Violence in Territories Declines, but U.S. Has Human Rights Concerns

The level of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip declined sharply last year. but the U.S. State Department continues to be concerned about Israeli human rights practices in the territories.

Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, made this assessment Friday as the State Department released its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1991.”

The report, which covers more than 150 countries, is required by law to be submitted to Congress each year.

The report found that the Israeli government last year began reducing some of the restrictions on Palestinians in the territories. But it also said human rights violations continue to occur.

One major concern raised in the report is Israel’s practice of deporting Palestinians, which the United States considers illegal under international law.

In January 1991, Israel deported four Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who it said were leaders of Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic group. The current dispute over Israel’s plans to deport 11 Palestinians is not mentioned, since this occurred shortly after the new year began.

The report said that since the outbreak of the intifada in 1987, Palestinian violence has been met by “severe Israeli countermeasures.” But the level of incidents was significantly lower in 1991.

“The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces and intra-Palestinian violence was significantly lower than in 1990,” the report said.

Specifically, 27 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in 1991 and 140 killed by other Palestinians.

MORE ISRAELIS KILLED LAST YEAR

However, there was an increase in the number of Israeli soldiers and civilians killed in the territories during 1991. Twelve Israelis were killed and at least 124 injured last year. Israeli civilians killed four Palestinians in 1991.

“Sentences given to Israelis for killing Palestinians are generally much lighter than sentences handed down to Palestinians convicted of killing either Israelis or Palestinians,” the report said.

The report also noted that there were fewer demolitions of Palestinian homes and sealing of houses and rooms in 1991. “According to press reports, security authorities demolished 55 houses and sealed 62 for security reasons,” the report said. “Israeli authorities reported 43 demolitions and 58 sealings.”

The figures for 1990 were 94 demolished and 87 sealed.

“The number of administrative detainees at the end of 1991 was less than one-third the number of administrative detainees at the end of 1990,” the report said.

The report also found “credible reports of torture, abuse and mistreatment of Palestinians detained in prisons and detention centers, despite Israeli laws prohibiting torture.

“The major controversy between Israel and the United States over the territories on human rights and other issues results from their different interpretation of international law,” the report said.

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