Palestinian human rights activism under Israeli occupation: the case of al-Haq.
56. See Al-Haq, Punishing a Nation, pp. 204-205; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, An Examination of the Detention of Human Rights Workers; and various other letters to this effect retained in the files of al-Haq.
57. Given the relative ease with which an Israeli court could convict al-Haq staff in the absence of incriminating evidence, it may appear irrational from MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE SYSTEMATIC VIOLATION of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli military during the popular uprising (al-Intifada al-Sha'biyya) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.(1) At the same time, there has been no examination of how Palestinian human rights organizations in the Occupied Territories have faced the dual challenge of increased repression and growing international concern since the uprising began in December 1987.(2) In order to shed some light on their activities, this paper examines the experiences of al-Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).(3)
In order to put Palestinian human rights advocacy during the uprising in proper perspective, it is first necessary to examine the development of al-Haq in the larger context of twenty-three years of Israeli military occupation. Accordingly, this paper examines the formative issues encountered by al-Haq by virtue of its existence under prolonged military occupation before dealing specifically with its experiences during the uprising.
A PROFILE OF AL-HAQ
Located in the West Bank city of Ramallah to the north of Jerusalem, al-Haq was established in 1979 by a group of Palestinian lawyers as the West Bank affiliate of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists. Reflecting this institutional affiliation, it has throughout its existence been exclusively concerned with the promotion of the rule of law and the protection of human rights.
As the first organization of its kind in the Occupied Territories, al-Haq from the outset has been at least as involved with understanding its environment as it has been with attempting to change it. In this respect, the increasingly incomprehensible nature of the judicial system in the Occupied Territories during the 1970s was equal to its arbitrary implementation, thereby creating the need for such an organization. In an accurate reflection of these concerns, legal research, as opposed to human rights monitoring and intervention as narrowly understood, assumed pride of place during al-Haq's formative period, and to this day the organization defines itself as both a legal research and human rights organization.
Structurally, al-Haq's staff is divided into a fieldwork unit, whose members are geographically dispersed throughout the Occupied Territories to collect primary documentation about human rights abuses; a database unit, which systematizes the data collected by the fieldwork unit; a research unit, which conducts both legal and human rights research and has primary responsibility for the production of al-Haq's interventions; a library unit, which operates the only public law library in the Occupied Territories; and support staff. In addition, al-Haq maintains a field representative in London. Ongoing communications between staff, as well as between staff and administration is maintained through a weekly general meeting, during which the organization's agenda, formulated in its broad outlines by a strategic planning committee, is further defined. Given the highly interdependent nature of their work, the fieldwork and research units maintain additional links through regular meetings, the office of the fieldwork coordinator (who is resident at al-Haq), and a fieldwork liaison from within the research unit. Administratively speaking, al-Haq has gone through several phases during which an increasingly developed decision-making structure has emerged to cope with the expansion of both staff and work. Traditionally, however, its governing body has sought to play an active role in the organization's day-to-day management rather than relegate executive powers. Al-Haq is funded almost exclusively by Western foundation grants, with additional donations coming from its associate membership and other individuals. It does not accept donations from states, government agencies, or political parties. While al-Haq has actively cultivated and sought to expand its associate membership, members have not been actively involved in pursuing the organization's agenda by, for example, being asked to complement its interventions with their own.
Al-Haq's human rights agenda, methods of documentation and intervention, and also its practical ambitions regarding the enforcement of the rule of law and human rights standards have been flexible over the years, tending to reflect changes in the operating environment itself as well as the changing international appraisal of the Israeli occupation. Turning firstly to the formative impact of the occupation upon al-Haq's agenda and activities, it becomes clear that the organization's response to the uprising could not have been nearly as sophisticated without the experience it had gained since 1979. At the same time, a number of issues essential to its mandate which had remained unresolved throughout this first period continued to hamper its work in the period after December 1987.
GROWING UP UNDER OCCUPATION
Al-Haq at its very inception in the late 1970s faced a series of challenges which would have sorely tested the capabilities of even the most experienced human rights organization. It was a Palestinian institution under Israeli occupation. The occupation, despite its everyday brutality and lawless rule, enjoyed an international reputation for being benign and scrupulous in its respect for the rule of law, while Palestinians were generally held to be incapable of dispassionate investigation of anything concerning Israel. Furthermore, the realities of politics, in which the Palestine question stood at the nexus of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as those between East and West, North and South, and Europe and its past, meant that the prospects for reasoned discussion of human fights in the Occupied Territories were slim at best. Additionally, the international human fights community did not appear to be actively interested in Israel's human rights practices. This reflected not only what can be described as a pro-Israeli political bias,(4) but also its assessment that Israel was not a serious offender in the context of the larger Middle East region.
From the outset, al-Haq's response to this predicament was to deny the relevance of politics to human rights and to refer exclusively to the universal standard of international law in its appraisal of Israeli conduct. Where previous Palestinian efforts confronted the prevailing mood head-on by explicitly mobilizing Israel's human rights record in support of Palestinian political objectives, al-Haq sought to isolate the human rights debate from its political context altogether. In doing so, it became the first Palestinian institution concerned with understanding the judicial system and the status of human rights in the Occupied Territories as an end in itself, ensured that its credibility would rest upon factors amenable to at least a degree of scientific verification, and forced the international human rights community to take it seriously by removing the pretext that its findings were suspect on account of political motives.
At the same time, the attempt to de-politicize the human rights debate also bore its costs. If only subconsciously, it translated into an emphasis on micro-violations to the detriment of the bigger picture and a reluctance to actively engage the points of intersection between human and national rights. In the clearest example, that of the right to national self-determination, al-Haq has always upheld it as a fundamental right yet never systematically examined it in the manner of, for example, administrative detention without charge or trial or prison conditions.(5) The same could be said for the right of repatriation, although an added complication here has been that al-Haq's mandate is limited to the Occupied Territories and does not extend to Palestinian communities in exile.(6)
Al-Haq's next obstacle was, perhaps predictably, the paucity of information on the judicial system in the Occupied Territories. In the context of the occupation, this was no small matter, as one could not simply go to a library and locate a compendium of applicable laws. This did not, and does not, exist. The problems involved were manifold. To begin with, seven separate and in many ways contradictory bodies of legislation were involved: Ottoman law (various statutes of the 1858 Land Code); British Mandatory law (primarily the Defence [Emergency] Regulations of 1945); the Jordanian Civil Code (only in the West Bank); Gaza Strip law (the corpus of laws passed by the Egyptian administration in Gaza between 1948 and 1967); Israeli military law (by 1979 amounting to hundreds of military orders different versions of which were passed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip); international humanitarian law (the laws of war and belligerent occupation); and international human rights law. Secondly, the major inconsistencies between the judicial regimes in the West Bank and Gaza Snip led al-Haq to confine its limited resources to the West Bank until 1989. This resolved little, however, as each judicial system was itself fraught with immense difficulties and is perhaps best characterized as the law of rules masquerading as the rule of law. Plainly inapplicable and/or illegal laws, such as the 1945 Defence (Emergency) Regulations, were systematically applied; the validity of plainly applicable laws, such as the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, was rejected; applicable laws whose validity was not contested, such as the Jordanian Civil Code, were instead amended beyond recognition, while the spinal cord of the judicial system, the plethora of military orders issued since 1967, were available only in Hebrew and miserable Arabic translation (if at all) and chaotically organized.(7)
Furthermore, international humanitarian law, legally the ultimate arbiter of an occupier's conduct and the main reference point for al-Haq's interventions, remains relatively underdeveloped, particularly in the context of prolonged military occupation.(8) And international human rights law, as a relatively new field, is still fraught with enough ambiguity and controversy for Israel to find legalistic loopholes to elude its obligations.(9)
Al-Haq's response to this state of affairs was to launch a vigorous investigation of the judicial system in the occupied territories. Initially, this resulted with the publication in 1980 of The West Bank and the Rule of Law.(10) This landmark booklet accomplished what should already have taken place years earlier: the provision of an inventory of military legislation in the West Bank; revelation of the extent of secret and unpublished legislation;(11) delineation of the wide-ranging arbitrary and extra-judicial powers granted the military; and identification of the degree to which Jordanian law had been amended. In its totality, it clearly illustrated the inherent incompatibility between Israeli military legislation and the international legal principles Israel claimed to uphold.
