- Washington - 23 January:
Obscured by all the diplomatic flourishes and skirmishes, what is really happening on the ground in occupied Palestine is what will be of lasting significance.
Meanwhile Arafat's Washington visit was a total bust. He is completely
at the mercy of a Clinton Administration that is completely in the hands
of the Jewish lobby. Clinton made good on his campaign promise to
set up a kosher kitchen in the White House -- but now we know he didn't
where the food is prepared, but rather right in the Oval Office where affairs of state are dealt with.
Back in occupied Palestine, two of the few remaining independent Palestinian institutions have just spoken up boldly and courageously.
The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group has just issued a report detailing how the Arafat Regime is a "police-state" designed to control the Palestinian population on behalf of Israel "as the average citizen looks on in horror."
And the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights has detailed
the perversion of "justice" that the Arafat regime is instituting in the
JERUSALEM (Reuters- 1-20-98) - A leading Palestinian human rights group, accusing the Palestinian Authority of acting like a "police state," issued a scathing report Tuesday detailing widespread human rights abuses in Palestinian-ruled areas in 1997.
"The mechanisms of a police state are in place. The Authority is practicing these mechanisms as the average citizen looks on in horror," the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) said in its annual report, "The State of Human Rights in Palestine."
The report said torture and extra-judicial killings in Palestinian Authority custody were the most severe human rights violations in self-ruled areas.
"Seven Palestinians died in custody during 1997, compared to only four in 1996," said the report, distributed at a Jerusalem news conference by PHRMG director Bassem Eid.
"There were no investigations and the perpetrators were punished only in one case. The high number of deaths is connected to the official and long-standing tolerance of torture by the security services," the report said.
It stressed that in Palestinian-controlled areas, "more and more Palestinians are engaged in the important work of arresting, torturing, and occasionally killing each other, much as they did during 1996 and 1995."
The report said illegal arrests and arbitrary detentions were the norm rather than the exception in Palestinian Authority areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It said the judicial system, both military and civilian, was in danger of becoming entirely irrelevant for Palestinian citizens as hundreds of prisoners were denied their day in court...
The report detailed systematic violations of freedoms of speech and the press and said journalists lived in fear of either arrest or torture for publishing articles critical of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's self-rule authority.
The Palestinian Authority has come under sharp criticism from local and international human rights groups for abuses it carried out in areas under its control since its establishment in 1993.
Human rights violations have intensified after crackdowns against alleged members of Muslim militant groups which have killed scores of Israelis in suicide attacks aimed at undermining Israel-Palestinian peace deals.
Palestinian officials said that human rights abuses were acts carried out by individuals in the security apparatus but were not police policy. "We are not angels but our human rights record has improved in recent months and continues to improve," insisted Ibrahim Abu Dagga, human rights adviser to Arafat.
The PHRMG dismissed such claims, stating that torture carried out by the Palestinian security forces was "frequent and routine."
"What is absolutely verifiable is that torture is taking place throughout the West Bank and Gaza with the knowledge and approval of our executive branch," the report stated.
"To talk of 'improvement' in such a context is a way of mocking the victims," it said...
[LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights - 19 January 1998]
Today, 19 January 1998, the Palestinian State Security Court met at the Military Court Headquarters in the Office of then Governor of Jericho to try Nasser Abu Arrous and Jasser Salaami'. Following a closed thirty-minute hearing, prior to which the defendants had not received notification of their charges nor were they permitted to appoint their own defense attorneys, the State Security Court handed down a sentence of 15 years hard labor. The charges, trial and imprisonment of the two defendants are a serious violation of human rights and are unlawful under the relevant legislation in the West Bank.
Nasser Abu Arrous, aged 23 years of Nablus, and Jasser Salaami', 25 years
also of Nablus, were arrested four days ago by the Palestinian General
Intelligence Service. Following an announcement by the
Palestinian National Authority yesterday that the State Security Court would try the two for charges connected to the bombings in West Jerusalem on 13 July 1997 and 4 September 1997, LAW sent its attorneys to represent the Abu Arrous and Salaami' at trial.
At 10.00 hours local time the attorneys at LAW sought to enter the Governor's
offices in order to represent the client, but were told by the court police
that the court was not yet in session. After ninety
minutes the lawyers were called into the building, in which it transpired the State Security Court had been in session. The Chair of the State Security Court, Colonel Marwan Fedar, immediately on the arrival of the defense lawyers, handed down a sentence of 15 years hard labor for Nasser Abu Arrous and Jasser Salaami'.
The two had been charged with offenses under the Revolutionary Punishment
Law of the Palestine Liberation Organization 1979. The charges related
to the commission of terrorist acts, article 174, and
damaging national unity, article 178.
These codes do not form part of Palestinian law and have no validity in
the West Bank including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Consequently
the accusations, charges, trial and sentence are all
unlawful and the two defendants are facing 15 years imprisonment for non-existent offenses.
The trial of Abu Arrous and Salaami' was conducted, as with other trials of the State Security Court, in violation of basic principles of fair trial. The defendants were not permitted to prepare a defense, appoint their own defense attorneys, the trial was conducted in closed session and it is unclear what rules of procedure were employed.
The trial and sentence again demonstrate that the State Security Court is a serious violation of human rights. While the Court continues to exist it defies and destabilizes the basic foundations of justice: the rule of law, fair trial and the independence of the judiciary. Since its establishment in February 1995 the State Security Court has successively tried political opponents as an expedient means of incarceration.
LAW calls for the immediate abolition of the State Security Court, as it
corrupts law and judicial procedures in the Palestinian areas of the Occupied
Territories. It also calls for all decisions of the State
Security Court to be reviewed by the Palestinian High Court.