, a number of violations from that
spectrum have shown a dramatic upsurge since late September 2000.
 The Special Rapporteur brings these particular areas to the
Commissionıs attention.  He expects to present his regular,
comprehensive report to the 57th session in 2001.

The Human Rights Framework 
Under the UN Charter, a UN Member State is obligated to "respect
and promote human rights."  Additionally, Israel was bound upon
its establishment by the terms of the "Partition of Palestine"
resolution UNGA 181 (II), which states in Part I, Chapter 2,
article 3: "All persons within the jurisdiction of the [Arab or
Jewish] state shall be entitled to equal protection of the law." 
As the Occupying Power in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and
Jerusalem, Israel bears de jure responsibility for implementing
the applicable humanitarian law norms.  In the occupied
Palestinian territory, Israel bears the responsibilities of the
Occupying Power, as Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/2
has recognised.  As the treaty bodies have subsequently
reaffirmed, these Israeli jurisdictional obligations remain
applicable to date (CERD/C/304/Add.45, and CESCR

Therefore, international humanitarian law obligations apply to
this review of Israelıs role in the OPT, including The Hague
Regulations and the Geneva Conventions (1949), in particular, the
Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian
Persons in Time of War.  In addition, as ratifying Party to the
six principal human rights treaties, Israelıs covenanted human
rights obligations apply, as well as those arising from customary
law and general principles of international law.  The norms of
both customary and treaty law, as well as the relevant
resolutions of the UN form the legal framework for the concerns
raised in this report.

It should be noted that the data collected here on specific
violations are neither exhaustive nor reflect perfect uniformity
among all sources.  The Special Rapporteur has sought
corroboration of the information in order to establish reasonable
certainty of the facts presented to the Commission.  Nonetheless,
the Special Rapporteurıs report here reflects the scale and
proportions of the violations committed over the period under

Principal concerns regarding human rights

Right to life
The Occupying Power has dramatically escalated  the use of 
lethal force against the civilian population, ostensibly in
response to demonstrations beginning in Jerusalem and spreading
throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Occupation forces
appear to have indiscriminately used excessive force in cases
where there was no imminent threat to their lives.  Whether in
cases of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) or Israeli police actions,
deadly force is used without warning, and without employing
deterrence or gradual measures consistent with the minimum
standards and methods of crowd control or management of civil
unrest. These fundamental human rights and humanitarian norms of
necessity and proportionality have been breached in most reported
cases of confrontation between Palestinian civilians and Israeli

While the various sources consulted may differ to some degree on
details, all concur that, since 28 September, Israeli forces have
killed at least  85 Palestinians in the OPT in this way, of whom
more than 20 were children (under the age of 18), including small
children, as well as two infants, 5 and 6 months old.  Israeli
settlers in the West Bank are responsible for at least five of
these Palestinian deaths over the past 18 days.

In some sense the scale of this violation is unprecedented.  It
is worthy of note that the number of deaths caused by Israeli
forces so far approximate the number killed in the first four
months of the intifada, in 1987-88.

Depending on the criteria applied by the different sources with
regard to the nature and gravity of wounds, various reports
estimate between 2,000 and 3,700 Palestinians injured by Israeli
occupation forces.  Of these, some 40% are under 18 years of age.
 The total injuries are roughly categorised as resulting from
shooting to the head (40%), the chest (20%), abdomen (20%),
extremities and back (20%).  Reportedly, at least half of the
injuries resulted from Israeli forces using live ammunition, with
the remaining injuries due to rubber-coated metal bullets and
tear gas (ca. 10%).

In different degrees, these casualties are widely distributed
across the OPT.  Approximately, two thirds are found throughout
the West Bank and Jerusalem, with the remaining third in the Gaza

Officially verifiable figures on the total number of Israeli
casualties were not available.  However, Israeli occupying
forces, including settlers, to date have been reported to have
suffered seven deaths.

Methods of the use of force The Israeli forces have used a
variety of methods, including shooting with lethal weapons.  In
addition to the use of rubber-coated metal bullets, which at
close range have proved lethal, troops have fired rifles and
machine guns, deployed tanks, fired rockets and antitank
missiles, and have employed and fired from helicopter gunships
and naval vessels.

Many of the casualties are reportedly the result of long-distance
shooting by snipers.  The Special Rapporteur took eyewitness and
victim testimony of this tactic against civilians, some of whom
were far from, and uninvolved in civil demonstrations.

It is worth noting that the confrontations with, and manoeuvre of
IDF forces, in some cases, have disregarded the lines of
territorial division agreed upon.  This has crated some confusion
as to the role of the Palestinian civil police, which is meant
both to maintain order and protect the Palestinian population. 
This is a situation that remains of deep concern and should be
the subject of careful study and remedial efforts.