Along the way, al-Haq discovered that an agenda dedicated to revealing the inner workings of the system already went a substantial distance toward delivering its message. Furthermore, the frenzied Israeli reaction to the publication of the West Bank and the Rule of Law served to expose the Achilles' heel of the occupation and that which makes it unique among modern occupations;(12) its dependence upon the perception of legality fostered by a constant attention to legalistic detail. To accuse Israel of repressing Palestinians was one thing, but to accuse it of doing so illegally quite another.
It was in this area that al-Haq met with its biggest success. Over the course of the 1980s, the Israeli military authorities began to distribute new military orders to the legal community more regularly, albeit still in poor translation, and to compile a collection of military legislation already passed. Even this, however, was of dubious merit. The chaotic nature of such legislation, replete with different military orders of the same number, misnumbered references to previous military orders, and amendments to one area of legislation passed as functionally invisible articles of legislation dealing with unrelated topics, made cross-referencing and keeping abreast of recent developments an extremely hazardous task. Ultimately, al-Haq found that it still had to set aside considerable resources to perform this vital function itself.(13)
Nevertheless, as knowledge about the judicial system in the Occupied Territories increased, so did al-Haq's ability to expose the inherent contradictions between Israel's legislative regime and international law. This is most clearly seen in a comparison between The West Bank and the Rule of Law and its successor half a decade later, Occupier's Law.(14) Whereas the former was primarily concerned with the exploration and exposition of Israeli military legislation and made only scant references to international law, the latter built upon the sound knowledge which had been acquired in the intervening years to focus much more perceptibly upon the violation of both the general principles and the various provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law in the Occupied Territories.
In addition to its extensive legal research, al-Haq also expended substantial resources in developing a documentary data base of human rights violations. Clearly, the organization could not make its point with legal arguments alone and therefore set out to prove beyond a doubt that illegal legislation, once passed, was systematically implemented. Furthermore, documentation reinforced al-Haq's contention that Israeli military personnel exercised absolute and arbitrary powers over Palestinian civilians in a manner exceeding even their own military orders.
Given its limited resources, al-Haq decided from the beginning that it could not be comprehensive in its documentation and instead sought to be selective and highly detailed. In terms of choices, to the degree that these had to be made, there was a preference for the documentation of legal as opposed to physical violations, although in many cases, such as torture, the two are obviously identical. Al-Haq also faced two other predicaments in this regard. The first was the taking of testimony from victims of human rights abuses under circumstances where many were reluctant to go on the record on account of a well-founded fear of official persecution.(15) This was overcome by selecting fieldworkers who were well-connected residents of their respective regions and encouraging informants to speak anonymously if they otherwise refused to be interviewed.(16) The second was to ensure that the documentation collected was not only reliable but also credible to the international human rights organizations whose activities in the Occupied Territories al-Haq sought to intensify. This was done by relying primarily on sworn affidavits taken exclusively from victims or eyewitnesses to human rights violations. Hearsay evidence, secondary sources, as well as conjectural or analytical statements by the affiants themselves were expunged, while fieldworkers attended regular workshops to sharpen their critical faculties. Even when faced with the most compelling evidence that a specific abuse had been perpetrated, al-Haq almost never intervened until it had itself documented the event. So strict were the rules of evidence al-Haq imposed upon itself that if it was not contained in an affidavit taken by an al-Haq fieldworker, it may as well not have taken place. While seemingly paranoid, this was not an inappropriate response to the accurate fear that one careless mistake by a Palestinian human rights organization would undermine its entire record and severely compromise its reputation. (One can scarcely imagine al-Haq, like Amnesty International in the case of Iraq, recklessly and falsely accusing Israel of systematically emptying hospital incubators and surviving with its credibility and funding intact.)
While sworn affidavits constituted the backbone of al-Haq's documentary database, they of course had to be supplemented with other forms of documentation. This was required, for example, in order to intervene at short notice on behalf of isolated prisoners on hunger-strike or collect detailed background information on someone who had just been killed or was about to be deported by the military. Thus, official statements reported in the press, fieldwork reports and questionnaires,(17) photographic evidence, and other forms of evidence were admitted as well. But, to the extent possible, these were used in support of affidavits rather than the other way around.
The other main problematic which arose during this period concerns methods of intervention. Al-Haq learned early on that correspondence with the military government was both absolutely vital and completely ineffectual.(18) On the one hand, its interventions either went unanswered, were rebutted with unsubstantiated categorical denials, or elicited the most fantastic and irrelevant justifications (exclusively in Hebrew), while on the other the disparaging attitude and cavalier admissions of the veracity of al-Haq's documentation by the military authorities gave the organization's interventions an Israeli seal of approval which was of immense value in dealing with the international human rights community.(19)
Despite the obviously activist thrust of its interventions, one is hard pressed to escape the conclusion that al-Haq's motivation in this sphere was again to comprehend and expose more than it was to directly foster change.(20) Given that it was not generally accepted that Israel was a systematic violator of Palestinian human rights, it appears logical that al-Haq established the more modest goal of proving the premise as a priority over the enforcement of human rights standards. Indeed, al-Haq's major publications during this period, such as those on prison conditions, deportation, administrative detention, and house demolition, in their choice of subject as well as content, more closely resembled legal research papers than human rights interventions.(21) Long on documentation and legal analysis but short on the discussion of enforcement mechanisms, they clearly reflected the agenda described above. At the same time, they did serve one important enforcement goal, which was to increase the profile of the international human rights community in the Occupied Territories. Largely as a result of al-Haq's extensive work on prison conditions, for example, Amnesty International in the mid-1980s finally began to unambiguously accuse the Israeli authorities of engaging in torture. Additionally, al-Haq also sought to exploit what might be termed its comparative advantage, namely its unique documentary record of the occupation's effects upon Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The personal testimonies collected by its fieldworkers are to be found (primarily in excerpted form) throughout its publications. And in a joint project with the World Council of Churches, al-Haq published a booklet of affidavits which were reproduced in full.(22) Given the success of the project in bringing to the fore the human dimension, and al-Haq's ideal position to carry it out, it is rather surprising that it was not systematically pursued in succeeding years.(23)
One final point which needs to be addressed is the pursuit of a human rights agenda within Palestinian society. Organizations like al-Haq, which monitor the conduct of an alien regime and whose effectiveness is largely dependent upon their cultivation of links with foreign governments and organizations, have a tendency to get isolated from their local milieu and, given their mandate, avoid involvement in issues which do not directly concern the conduct of the authorities. While al-Haq never managed to satisfactorily develop a local component to its agenda and at times appeared to resign itself to this reality, it did in the mid-1980s begin to make attempts to stem this phenomenon. To this end, it established Labor Rights, Women's Rights, and Legal Advice projects.(24) Each of these had a dual purpose; to monitor the conduct of the Israeli authorities in these fields but also to serve as a source for those engaged with these issues within Palestinian society. However, due to the scarce resources available to each of these projects,(25) they were only seldom able to move beyond the conventional activities of the organization.
