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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: United States of America
24 April 2013

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012

Israel and the the Occupied Territories


The Palestinian Authority (PA) has a democratically elected president and legislative council. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority over the West Bank due to the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) continuing presence, and none over Arab residents of East Jerusalem due to Israel’s extension of Israeli law and authority to East Jerusalem in 1967. Although PA laws apply in the Gaza Strip, the PA had little authority in the Gaza Strip and none over Israeli residents of the West Bank. In the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, candidates backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization, won 74 of 132 seats in elections that generally met democratic standards. In 2007 Hamas staged a violent takeover of PA government installations in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad continued to govern the West Bank during the year. Both PA and Israeli security forces reported to civilian authorities. Hamas maintained control of security forces in the Gaza Strip.

The three most significant human rights abuses across the occupied territories were arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse, often with impunity, by multiple actors in the region; restrictions on civil liberties; and the inability of residents of the Gaza Strip under Hamas to choose their own government or hold it accountable.

Other human rights problems under the PA in the West Bank included abuse and mistreatment of detainees, poor and overcrowded detention facilities, prolonged detention, and infringements on privacy rights. Restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly continued. There were some limits on freedom of association and movement. Corruption was a problem. Violence against women and societal discrimination were serious problems. At times the PA allowed anti-Semitic expression. Abuse of children and discrimination against persons with disabilities also were serious problems. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status persisted. There were some limits on worker rights and forced labor, including by children. Child labor also remained a serious problem.

Human rights abuses under Hamas included security forces killing, torturing, arbitrarily detaining, and harassing opponents, Fatah members, and other Palestinians with impunity. Hamas and various other terrorist organizations and militant factions in the Gaza Strip launched rockets and mortars against civilian targets in Israel, killing and injuring civilians. Gaza-based civil rights organizations reported prisoners were held in poor conditions in detention facilities in the Gaza Strip. Authorities reportedly failed to provide fair trials to a number of accused prisoners. Hamas also infringed on privacy rights. Hamas restricted the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement of Gaza Strip residents. Discrimination against women and domestic violence were problems. Abuse of children and discrimination against persons with disabilities were problems. Hamas frequently promoted anti-Semitism. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status persisted. Restrictions on worker rights continued. Forced labor, including by children, occurred. There were reports of children trained as soldiers. Child labor remained a problem.

Human rights problems related to Israeli authorities included reports of excessive use of force against civilians, including killings; abuse of Palestinian detainees, particularly during arrest and interrogation; austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper use of security detention procedures; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association; and severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement. The IDF maintained restrictions on movement into and out of the Gaza Strip and largely limited the travel of Palestinians out of Gaza to humanitarian cases, in addition to some business travelers.

The PA, Hamas, and Israeli authorities took minimal steps to address impunity or reduce abuses. There were reports the PA, Hamas, and IDF did not adequately pursue investigations and disciplinary actions related to violations.

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