Local observers have reported concern over the apparent
re-emergence of IDF special undercover units to conduct
operations similar to those carried out during the intifada
(1987- ca. 1993).  Presently, the Israeli settler population has
emerged as an increasingly obvious source of paramilitary
activity, particularly, as local observers have noted, since this
yearıs Paris summit.  For instance, settlers have opened fire on
local Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and West Bank
villages, as noted in shooting incidents reported at Bidya and
Za`tara village (near Nablus), and in neighbourhoods adjacent to
Pesugot settlement (Jabal Tawil/al-Bireh), resulting in injuries
and one death.  Numerous reports indicate that Israeli occupation
forces have not acted to deter such paramilitary activities.

The situation has become more complex and multifaceted as some
new actors have come into play, such as the paramilitary
settlers, and some Palestinian bearing arms have appeared in the
protests.  These new factors, within a context of escalating
violence, form a particularly alarming development that calls for
urgent attention.

The emergence of particularly odious and brutal attacks, such as
the death by torture of a young Palestinian from Imm Safa village
(West Bank, Area C), or mob attacks, as in the case of the 12
October Ramallah killings, give ominous warning as to the new
forms of violence that could spin out of control if not properly
addressed and remedied.

Right to health
In addition to the obvious consequences for the right to health
that arise from the use of lethal weapons against civilians,
medical professionals have also become targets of IDF gunfire. 
Israeli forces have obstructed, beaten, and/or shot a number of
emergency medical personnel in the course of duty.  This has led
to the denial of emergency medical aid to victims and to the
wounding of medical personnel as well as the death of one
ambulance driver, Bassam Bilbaisi.

The level and number of casualties have strained local medical
services beyond capacity, requiring the transfer of severely
injured victims to hospitals in neighbouring countries.   The
casualties themselves and the Israeli-imposed closure have
created a shortage of medical supplies and strained the capacity
of medical services.  The impossibility of replenishing stocks
and the denial of access to needed treatment in neighbouring
countries due to closure of the OPT have deepened the
medical-care crisis at a time of greater need.

Freedom of movement
While the right to freedom of movement has been the subject of
violations on a sustained basis, particularly since the beginning
of the interim period, Israel's current closure of the occupied
territories is characterised also by the sealing off of
Palestinian populated areas.  This has prevented the free
movement of people and material into and out of these areas, and
has created shortages and a sense of isolation. The besieging of
several Palestinian communities has resulted in further
fragmentation of the territory and society as a whole and is
having a negative impact on the already fragile Palestinian
economy.  Furthermore, such an acute situation already has
consequences on access to education, medical care and livelihood,
in addition to lowering morale and contributing to an overall
sense of confinement.

The day before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Israeli
authorities closed the OPT, after which they cancelled all
permits for Palestinian workers, preventing them from access to
their jobs in Israel.  Subsequently, Israeli authorities
cancelled the permits for Palestinians (permit grades 2 and 3),
denying the freedom of movement for businessmen and other

Economic, social and cultural rights
Other economic losses include the demolition of physical
structures, including homes and apartments, as in the case of 40
apartments at Netzarim Junction, the damaging and burning of
vehicles, including ambulances, and vandalism of homes.  These
acts are carried out both by Israeli soldiers and settlers. 
Physical damage by the IDF ranges from the random gunfire at
water tanks on the roofs of homes to the shelling of the
municipality building at Beit Lahia, in the Gaza Strip and the
shelling of the electrical plant in Ramallah, West Bank.

The massacre carried out in the Haram al-Sharif perhaps most
dramatically exemplifies the violation of a religious site. 
Other sites that have been militarised, such as Josephıs Tomb, in
Nablus, and Rachelıs Tomb, in Bethlehem, have been the site of
violent conflict, resulting in destruction and/or effective
denial of the right to worship.  Other incidents include the
attempted burning of the church in Beit Hanina (Jerusalem) in a
night raid by settlers last week, and the vandalisation of a
synagogue at Jericho on 13 October.  These incidents, beyond the
violation of the right to religious expression, stand out as
particularly offensive and pose the danger of exacerbating one of
the most sensitive dimensions of the conflict.

Collective Punishment
The closure and isolation of communities has been recognised as a
type of collective punishment that contravenes the Fourth Geneva
Convention as does the demolition of homes and destruction of
public properties and facilities.  The prevention of workers from
access to their source of livelihood also stands as a violation
of this humanitarian law principle.  The consequences of these
acts not only result in the loss of livelihood as arising from
the denial of the right to work, but also in the loss of public
goods and services from the destruction of municipal facilities
and public utilities, as noted above.

Vulnerable Groups
In addition to those directly affected by the use of force,
particular segments of the Palestinian population deserve special
attention for their vulnerability.  Children in general
constitute a particularly vulnerable category as they are the
least equipped to cope with the psychological and other pressures
of the situation.  They are also in particular need of medical
attention and may suffer from trauma and unrest within the
family.  Women suffer disproportionately as a vulnerable social
group and particularly as mothers coping with their role as
guardians of the family and providers of their children's needs.