TRANSFORMATION DURING THE UPRISING
As described above, al-Haq in many respects devoted its formative period to comprehending the inner workings and implementation of the Israeli judicial system in the Occupied Territories and establishing its reputation as a professional human rights organization with its international audience. Due to the obstacles and problematics discussed, this formative period was relatively long and in some respects still continues. Yet, enough knowledge and experience had been acquired during the period 1979-1987 to enable al-Haq to make the necessary transition to effectively respond to the Palestinian uprising. At the same time, this transformation was neither sudden nor solely the result of the uprising. It had been incipient, probably since late 1986, by which time al-Haq had basically completed its exploration of the West Bank. Thus, the uprising, while clearly a critical factor, was as much catalyst as it was cause.
The immediate effect of the uprising upon al-Haq was to make its work seemingly redundant. Its mission of years past, that of asserting the systematic violation of human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Territories, documenting them, and broadening international awareness of these issues, was now being fulfilled by the media and other observers in a manner which al-Haq could not even hope to emulate. Proving the existence of a human rights emergency in the Occupied Territories was no longer necessary. What al-Haq had striven so hard to accomplish over the course of a decade, namely, exposing the occupation's arbitrary brutality and its sanction by the military authorities, had been achieved in just a few short weeks by the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with a little help from Yitzhak Rabin(26), in a manner which commanded the attention of the world.
Like everyone else, al-Haq initially failed to comprehend the significance of the mass upheaval and was rapidly overtaken by events. Two months earlier, during the period which hindsight clearly identifies as the final prelude to the uprising, al-Haq had issued lengthy and detailed press statements concerning the increased shootings and army brutality in the West Bank.(27) Yet, at the outset of the uprising the organization could merely produce a one-page press release telling the world what it already knew.(28) Even though this was a rushed intervention, it reflected a realization that the tried and true method of years past was no longer adequate.
Over the next several months, this point was driven home even more force-fully. With an average of one killing, at least 10 shooting injuries, and dozens of physical assaults a day, to say nothing of the mass detentions, systematic collective punishments, widespread closure of Palestinian institutions, and breakdown of the military administration, and the added factor of one crisis after another, the very concept of pursuing individual cases for purposes of intervention with the Israeli authorities had become superfluous. At the same time, the widespread expectation that the uprising would sooner or later be crushed and that it would again become business as usual meant that al-Haq could not simply discard its standard methods of operation.(29)
Al-Haq resolved this dilemma on the premise that if the fact of human rights violations was now accepted, their scope and their precedent in the history of the occupation remained unknown. Thus, in the summer of 1988, the organization began the production of its first annual report, aptly entitled Punishing a Nation.(30) In converting from interventions and issue-oriented research studies (which were not entirely displaced) to an annual report format, al-Haq was able to avoid radical and painful restructuring and instead merely adapt its documentation and research methods to a new format. Furthermore, the organization by means of the annual report also protected itself against the decline in press coverage which, despite the continuation of the uprising, began in March-April 1988.
An annual report was inconceivable prior to the uprising because it lacked an audience. Thus, al-Haq's only attempt at a comprehensive report during that period, on the occasion of the twentieth commemoration of the occupation in June 1987, had been so modest as to defy this characterization.(31) After December 1987, however, it became a priority, as witnessed by the fact that Punishing a Nation grew out of an initiated but uncompleted three-month and later six-month report.
Al-Haq's conceptual approach to Punishing a Nation is worth considering at some length. First, the main areas of concern were identified, namely, the use of force, administrative punishments, and the repression of the Palestinian infrastructure. Next, a consensus was reached over the specific issues which would be discussed within these general headings. These were: the use of force; obstruction of medical care; settler violence; administrative punishments (deportation, house demolition, and administrative detention); isolation (primarily curfews and military closure but including harassment of the media and human rights monitors); the military judicial system (including arrest procedures and prison conditions); closure of institutions; the repression of education; and economic repression.(32) Each chapter, in turn, conformed to a uniform structure; a discussion of the applicable legal standards and human rights principles contrasted with the judicial measures applied by Israel, and a documentation section on violations both prior to the uprising and during its first year.
The theme of the report was therefore that human rights abuses during the uprising represented only a change in quantity and not quality. As al-Haq put it, "more of the same - but much more . . . . Few of the repressive measures . . . were without precedent."(33) And the sub-theme, of course, was that these violations were occurring with the full knowledge and sanction of those who had established the legal framework of repression in flagrant violation of international law.
Al-Haq's 1989 annual report, A Nation Under Siege, by comparison shows how the conceptualization behind Punishing a Nation reflected only a partial transition from the conventions dominant before the uprising. While Punishing a Nation succeeded in its comprehensive endeavor - by which is meant the treatment of a multiplicity of issues with a common theme rather than the exhaustive documentation of each subject - the focus was still exclusively Israel and what it was doing in terms of violations of international law and human rights. A Nation Under Siege, by contrast, also began to look outward for a solution. Thus, the second annual report, which was, incidentally, 300 pages longer than the first,(34) was not conceptually divided according to category of violation but, rather, into only one section on violations (although still comprising 80% of the text), a second on accountability, and a third on enforcement. The section on accountability contained a detailed examination of flaws in the official investigation procedures, in addition to separate chapters on the harassment of the media and human rights monitors, which were tellingly removed from the violations section.(35) The most interesting conceptual addition, enforcement, discussed the legal responsibilities of the international community in protecting the civilian population of the Occupied Territories and preventing and prosecuting "grave breaches."(36) Significantly, those chapters dealing with actual violations were this time structured to reflect al-Haq's enforcement concerns; they were replete with evidence of gross violations in a number of cases tantamount to grave breaches, of judicial sanction and encouragement of such conduct by the Israeli authorities, and of official refusal to investigate and prosecute violations committed by agents of the state.
