WASHINGTON (Jan. 20)
Israel received mixed reviews in the State Department’s annual human rights report, issued Tuesday on the last full day of the Bush administration.
The report found that the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the administered territories rose sharply last year. But it also noted “some improvements in the human rights picture” there.
The report, covering the human rights situation in 189 countries, reserved its sharpest criticism for the Serbian-led “ethnic cleansing” campaign of forcible relocation, rape, torture and murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It said the massive scale of the atrocities “dwarfs anything seen in Europe since Nazi times.”
Jewish groups have been active in urging the U.S. government to take stronger action on Bosnia, because many Jews see parallels between the Nazi Holocaust and events in the former Yugoslav republic.
In Israel, there was no official reaction to the report, which is prepared by the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, with input from international human rights groups.
But Israeli officials said the report had failed to take into consideration the country’s need to crack down on the continuing spate of intifada-related violence, which endangers the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The report found that despite an “overall reduction in intifada violence,” the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces rose to 158 last year from 98 in 1991, a 62 percent increase.
KILLINGS BY UNDERCOVER UNITS CITED
But it found that an even greater number of Palestinians were killed by fellow Arabs in the territories. This number also rose, from 140 in 1991 to 182 last year, due to an escalation of “internecine violence” in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians were also responsible for killing 23 Israelis last year. The number of Israelis wounded by Palestinians was estimated at between 322 and 700, an increase over 1991.
Of the 158 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in 1992, “at least 45 were killed by undercover units operating disguised as Palestinians,” the report said.
The report also noted charges by some human rights groups of undercover units targeting “certain activists for execution.”
While Israeli government policy does not permit this, the report said, “numerous reports suggest that the (undercover) units frequently killed suspects under circumstances in which it may have been possible to apprehend them without killing.”
The State Department report also included some bright spots concerning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the territories. It noted a decreasing use of house demolition and administrative detention as punitive measures, and said that curfews were used “less extensively” in 1992 than the prior year.
(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Hugh Or gel in Tel Aviv.)