Palestinian Abuses Cited in State Department Report

The Palestinians guilty of the same human rights abuses of which they often accuse Israel, according to the results of a State Department report.

For the first time, the State Department’s annual human rights report includes an according of Palestinian abuses as well as those in Israel and 192 other countries around the globe.

Palestinian Authority police in Gaza “reportedly committed at lease one extrajudicial” killing, have “mistreated detainees” and “used excessive force on occasion,” according to the report, which covers 1994.

The killing referred to a July 5 incident in which a Palestinian taxi driver suspected of collaborating with Israeli security services died in Palestinian police custody, reportedly from injuries suffered during his interrogation.

According to the report, 65 Palestinians died at the hands of fellow Palestinians last year, a sharp decline from 149 in 1992 and 79 in 1993.

Overall, “there were clear improvements in the human rights situation in the occupied territories,” the report states, referring to the newly autonomous Palestinian regions, the Gaza Strip and Jericho, as well as other West Bank areas still under Israeli rule.

The reports specifically singled out the reduction of large-scale confrontations and unrest as well as the end of the nighttime curfew in Gaza.

The report also noted that there were no Israeli deportations of Palestinians for the second year.

The report praised and the Palestine Liberation Organization for having “established channels and procedures” to deal with political, economic and security disputes.

However, the report acknowledges the difficulties in assessing the Palestinian Authority’s record because PLO chairman Yasser Arafat only took over Gaza and the West Bank enclave of Jericho in May.

Israel’s human rights record continued to improve last year in the eyes of the State Department, but serious concerns remain.

The State Department noted that Israel released 5,477 Palestinian prisoners since the signing of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993 and that Palestinians are enjoying greater freedoms in Gaza and Jericho.

But Israel continues to hold an estimated 6,050, according to the report.

The report also cited what it termed “credible reports” that Israel “mistreated and in some cases tortured Palestinians during arrests and interrogations.”

The report also accused Israel of running undercover units of army personnel disguised as Palestinians. It said these units killed at least 13 Palestinians. Last year’s report attributed 27 Palestinian deaths to these units.

Meanwhile, Palestinians killed 23 Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza and 52 within the 1967 borders, according to information supplied by the Israeli government and included in the report. These killings were largely terrorist acts committed by Islamic extremists opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian self- rule accord.

The 47-page report, including an annex on the territories, recounts major terrorist attacks in Israel as well as in the West Bank and Gaza, Including the Hebron massacre last February, during which a Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinian worshipers.

It also cites the shooting at the Philistin Mosque in Gaza where 16 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded in a shootout between extremists and Palestinian police.

According to the report, Israeli security forces are responsible for “widespread” human rights abuses including, in some cases, torture.

“Common practices reportedly include hooding; forced standing; tying the detainee in contorted positions; prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures; blows and beatings with fists, sticks and other instruments; confinement in a small and often filthy space; sleep and food deprivation; threats against the detainee’s family; and threats of death,” the report said.

Officials at the Israeli Embassy here declined to comment on the report Wednesday.

The report also cited human rights in other Middle Eastern countries.

In Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, torture, arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention without trial were prevalent, the report said.

Discrimination against women and religious and ethnic minorities continued in those countries as well.

Those countries also restricted basic freedoms, such as freedom of the press, speech or association to some extent.

Although human rights abuses in most Middle Eastern countries worsened, Syria and Turkey improved in some areas, the report said.

The report noted that the Syrian government allowed all Jewish citizens to leave during the past year and that the country is more responsive to outside inquiries about political prisoners.

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