The stated theme of A Nation Under Siege was lawlessness; not the violation of law, but the absolute disregard for any legal standard.(37) The underlying message, however, was equally clear, and runs as follows:
(1) Israel is a lawless occupier and systematic violator of human rights, and therefore Palestinians are in need of protection;
(2) Local remedies are unavailable because the official investigation procedures are fundamentally flawed and biased, while human rights monitors are persecuted and the media is denied access to events;
(3) Therefore, the Palestinians must turn to the international community, and particularly the State Signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, for effective protection;
(4) Because the Palestinians have no protecting power and, pursuant to common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, State Signatories "undertake to respect and ensure respect for the . . . Convention,"(38) the latter are under a fundamental legal obligation to intervene;
(5) Israel's refusal to apply the Convention in the Occupied Territories, along with the failure of the International Committee of the Red Cross to effectively assume the role of a protecting power make this demand imperative.(39) The continued commission of grave breaches by Israel, finally, makes it immediate as well.
In pursuing such arguments, al-Haq effectively set a new agenda for itself and completed the transition. Where it previously sought primarily to comprehend the inner workings of the occupation in order to expose its abuses, it would henceforth redirect its efforts toward understanding the infrastructure of enforcement, located outside the Occupied Territories, in order to bring them to an end. Work on this project had in fact been initiated as early as the summer of 1987 with research into the legal significance of Article 1 of the Geneva Convention,(40) but it required the crisis of the uprising to assume pride of place.(41)
On a parallel track, al-Haq sought to address the problems associated with the undeveloped state of international humanitarian and human rights law. Because the legal instruments involved are relatively new and few in number, and commentary upon them comparatively scarce, there are grey areas, particularly with regard to prolonged military occupation, which can be neither easily nor authoritatively interpreted by human rights workers. Expert opinion by recognized authorities in the field, on the other hand, has been a main source of elucidation, serving a role similar to that of precedents in a court of law. Al-Haq therefore sought to engage recognized legal experts to give opinions on various aspects of international law which it needed to have clarified. To this end, it convened an international conference on the administration of occupied territory, held in Jerusalem in January 1988, with papers presented on a whole range of issues of concern and a prestigious publisher to disseminate the proceedings.(42)
In subsequent efforts, conferences were held in England, Ireland, and The Netherlands, with others planned elsewhere in Europe, in the aim of bringing together legal experts and politicians and putting these issues on the official agendas of the state signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention.(43) Furthermore, the primary responsibility of the organization's London field representative is precisely to maintain contact with recognized authorities, politicians, and the media in order to further develop the argument for enforcement and give it more currency. Elsewhere, al-Haq published several studies which were at least partially devoted to staking out fresh legal ground with the purpose of seeking their endorsement by those who could give them credibility.(44) And in the most recent project to get off the ground, earlier suggestions to compile a register of grave breaches are being more seriously pursued in the wake of the Gulf crisis and the 8 October 1990 al-Aqsa massacre.
One area where al-Haq did not attempt to pursue its enforcement agenda was in the United Nations and its affiliated institutions. Despite the fact that Security Council resolutions and other United Nations pronouncements carry tremendous legal, political, and moral weight, the consistent American subversion of the United Nations' enforcement capabilities in the Occupied Territories (as exemplified by repeated American vetoes of Security Council resolutions calling for international protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) served to render such efforts rather pointless. While al-Haq did play a role in briefing the various United Nations envoys who visited the Occupied Territories, it did not, for example, attempt to put its case directly to the various human rights bodies, including those established specifically to deal with the Palestinian people, with the vigor one might have expected. This may begin to change in the aftermath of the Gulf crisis and the increased profile of the United Nations in international crisis management. However, continued American obstruction, and its incipient monopolization of United Nations' decision-making mechanisms, indicates that this will be a very difficult and frustrating process.
It has been ironic indeed to watch the United States in its confrontation with Iraq rush to embrace the very enforcement arguments which it so cavalierly rejected when they were made by al-Haq about Israel. Specifically, its arguments about the Fourth Geneva Convention, and particularly those concerning grave breaches and eventual prosecution, are for all intents and purposes verbatim replicas of points previously raised by al-Haq. The proceedings of a 1989 meeting between several al-Haq staff members and the United States consular official charged with drafting the Occupied Territories chapter for the annual State Department Human Rights Report serve to illustrate the point. The purpose of the meeting was to exchange views about al-Haq and the State Department's respective reports, which had both recently been published. When, on al-Haq's initiative, the discussion turned to the enforcement of international law, it was quickly cut short by the consular official with the observation that an appeal for international action to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention and prosecute grave breaches can not be considered either serious or realistic.(45) This aspect of challenging the selective enforcement of international law and encouraging the implementation and further adoption of Security Council resolutions on human rights in the Occupied Territories presents, in the wake of the Gulf crisis and Washington's exclusion of the United Nations from Middle East diplomacy, the main challenge for al-Haq and could conceivably precipitate another transformation of its agenda.
A consequence of the enforcement agenda which should not be overlooked is the gradual politicization which al-Haq had previously worked so hard to avoid. By targeting politicians as a primary audience, al-Haq imposed upon itself the necessity to develop appealing political arguments. These have centered on respect for international law as a measure conducive to achieving a negotiated and durable settlement. There is a built-in danger, however, that these utilitarian arguments could be supplemented with appeals to less benign foreign interests. One proposal to recruit European parliamentarians as stockholders in Palestinian institutions to protect the latter from Israeli harassment, for example, was rejected due to strong feelings that it was not al-Haq's role to foster foreign penetration of the Palestinian economy.
There is one final aspect within the discussion of the transformation of al-Haq's agenda during the uprising which merits attention. This could be described as preparing for the future in the context of the emergence of an independent Palestinian state or other arrangements involving an Israeli withdrawal.
The process of administrative disengagement from the occupation's structures during the uprising has involved in equal measure the creation of autonomous, primarily informal, administrative mechanisms. Although this has been most widespread at the popular level, there has in the institutional arena as well been a conscious effort to erect an autonomous infrastructure upon the basis of pre-existing nuclei. The greatest success in this regard has been achieved by popular organizations associated with the labor, women, and health care movements. Hence, such organizations are known as "national institutions." For those national organizations concerned with the future, the development of a basic legal code, for example regarding personal status laws or workers' rights, has been a key priority. It would appear to fall within al-Haq's mandate, both as a legal research organization and one which conceives of itself and is widely considered to be a national institution, to play an active if not leading role in this process of laying. the groundwork for Palestinian law. Yet, until the present time, such efforts have with minor exceptions proven to be negligible. While this is in part a reflection of the composition of al-Haq's governing bodies, which can hardly be described as "national,"(46) it is in at least equal measure a conceptual problem. As if by force of habit, al-Haq has not been able to transcend its congenital relationship with the occupation and its foreign audience and divert its admittedly limited resources to other projects. At a different level, the organization also has been slow and ineffectual in implementing its stated goal of attracting and developing local Palestinian skills to replace those of transient foreign volunteers upon whom it has relied.