A category of people that have become especially vulnerable in
the light of recent events are Palestinians living near
settlements an in areas where the Palestinian Authority does not
have a presence, such as small, isolated farmers and Bedouins. 
It is worth noting that, due to their great number and the poor
living conditions in the camps, Palestinian refugees are most
affected by negative economic pressures and political unrest, and
are central to any development of the situation.

Local Perceptions
In general, respondents identified one of the main causes for the
recent Palestinians protests as the outcome of accumulated
frustration with the perceived shortcomings of both the content
and implementation of the Oslo process, notably in its failure to
uphold the human rights and humanitarian norms.

Both the local Palestinian and Israeli interlocutors consulted
emphasised to the Special Rapporteur that all concerned parties
could not possibly be incognizant of the danger in this breach: 
the people in the street, Israeli intelligence, the UN Commission
on Human Rights,  various treaty bodies, the General Assembly,
the Special Rapporteur, the Palestinian Authority.  They lamented
that, in spite of that, no corrective action was taken.

Under the circumstances, all local parties reiterated their
disappointment at the international community's evident lack of
will to take substantive measures to uphold rights for
Palestinians.  Moreover, they uniformly deplored the double
standard that has applied to the occupied Palestinian
territories, tolerating or facilitating the Israeli occupation
authorities' unbroken pattern of violations.  In particular, they
point out the contradiction between these standards established
through the United Nations and the simultaneous ineffectiveness
of the UN to uphold its own principles.
A number of common demands were forcefully put forward by
practically all interlocutors as the needed corrective action:  

      - The de jure implementation of  applicable humanitarian law and
      human rights standards, including the Fourth Geneva Convention
      (1949) and the principal human rights treaties

      - The prompt formation and dispatch of a Commission of Inquiry
      with competence to establish responsibility for violations
      committed by the Occupying Power.  A number of interlocutors
      recommended measures comparable to those taken in the case of
      East Timor

      - That any peace agreement should be subject to the scrutiny and
      guarantee of a competent body empowered to review its
      consistency with human rights and humanitarian law, including UN
      resolutions on Palestine (e.g. GA resolution 194 with respect to
      repatriation and compensation)

      - That ICRC urgently increase its presence as a measure of
      physical protection

      - That international observers and/or an interposition force be
      established to ensure the physical protection of the occupied

      - That the relevant thematic Special Rapporteurs give special
      attention to occupied Palestinian territories

The grievances expressed were not devoid of a certain positive
underpinning.    Respondents also conveyed the hope that the
losses arising from these tragic events would not be incurred in
vain.  Rather they expressed the hope that a correct reading of
the meaning of recent events will inspire the establishment of a
fairer process capable of leading to a durable peace.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Quite apart from any debate over the particular spark that
ignited the unrest and confrontation, the Special Rapporteur
remains convinced that the current conflict has its roots in the
accumulated grievances and resentment for the continuing
violations of human rights and humanitarian norms under Israeli

The Special Rapporteur  is particularly concerned that any
progress at confidence building that had been made may be
irretrievably lost as augured by the rapid polarisation that is
taking place on both sides and at all levels of Palestinian and
Israeli societies.  This signals the urgent need for the adoption
of measures toward restoring confidence and rekindling hope in
the peace process.  One indispensable ingredient for achieving
that is the injection of a human rights framework.

As pointed out in the previous report to this Commission, this
prerequisite is the sine qua non of any meaningful and durable
peace.  In addition to their cogency, these norms, once bona fide
accepted, would alone allow the sense of confidence and security
that would make possible the acceptance of the indispensable and
painful compromises necessary.

With this in mind, the Special Rapporteur  offers the following
recommendations for urgent action:

 - That the Occupying Power immediately issue orders to all its
 forces, civilian or military, consistent with international
 humanitarian norms

 - That those order be rigorously implemented, and that the
 appropriate training be provided when required

 - That a permanent mechanism be established to ensure that the
 orders are followed and, when not, determines accountability,
 assigns punishment and redresses violations

 - That to ensure credibility of the peace process, an
 ombudsman-type mechanism be established to process complaints,
 building on the experience of similar measure adopted in other
 conflict situations

 - To establish an observer and/or guarantor body that, by its
 very presence and neutrality, would serve to build a sense of
 security and confidence on both sides

 - The Special Rapporteur supports the idea of a mechanism for a
 speedy and objective inquiry into the ongoing crisis, as
 promoted by Security Council 1322 (2000). 

Adopting these measures would meet the most-immediate needs and
may allow all parties to come out of the current impasse. 
However, they should not supplant the broader task that lies
ahead, which involves relaunching a peace process that would
include the appropriate human rights framework.

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