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Palestinians Face Human Rights Abuses, Charges Amnesty International Report

Palestinians detained in the Israeli-administered territories are likely to face human rights abuses at the hands of Israeli authorities, according to a new report issued by Amnesty International, the human rights monitoring organization.

In the report, “Israel and the Occupied Territories,” Amnesty focused on the military justice system which has tried over 30,000 Palestinians since the intifada, or Palestinian uprising, began in December 1987.

The report, released Tuesday, accused Israeli authorities of having “effectively condoned if not encouraged” human rights abuses.

Among the abuses cited in the report are long periods of detention without access to a lawyer, physical abuse of detainees during interrogation and undue pressure on a defendant to plead guilty rather than contest the charges.

Palestinians may be detained for up to 18 days before a detention order is issued by a judge, and may be held for up to 90 days before being allowed to see a lawyer, the report stated.

“Such institutionalized practice of prolonged incommunicado detention is a fundamental flaw of the military justice system,” the report stated.

“It encourages the possibility of arbitrary arrest and deprives detainees of crucial safeguards against torture or ill-treatment, which usually occur during the first hours and days of detention,” according to the report.

The report criticized Israeli authorities for mistreating detainees by beating them, hooding them and holding them in small or very cold cells, among other things.

“What’s extremely disturbing is that there are actually secret official guidelines allowing ‘moderate physical pressure’ during interrogation,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The guidelines were disclosed a commission of inquiry into interrogation methods, headed by Judge Moshe Landau. The commission’s report was endorsed by the Israeli Cabinet in the fall of 1987, Amnesty noted.

While acknowledging that Israeli authorities face an uprising by Palestinians in the territories, Amnesty called on Israel to fully implement international human rights standards in the territories.

Although the organization stated that it is opposed to the imprisonment of people for their political, religious or other beliefs, “it does not challenge the right of the Israeli government to bring to justice those who have used or advocated violence.”

However, the report stressed that Israeli authorities must ensure that trials are fair and prompt.

The report also questioned the increasing use of the military courts for non-security offenses such as non-payment of taxes. “Israeli officials explain this development by referring to a diminished will on the part of the local legal system since the beginning of the intifada to enforce legislation in such areas,” the report stated.

Amnesty called on Israel to “urgently introduce safeguards against torture and ill-treatment and to ensure fair trails.”

Israeli officials said they could not comment on Amnesty’s charges until they had seen the full report.

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