AL-HAQ AND THE INTIFADA
The practical problems encountered by al-Haq during the uprising have been equal to the conceptual. In this respect the harassment of al-Haq by the military, the challenge of documentation under adverse conditions, accusations of political bias, and al-Haq's relationship with other human rights organizations deserve particular mention.
Harassment by the Israeli military authorities has been a longstanding feature of al-Haq's working environment, consisting of direct as well as indirect measures, and affecting most severely the fieldwork unit. During the uprising, however, the level of harassment took a quantum leap and on several occasions threatened to incapacitate the organization altogether or divert its remaining resources to similar effect.
The first blow came only nine days after the uprising began when Ghazi Shashtari, al-Haq fieldworker for the Nablus district, was arrested and subsequently placed under administrative detention without charge or trial. By March 1988, three of al-Haq's remaining four fieldworkers had been incarcerated as well, and since then not a day has passed without at least one al-Haq fieldworker under administrative detention.(47) For an organization whose spinal cord consists of fieldwork and which at the time required the services of this unit more than ever, the removal of 80% of its capacity was obviously a crippling blow. Within the shortest possible time, therefore, al-Haq had to hire and train additional fieldworkers, and then employ several more to ensure that it would have at least a skeleton staff of fieldworkers at any given time.(48)
Despite the extensive record of harassment, no al-Haq staff members have ever been formally charged, tried, or convicted of a security offense during their employment with the organization. Instead, they have been arrested and held incognito; placed under administrative detention; severely tortured;(49) issued with documents restricting their freedom of movement;(50) threatened and intimidated by officials of the military government;(51) and physically assaulted by soldiers at military checkpoints.(52) Furthermore, in a number of cases documented by al-Haq, presentation of an al-Haq identification card to military personnel by staff members has served to increase rather than mitigate verbal and physical abuse.(53) So severe has this record been that in one case, that of al-Haq fieldworker for the Hebron district Sha'wan Rateb Jabarin, the European Parliament, among many others, was sufficiently alarmed about his well-being to adopt a resolution urging "[a] review of [his] case . . . with a view to his immediate release."(54)
The case of Mr. Jabarin, who spent a total of 18 months in administrative detention between March 1988 and September 1990 and was severely tortured despite his serious medical condition, is also illustrative of the official Israeli attitude toward its abuse of those in the human rights profession. In a widely-publicized incident, former Israeli Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin, responding to an intervention by former United States President Jimmy Carter concerning the near-murder of Mr. Jabarin, stated that, ". . . as to the beating of the man, it was only moderate enough to convince him to accept detention."(55)
While it is generally accepted that human rights workers, like doctors and lawyers, should enjoy special protection in times of emergency, Israel has been cavalier in the extreme with regard to this principle. Repeatedly, its officials, including its Washington ambassador, Moshe Arad, have accused Mr. Jabarin of being a "senior activist" for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and stated that they have conclusive evidence to this effect.(56) At the same time, the Israeli authorities have been unwilling to disclose any of their "evidence", or to present it in a court of law, thus denying Mr. Jabarin even the dubious benefit of charge and trial in an Israeli military court. Because the accusations against Mr. Jabarin (and other al-Haq staff) carry such severe legal consequences and have remained unsubstantiated, and because the Israeli authorities refuse to present their "evidence" in a court of law, al-Haq and indeed the human rights community as a whole has taken the position that until proven otherwise the rights of its fieldworkers are being violated on account of their human rights activities.(57) This is further substantiated by the fact that what "evidence" the authorities have released consists of "previous prison records . . . much of . . . [it] consist[ing] of previous administrative detentions and other forms of imprisonment without charge or trial."(58) "The implication that individuals should serve two separate sentences for the same offence [sic]," responded al-Haq, "is unacceptable."(59)
Similar accusations of engaging in banned political activity have been extended to al-Haq as an organization. Responding to an intervention by United States Senator Mark O. Hatfield concerning the administrative detention of al-Haq fieldworkers, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arad, "intimated that the organization is a PLO-front masquerading as an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists and stated that 'most of its members are supporters of Fatah and other members of the PLO terrorist organization'."(60)
Al-Haq has also been the subject of direct harassment by Israeli authorities. In the clearest example, while the organization was completing its second annual report on the night of I December 1989, two soldiers armed with M-16s entered al-Haq's offices without a warrant and began searching the premises. When asked by al-Haq Executive Director Mona Rishmawi under what legal authority they were permitted to enter, one of the soldiers replied: "I am the law." Furthermore, both soldiers refused to give their names or other forms of identification when this was asked of them.(61) In another incident, al-Haq received an official warning from the military government, accompanied by threats, because it allegedly violated military censorship regulations when it published the nom de guerre of a Shin Bet officer involved in the summary execution in Ramallah of 15-year old Mustafa Shrakeh, a resident of the nearby Jalazon Refugee Camp.(62)
Elsewhere, al-Haq public announcements and documents, including its acceptance speech for the 1989 Carter-Menil Human Rights Award, have been banned from appearance in the Palestinian press by the military censor; press releases and other publications deposited by al-Haq in mailboxes at the Government Press Office have been removed; al-Haq documentation, including sworn affidavits from individuals who may have sought to withhold their names from publication out of fear of official retribution, have been confiscated from fieldworkers and not returned; al-Haq legal-aid publications have been confiscated from trade union offices and at military roadblocks without being returned; the organization's mail has been monitored and confiscated; and there is "strong evidence that . . . [al-Haq's] telephone, telex, and facsimile transmissions are monitored by the military as a matter of routine."(63)
Al-Haq's work has also been seriously affected by the more general practices of the Israeli military. Most prominent among these is the systematic exclusion of journalists and human rights monitors from areas where serious violations are imminent, in progress, or in need of urgent investigation. This has been achieved through the massive application of military closure and curfew regulations; journalists and human rights monitors are barred from entering such areas by military order, and al-Haq estimates that there have been at least 3,200 curfews and a greater number of military closures during the first two years of the uprising alone.(64) Furthermore, when al-Haq staff or premises are under curfew, which is frequently the case, they cannot function at all. Given the pattern of curfews, al-Haq staff who reside in refugee camps have been the most seriously affected, in some cases routinely losing two or more workdays a week. In this respect it is noteworthy that it is precisely in times of urgent crisis, such as during the aftermath of the 'Ayun Qara (Rishon Le-Zion) and Al-Aqsa massacres in 1990 and the Gulf War in 1991, that al-Haq is organizationally paralyzed by the imposition of prolonged blanket curfews throughout the Occupied Territories.
