Amnesty International’s annual global human rights report for 2011 has slammed Israel’s human rights record both in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The report, which described the human rights revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa as “inspirational”, has condemned Israel’s conduct in multiple areas including the justice system, the Gaza blockade, human rights accountability, housing demolitions and settlement activity, torture and excessive use of force, freedom of movement and freedom of speech. The organisation labelled the blockade of Gaza as a form “collective punishment in breach of international humanitarian law” in the report and has called for it to be lifted. The report says the blockade leaves Gazans entirely dependent on international aid, which in turn has been severely restricted by the Israeli military. AI noted in the report that the delay and denial of permits for Palestinians to travel from the Palestinian enclave for medical reasons resulted in instances of death. The organisation also condoned the use of “lethal and arbitrary force” on the international “freedom flotilla” carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza in May of last year.
The report noted the continued extensive restriction of movement imposed by the Israeli military on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories including East Jerusalem. Much of this was related to the construction of the Israeli separation barrier. The research reported that “by the end of 2010, the construction of around 60 per cent of the planned 700km fence/wall had been completed; more than 85 per cent of its entire route is on Palestinian land inside the West Bank. The fence/wall separated thousands of Palestinians from their farmland and water sources”. The human rights group also condemned the extension of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and noted that the Israeli settler population had reached over 500,000 during the period of the report.
On housing, the use of housing demolitions and the maze of permits and regulations imposed on the Palestinian construction of housing and water infrastructure within the Palestinian Territories amounted to the “denial of Palestinians right to adequate housing”, the report claimed. It was reported that “at least 594 Palestinians – half of them children – were displaced after their homes were demolished by order of the Israeli authorities”.
The report stated that “Israeli security forces used excessive force against Palestinian civilians, including non-violent demonstrators in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as farmers, fishermen and others working in the Israeli-declared “exclusion zone” inside Gaza or its coastal waters”. The organisation quoted the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs claim that Israel killed 33 Palestinians in the OPT including 8 children in the last year.
Quoting Israeli human rights group B’T selem, the report noted an almost total lack of accountability for crimes committed against innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military or Israeli settlers. Fair and impartial investigations had not been conducted into the targeting of civilians during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09 and the recommendations made by the Goldstone Report had not been implemented. Of the 1, 510 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military in 2006-2009, excluding Operation Cast Lead, investigations were opened in only 22 cases.
The report condemned the extensive use of administrative detention by the Israeli state against Palestinians. Administrative detention legislation permits the Israeli military to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial for extended periods under Israeli law. Consisted allegations of torture against imprisoned Palestinians, including minors, continued and remain un-investigated, Amnesty International said.
The organisation also criticized the imprisonment of Israeli conscientious objectors for refusing to serve in the military due to their stance against the Israeli occupation of the Territories. The organisation reported that 12 Israeli’s had been imprisoned for this offence in the last 12 months.