Israel/Occupied Territories: Amnesty International issues report on intifada, calls for attention to human rights in renewed diplomatic activity

Amnesty International's new report 'Broken lives: a year of intifada', measures events of one year of the intifada against the universal human rights standards which should govern the actions of those in authority. The report describes unlawful killings, by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups, as well as torture, unfair trials, house demolitions and closures. It deplores attitudes within Israel and the international community which accept an intolerable situation.

The report pays tribute to non-governmental organisations and journalists. 'Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations have investigated the killings and other human rights violations which the authorities should investigate,' says the 98-page report. 'They have stood at checkpoints or by houses threatened by shelling, in place of the human rights monitors which the international community should have long sent.'

The report condemns the Israeli Government which has responded to the intifada by killing Palestinians and by shelling Palestinian towns. In a blatant violation of the right to life, Israel continues to implement a deliberate policy of assassinating Palestinians said to have been planning attacks on Israelis. More than 40 Palestinians have been extrajudicially executed in attacks which also killed some 20 bystanders.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) consistently say those who were killed were 'terrorists'. Journalists and human rights organizations - like those who investigated the IDF assault on Beit Rima, where five Palestinians were killed and three homes demolished on 24 October 2001 - report that in many killings there appeared to have been no Palestinian fire against the Israeli forces.

In addition, during the past year the Israeli authorities have cut off almost every Palestinian town and village from the outside world. Hundreds of Palestinian houses have been demolished and Palestinians barred from travelling along certain roads in the Occupied Territories. All Palestinians in the territories militarily occupied by Israel - more than three million people - have been collectively punished.

The Amnesty International report also condemns the Palestinian armed groups who have shot deliberately at residential areas and cars with Israeli number plates and set off bombs targeting civilians in shopping malls and restaurants.

A large proportion of those killed and injured have been Children's rights: more than 160 Palestinian Children's rights and at least 32 Israeli Children's rights have been killed.

The report says that as a result of the Israeli authorities' failure to investigate every killing, there has been 'an acceptance of unlawful killing and impunity for those who have used unlawful force.' Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has also failed to investigate the circumstances of each death or to arrest those who kill unlawfully.

'This failure to investigate, the rush to treat as war a situation which should have been defused by the use of policing standards, and the deliberate murders committed by both sides amount to a frightening cheapening of the value of human life,' said Amnesty International.

With towns and villages closed to the outside world by the IDF, few can travel around to investigate how people have been killed. Palestinians are forbidden to travel on the main roads of the West Bank and Israelis risk arbitrary killing at the hands of Palestinian armed groups.

The report says that the international community 'has made increasingly strong statements, but has failed to take the action necessary to ensure respect for human rights standards and international humanitarian law by Israel and the Palestinians.'

'Human rights appear to be low on the international agenda at a time when they should regain center-stage, if any negotiation process is to achieve durable results. An international observing presence can greatly assist by defusing situations and give both Palestinians and Israelis greater protection. It should be deployed without further delay.'

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