Other forms of obstruction have comprised the severance of international telecommunications in the Occupied Territories from March to December 1988 and periodically thereafter,(65) the frequent disconnection of local telephone lines, particularly during periods of curfew or closure,(66) and the criminalization of the facsimile machine during 1989.(67) Clearly, effective human rights monitoring is impeded by restricted access and them is often no opportunity for the "quick communication of imminent violations [which] is the most effective means" of intervention.(68) While the Israeli authorities have on several occasions given rather meaningless if not ominous assurances that al-Haq "functions freely . . . as long as it . . . [is] not involved in violence or . . . act[s] as [a] front . . . for the various terrorist organizations,"(69) they have refused to make a "public undertaking that they will permit unrestricted human rights monitoring" in the West Bank and Gaza Snip.(70) (More recently, it has emerged that the Anti-Defamation League/B'nai B'rith targeted al-Haq staff visiting the United States as part of its wide-ranging program of espionage.)
If al-Haq as an organization has had to adjust to a perpetual state of emergency during the uprising, so too have its methods. The annual report, discussed above, is a particularly ill-suited medium for dealing with the frequent cases requiring immediate intervention, and for a time there was concern that it would displace al-Haq's interventionist activities. After some experimentation with the press release (always too brief and not always newsworthy) and "Fact Sheet" (6-8 pages of legal-historical analysis with appended case studies, which cannot be researched on short notice and is made redundant by the annual report), al-Haq hit upon the right formula with the "Alert". Essentially, an Alert involves a documented reconstruction of a particular event placed in proper perspective and upon whose conclusions are raised a number of legal issues for action by the international community. On several occasions, Alerts have been updated to keep pace with a continuing situation. They have proven practical for the purpose of short-term intervention, effective at getting their message across, and newsworthy in the eyes of the media and human rights community.(71) More recently, al-Haq has also begun to explore the opportunities available through more activist campaigns centered around a specific issue. The first campaign, built around the right to family re-unification, has shown encouraging signs of success and may become a prototype for similar projects.(72)
Another method of intervention which has proven extremely productive during the uprising is forensic pathology. On several occasions al-Haq, in conjunction with the Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights and other organizations, has arranged for pathologists to perform autopsies on the remains of Palestinians who died during interrogation or other circumstances where the authorities were the only witnesses. The attempt to apply independent scientific knowledge has not only been of great value in its own right, but also served to further expose the legalistic facade of the occupation through the resistance it engendered on the part of the Israeli authorities. Among the results have been unprecedented access to official autopsy and investigation records; second autopsies; family representation at autopsies; and inspection of the scene of death. In at least one case, the family's exercise of its fights led to the first-ever visit by a human rights monitor to the interrogation wing of an Israeli prison and the opportunity to interview the interrogator; the prison authorities' claim that the detainee in question died of "heart failure" had already been conclusively refuted by the autopsy, in which a pathologist representing the family participated, and the prison authorities' version was so irreconcilable with the findings that it confined a murder cover-up. Al-Haq has further learned that Israeli spokespersons are more likely than pathologists to misrepresent the findings of their own autopsies for political reasons, and that official autopsy records therefore could be a valuable source of information. These gains however, have been precarious because they consist solely of precedent and have not been confirmed by the Israeli judicial system.(73)
The geographical scope of al-Haq's activities has had to expand during the uprising as well. Prior to 1988, it was absent from the Gaza Strip because an organization it helped found, the Gaza Centre for Rights and Law (GCRL), was the International Commission of Jurists' affiliate for that area. As it became clear that the Gaza Strip was serving as a testing ground for new Israeli policies and that many of the worst abuses were being committed there in near-total seclusion, however, the paralysis of the GCRL led al-Haq to undertake a role of its own. (This paralysis has since been fully reversed under a new GCRL management). Thus, in early 1989, two fieldworkers were employed in the Gaza Strip on an experimental basis, and later that year four more were hired to cope with the heavy workload. Because of the poor transportation network and the massive use of curfews in the Gaza Strip, more fieldworkers are needed; it is only on the rarest of occasions that all Gaza Strip fieldworkers and the individuals they need to interview are free to move about. Unlike the West Bank, documentation rather than research has spearheaded al-Haq's activities in the Gaza Strip.
In addition to expanding its own activities, al-Haq has also had to adjust its program to those of other human rights organizations operating in the Occupied Territories. In the case of foreign organizations such as Amnesty International, Middle East Watch, and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, this has been a relatively simple, if frustrating, process of encouraging them to investigate subjects beyond al-Haq's competence or resources and to free themselves from internal political constraints.(74) With organizations based in the region the situation has been more difficult; initially the danger existed that all concerned would simply replicate each other's work and as a result descend into a spiral of destructive competition. Such fears were justified. Of the two other local organizations, one, B'Tselem,(75) was Israeli, which at least implied serious political tensions, relations of paternalism, and funding competition, while the other, the Palestine Human Rights Information Center (PHRIC) based in East Jerusalem, was a more activist organization whose outlook could easily clash with al-Haq's more reticent approach.
Several incidents did indeed occur. Al-Haq's predictable refusal to comment on events in the Gaza Strip during 1987-1988 because it did not have its own sources of information, despite overwhelming evidence that the situation there was significantly worse than that in the West Bank, aroused the understandable ire of the PHRIC. Other occasions, where al-Haq was slow to respond for similar reasons but the circumstances arguably warranted a less painstaking approach, provoked similar difficulties. The most serious tensions, however, arose with B'Tselem. It was not unexpected that, as an Israeli organization, it would at its inception in the summer of 1989 immediately acquire the exposure, credibility, and funding which had eluded al-Haq for 10 years. But when several B'Tselem staff began to conduct themselves as if it was they who had been in the field for a decade, relations began to deteriorate, reaching their low point in November 1989 when B'Tselem, only five months old, was named as al-Haq's co-recipient of the 1989 Carter-Menil Human Rights Award for transparently political motives.(76)
Since then, however, things have improved markedly. In an admirable show of common purpose, the three organizations have developed a functional division of labor which is working smoothly: al-Haq's comparative advantage is in its legal knowledge, fieldwork, and its excellent contacts with the diplomatic corps and foreign elites; the PHRIC's in comprehensive documentation and reporting, rapid intervention, and an extremely professional international distribution network; and B'Tselem's - in addition to the quality of its own research - in its access to the media and official sources, and the crucial contribution of an Israeli Jewish certificate of authenticity to reports of Israeli human rights abuses. There is of course always room for increased cooperation, but the current arrangement appears to adequately fulfil the basic needs of the human rights movement in the Occupied Territories.
One final issue which needs to be addressed is the allegations of political bias which have been directed at al-Haq over its treatment of the killings of Palestinian collaborators by uprising activists. As the issue became increasingly topical in 1989, in no small part due to the successful effort of Israeli government and military spokespersons, al-Haq came under increasing pressure to join in the denunciation of such acts. When it did not do so, it was informally suggested that this stemmed from a mixture of political bias and a fear of the consequences. Although al-Haq's position was grounded in sound legal argument and human rights practice,(77) by the time of its release of A Nation Under Siege at a press conference in February 1990 it was forced to go public, the more so because the report contained a chapter on human rights violations by collaborators. Thus, al-Haq stated its position in writing and spent the better part of the afternoon defending its position orally as well.(78) While many journalists did not readily grasp al-Haq's position, a situation aggravated by its confused oral delivery, and although some negative press coverage ensued, the matter was thereafter basically put to rest. In the end, al-Haq successfully demonstrated that while it did not condone the killings of (suspected) collaborators, such actions did not fall within its mandate and that it was more than willing to hold a Palestinian political authority responsible for its actions when the prerequisites to do so are met.
