Amnesty condemns Israel and Palestinians

Palestinians protest against relatives' detention in Israeli jails

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has accused both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority of widespread abuses of human rights, including detention without charge, torture and unfair trials.

A report just published reviews developments over the past five years since the Declaration of Principles was signed by Israel and the Palestinians in Washington on 13 September 1993, covering the establishment of Palestinian self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The report says the Palestinian population has been the main victim of successive waves of repression by both Israeli and Palestinian security forces.

Outside pressure

It accused the Palestinians of having acted under pressure from Israel and the United States following suicide bomb attacks on Israeli civilians, and instituting a system which mirrors aspects of Israeli practice in the occupied territories.

According to the Amnesty report, that means detention for months or years without formal charge, the use of torture - routine in the case of those accused of collaborating with Israel - and grossly unfair trials.

The London-based organisation condemns what it calls the use of the State Security Court for secret trials, sometimes of human rights activists or critics of the authorities.

Nineteen people are said to have died in Palestinian custody, some as a result of torture.

"Those particularly liable to suffer torture ... are suspected 'collaborators' including those accused of selling land to Jews," the report says.

After three notorious cases two years ago, the incidence of torture declined, at least in the case of political detainees opposed to the peace process.

Israel not spared

On the Israeli side, Amnesty International says the systematic use of torture of Palestinian detainees has been legitimised and entrenched, not only by the government but also by the Supreme Court.

Israel says its interrogation methods, involving what is called a degree of physical pressure, do not constitute torture. But United Nations experts disagree.

The methods described include depriving people of sleep while keeping them shackled in painful positions, exposing them to continuous raucous music, and violent shaking.

Amnesty says the number of Palestinians targeted by the Israeli security forces has greatly diminished since the signing of the 1993 autonomy agreement.

But it also says more than 250 have been killed in that period, and more than 1,600 are still arrested and ill-treated every year.