Ref.: 61/99

Date: 29th May, 1999

Yesterday afternoon, Friday, May 28, 1999, the delegation of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) delivered its testimony to the United Nations Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. The committee’s work started in Cairo on Thursday. The committee carried out its work in Cairo as a result of Israel’s refusal to receive it or to allow its members to carry out their tasks in the Occupied Territories. The delegation from the Centre included Hamdi Shaqqura, the Coordinator of the Democratic Development Unit, and Iyad-Al-Alami, Coordinator of the Legal Unit.

Shaqqura’s testimony focused on the Israeli closure policy and its effects on all aspects of life for the Palestinian people. In addition, he shed light on other Israeli human rights violations in the Gaza Strip, including settlement expansion, land confiscation, and the practices of the Israeli forces against Palestinian fishermen. In his testimony, Shaqqura asserted that the Israeli occupation continues imposing closure and tight restrictions on the movement of individuals as well as on commercial activities. In this context, he rebutted the Israeli claims of having canceled the policy of closure. He stated that the closure policy cannot be evaluated on the basis of the number of closure days in the Occupied Territories since the closure is, in fact, a permanent reality that is loosened or tightened at intervals, but always present. The right of citizens to free movement, he said, is completely denied.

Shaqqura also referred to the effects of the closure policy on the economic and social rights of citizens, including the right of education and health. Within this context, Shaqqura reaffirmed PCHR’s stance rejecting the Israeli security justification for the closure policy, regarding it as a collective punishment against the Palestinian people. At another level, he highlighted the Israeli settlement activities and the efforts by the settlers and occupying soldiers to expand the existing settlements, to add new units, and to confiscate more land, particularly the lands that are located adjacent to the settlements.

Shaqqura brought to the attention of the committee the continuing suffering of Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip as a result of the ongoing attacks by the Israeli forces. He added that the rights of fishermen to fish freely is denied although the interim agreements between the two sides assert the rights of Palestinian fishermen to earn their livelihood in this way. Since 1996, the occupation forces decreased the area in which Palestinian fishermen are allowed to fish – from 20 to 12 nautical miles.

From time to time the Israeli forces shoot at Palestinian boats, arrest fishermen, and impound boats. In other cases, Israel completely closes the sea and declares it to be a military area. When this occurs all the fishermen are ordered to bring their boats in from the sea while leaving their fishing equipment at sea. This policy can be imposed for many days, which sometimes leads to damage to fishing equipment and financial losses.

Al-Alami, in his testimony, clarified the circumstances of more than 2,500 Palestinian and Arab detainees in the Israeli occupation prisons. He expressed his surprise at the ongoing arrest of these people as this action contradicts the essence of the peace process which is based on the principle of mutual confidence-building measures between the two interlocutors. This principle was included in the interim agreements and called for the release of the detainees as a means of achieving these confidence-building measures.

Al-Alami stated that Palestinian and Arab detainees are subjected to torture by the Israeli General Security Forces officers (Shabak). Torture techniques include violent shaking, subjection to loud music, sleep deprivation, and shabeh (the placement of detainees in extraordinarily uncomfortable positions). This torture led to the death of many detainees during the past years. Al-Alami asserted that Israel is the only state in the world to legalize torture. He added that the director of the Israeli General Security Forces, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, mentioned that there is no interrogator in the Security Forces that has not practiced torture. This statement was published in the Israeli Yerushalem newspaper, and clearly illustrates that Israel stands in violation of international law.

Al-Alami further referred to the medical negligence that is suffered by the detainees and that led to the death of a number of them. The last detainee to die as a result of this neglect was Shadi Abu Dahruj who died on May 17, 1999, inside his cell in Bir Sheva prison following a deterioration in his health. The detainee Ahmed Asfour died on October 4, 1998. At that time, the Israeli authorities claimed that he committed suicide. Also, the detainee Yousef Al-Arair died a few hours after he arrived to Al-Ramleh prison hospital following his transfer from Tel Hashomer hospital after a surgical operation.

Al-Alami warned of the deterioration in the health situation of the detainees and added that Israel denies the right of these detainees to proper medical assistance. He called for the committee to immediately intervene to save the life of the detainee Yasser Al-Muaddin who is suffering from kidney failure and in urgent of a transplant. In addition, the detainee Nidal Abu Aliyeh is also suffering from kidney failure and in need of a transplant. Finally, the detainee Imad El-Deen Zu’reb is thought to be suffering from cancer.

The members of the committee expressed their deep concern on the matter of the detainees and asserted that they would contact the concerned parties in this regard in order to pressure Israel to provide the necessary medical treatment for these detainees.

Al-Alami presented the results of the ongoing banning of Palestinian lawyers from visiting their clients in Israeli prisons and their inability to represent them in Israeli courts. He explained to the members of the committee the restrictions that prevent the detainees from receiving regular family visits. Within this context, he mentioned that more than 60 detainees from Arab countries are banned from receiving visits from their families and are visited instead by Palestinian families. He added, however, that since January 5, 1999, Israel has prevented such visits by non-family members and has also banned children from visiting their parents in prison.

Finally, Al-Alami highlighted the case of Martyrs’ Cemetery (Mahkbaret Shuhada Al-Arqam) and asserted that the occupation forces are still keeping more than 24 martyrs’ bodies from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a military cemetery inside Israel. These bodies are being used, he declared, as an instrument for bargaining in a clear challenge to religious ethics and humanitarian values which affirm the importance of proper burial.

Finally, Shaqqura and Al-Alami forwarded to the members of the committee a set of documents including the Israeli High Court decision that legalized torture and a press release including documentation of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.


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