In ten brief years, and under extremely adverse conditions, al-Haq has developed into a full-fledged human fights organization and adapted to both the radical changes in its environment and the adjustments in its own program these have necessitated. A measure of its success is provided by its receipt of the Carter-Menil Human Rights Award in 1989 and the decoration of al-Haq fieldworker Sha'wan Jabarin with the 1990 Reebok Human Rights Prize.
In its acceptance speech for the Carter-Menil award, the organization stated that ". . . since . . . 1979 . . . al-Haq has sought answers to questions that no one was yet willing to ask."(79) That it has been doing so for ten years without being closed by the military government is a firing tribute to its acumen. During this period al-Haq developed enough credibility in places that matter to make the Israelis realize that the irritant of a persistent human rights organization is preferable to the international protests which would ensue if it were closed by military order.(80) Al-Haq's continued operation also substantiates its arguments about the ability of the international community to enforce international law in the Occupied Territories. Thus, as al-Haq has been harassed and its staff persecuted by other means, the organization has continuously warned that each such instance is a calculated test by the authorities to see how far they can proceed without consequence.
During the extensive United Nations Security Council debates in late 1990 about international protection for the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation in the wake of the al-Aqsa massacre, one of the most innovative proposals was a call for an international conference of state signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure Israeli compliance. According to one press account, ". . . al-Haq and its close counterpart, the Palestinian [sic] Human Rights Information Centre [sic], who have lobbied so hard for such a conference, must take some of the credit for the initiative."(81) Human fights activism is a frustrating endeavor because its fruits are often imperceptible and interminably delayed. Yet, if al-Haq's contribution to the Security Council initiative has in some way also accelerated the end of the occupation, it has already accomplished more than most human rights organizations can reasonably hope for.
1. For some of the more comprehensive works see Al-Haq, Punishing a Nation: Human Rights Violations During the Palestinian Uprising, December 1987-December 1988 (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1988); Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege: Al-Haq Annual Report on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 1989 (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1990); Database Project on Palestinian Human Rights, Uprising in Palestine: The First Year: Documentation on Palestinian Human Rights and the Palestinian Uprising, December 1987 to December 1988 (Chicago: DPPHR, 1989); Database Project on Palestinian Human Rights, The Cost of Freedom (Chicago: DPPHR, 1989); National Lawyers Guild, International Human Rights Law and Israel's Efforts to Suppress the Uprising (New York: NLG, 1989).
2. What discussion there has been of Palestinian human rights monitors during the uprising has been limited to occasional media coverage and intervention by other human-rights organizations regarding harassment by the Israeli authorities. See, for example, Jim Boothroyd, "Upholding Conventional Wisdom," The Independent (London), 16 November 1990; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, An Examination of the Detention of Human Rights Workers and Lawyers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Conditions of Detention at Ketziot (New York: LCHR, 1988); Middle East Watch, The Israeli Army and the Intifada: Policies That Contribute to the Killings (New York: MEW, 1990), pp. 171-176.
3. Al-Haq was previously known as al-Haq/Law in the Service of Man, a translation of the Arabic al-haq/al-qanun min ajl al-insan. The English translation was, however, deleted from the organization's title in 1987.
4. The most comprehensive investigation into the politics of Western human rights organizations in the Occupied Territories has thus far only been published in excerpted form. See, Nabeel Abraham, Janice Terry, Cheryl Rubenberg, Lisa Hajjar, and Hilary Shadroui, "International Human Rights Organizations and the Palestine Question," Middle East Report, 18:1 (Jan.-Feb. 1988), pp. 12-20.
5. Lengthy research projects culminating in published studies have been undertaken on the latter. See for example, Al-Haq, A Report on the Treatment of Security Prisoners at al-Fara'a (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1984); Al-Haq, Jnaid: The New Israeli Prison in Nablus - An Appraisal (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1984); Al-Haq, Torture and Intimidation in the West Bank: The Case of al-Fara'a Prison (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1984); Emma Playfair, Administrative Detention in the Occupied West Bank (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1986).
6. Al-Haq has, however, addressed the right of repatriation within the context of family reunification.
7. For a discussion of this state of affairs and the legal issues involved see Martha Roadstrum Moffett, Perpetual Emergency: A Legal Analysis of Israel's Use of the British Defence Emergency Regulations, 1945, in the Occupied Territories (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1989); Raja Shehadeh, Occupier's Law: Israel in the West Bank: A Report Prepared for The West Bank Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1988). Marc Stephens, Taxation in the Occupied West Bank, 1967-1989 (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1990), provides a case study.
8. The two main instruments of international humanitarian law applicable to conditions of military occupation are the Regulations annexed to the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Neither explicitly addresses the issue of prolonged military occupation, and to complicate matters further Israel rejects the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
9. It has done so primarily by exploiting the debate about the derogation of civil freedoms in times of emergency.
10. Jonathan Kuttab and Raja Shehadeh, The West Bank and the Rule of Law, with a preface by Niall Macdermott, Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists (Geneva: ICJ, 1980).
11. In his preface to The West Bank and the Rule of Law, ICJ Secretary-General Niall Macdermott states (p. 7): "Military orders . . . are not published and are not to be found in any library. Most of them are distributed to practicing lawyers, and some are sent to the people directly affected by them. Nowhere is a complete set available and efforts even by lawyers to obtain copies of missing orders are usually unsuccessful. There have been isolated cases, as in Chile, where one or two decrees of a military government have been treated as secret documents and not published. However, this is the first case to come to the attention of the International Commission of Jurists where the entire legislation of a territory is not published in an official gazette available to the general public."
12. Because The West Bank and the Rule of Law had been published by the ICJ, the rebuttal, The Rule of Law in the Areas Administered by Israel, came from its Israeli section. In its riposte several years later, al-Haq produced Occupier's Law, which answered the charges raised by the Israeli section and further expanded upon the themes of its first publication.
13. See, for example, Raja Shehadeh and Jonathan Kuttab, Civilian Administration in the West Bank: Analysis of Israeli Military Government Order No. 947 (Ramallah, 1982); Muhammad Farid Majaj (ed.), Majmu'at al-Qawanin wa al-Anzima wa al-Awamir al-'Askariyya al-Muta'alliqa bi ta'limat al-Amn wa al-I'tiqalat al-Idariyya fi al-Diffa al-Gharbiyya wa Ta'dilatiha lighayat 1/4/1989 [Collection of Military Laws, Regulations, and Orders Concerning Security Instructions and Administrative Detention in the West Bank and its Amendments until 1 April 1989] (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1989). See also 'Abd-al-Jawwad Salih (ed.), Al-Awamir al-'Askariyya al-Israiliyya [Israeli Military Orders], Four Volumes (nd: nd, 1986). The latter was not compiled by Al-Haq.
14. The first edition of Occupier's Law was published in 1985.
15. One notable instance of official retribution concerns the case of Hasan 'Abd-al-Rahman Hasan Salih, a 22-year-old resident of the village of 'Arura in the Ramallah district of the West Bank. Mr. Salih was one of four individuals who were severely beaten and then buried alive by Israeli soldiers in a widely-reported incident on 18 May 1988. On 9 July 1988, the military again raided 'Arura. When Mr. Salih informed soldiers who were searching his bedroom that he had a complaint on file with the military about the earlier incident, they responded: "You are Hasan 'Abd-al-Rahman, this is all we need to know," and proceeded to beat him senseless, fracturing his skull with a rock. He required emergency neurological surgery as a result. For full details see, Al-Haq. Punishing a Nation, pp. 63-66.
16. Testimony was anonymous only in the sense that the names of affiants, while known to al-Haq and made available to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the human-rights community upon request, were withheld from publication.
17. Fieldwork reports consist of written observations and evaluations by fieldworkers. Their primary purpose is to supplement the contextually empty affidavits, but on occasion they are also filed to reconstruct events for which insufficient primary evidence is available. Questionnaires, also taken by fieldworkers, are standard forms concerning a particular violation, such as house demolition, every instance of which al-Haq seeks to document for statistical or other secondary reasons. Questionnaires provide detailed information about both the event and its background.
18. Typically, interventions addressed to the military government would include a documented reconstruction of a particular violation, an assertion of its illegality pursuant to fully-quoted and referenced provisions of applicable law, and then either questions about the military's own version of events and judicial interpretation or specific demands.
19. For numerous examples see various issues of Al-Haq Newsletter.
20. One indication is that al-Haq did not take cases to court in an attempt to establish legal precedents. At the same time, the fear of the legal precedents likely to emerge from the Israeli judicial system would have provided even the most activist organization with a Compelling reason to avoid voluntary court appearances.
21. See for example Emma Playfair, Demolition and Sealing of Houses as a Punitive Measure in the lsraeli-Occupied West Bank (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1987); Joost R. Hiltermann, Israel's Deportation Policy in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, second edition (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1988), and references cited above.
22. Commission of Churches on International Affairs [of the] World Council of Churches, In their Own Words: Human Rights Violations in the West Bank: Affidavits Collected by Law in the Service of Man (Geneva: WCC, 1983).
23. Such a project has been discussed during the uprising but with one notable exception has not been actively pursued. In this regard see Rizeq Shuqair and Randa Siniora (eds.), Application Denied: Separated Palestinian Families Tell Their Stories (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1991). In any event, al-Haq's annual reports (see below) are replete with the complete texts of affidavits.
24. The Legal Advice Project, in addition to providing free legal advice, adopts cases which can be resolved without the assistance of a lawyer.
25. One full-time researcher was allocated to each project with fieldwork assistance as the need arose.
26. Yitzhak Rabin held the post of Minister of Security during the first two-and-a-half years of the uprising and is perhaps best remembered for his January 1988 exhortation to Israeli soldiers to use "might, power, and beatings" to crush the Palestinian uprising.
27. Al-Haq, "Army Brutality in the West Bank: A Press Briefing" (13 October 1987); Al-Haq, "Shooting by the Israeli Armed Forces" (19 October 1987).
28. Al-Haq Press Release (13 December 1987).
29. It should be remembered that during the early months of the uprising not even the most detached optimist dared predict that the uprising would last beyond the summer of 1988.
30. The report was reprinted by Human Rights Watch (New York) in 1989 and again by South End Press (Boston) in 1990.
31. Al-Haq, Briefing Papers on Twenty Years of Israeli Occupation (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1987).
32. See Al-Haq, Punishing a Nation, Table of Contents.
33. Ibid., p. 5.
34. Punishing a Nation comprised 335 pages and A Nation Under Siege 672 pages.
35. Furthermore, the harassment of the media and human-rights monitors had not been accorded separate chapters in Punishing a Nation.
36. Grave breaches are the most severe violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and in content and consequence virtually identical to war crimes under the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal.
37. Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, pp. 1-4, 669-672.
38. Emphasis added.
39. The International Committee of the Red Cross is often described as a surrogate international presence by those opposed to an active international presence.
40. Marc T. R. Stephens, The Enforcement of International Law in the Israeli-Occupied Territories, (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1989).
41. Significantly in this regard, Al-Haq's 1990 annual report was entitled Protection Denied.
42. Emma Playfair (ed.), International Law and the Administration of Occupied Territories: Two Decades of Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1992).
43. For the proceedings of the first conference, held in London on 25 July 1989 see Towards a Strategy for the Enforcement of Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied West Bank and Gaza: A Working Symposium (London: LMEC/CMEC, 1990). The conference was convened by the Labour Middle East Council and the Conservative Middle East Council (British parliamentary groups) and officially endorsed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
44. Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, pp. 643-667; Stephens, Taxation in the Occupied West Bank; Stephens, The Enforcement of International Law in the Israeli-Occupied Territories.
45. The meeting, held in early 1989, was attended by the author. The consular official, Mark Foulon, prior to his curt dismissal of the subject in fact went so far as to claim expertise in it on account of his wife's legal training.
46. Until the end of 1991 al-Haq was governed by only four (later three) individuals who came from nearly identical class, geographic, educational, confessional, and professional backgrounds. Subsequently, however, there was some modification and expansion of this base.
47. As of November 1990 the al-Haq fieldworkers who have been under administrative detention since the beginning of the uprising are Iyad al-Haddad (18 months cumulative); Sha'wan Jabarin (18 months cumulative); Ahmad Jaradat (2 months); Zahi Jaradat (12 months); 'Abd al-Karim Kan'an (12 months cumulative); and Ghazi Shashtari (12 months). In addition, al-Haq researcher Rizq Shqeir was administratively detained for four-and-a-half months while Yusif Abu al-Jidyan, al-Haq fieldworker in the refugee camps of the northern district of the Gaza Strip, was administratively detained for six months shortly before his employment with the organization, Other al-Haq staff, including fieldworkers, have been detained for shorter periods or called in for interrogation, during which they are often asked specific questions about al-Haq and its human-rights activities. All administratively detained al-Haq staff spent most of their period under detention in the Ansar III (Ketziot) prison camp in the Naqab (Negev) Desert. (Data as of November 1990.) For conditions at Ansar III see, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, An Examination of Detention of Human Rights Workers; Al-Haq, Ansar III: A Case for Closure (Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1988); Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, pp. 286-296. For the policy of administrative detention see, Playfair, Administrative Detention; Al-Haq, Punishing a Nation, pp. 147-152; Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, pp. 285-307.
48. Al-Haq currently employs 15 fieldworkers, three times as many as in December 1987. While this certainly reflects the increased workload and the extension of al-Haq's activities to the Gaza Strip, it was in large part motivated by the desire to avoid a recurrence of the above situation and other obstacles, described below.
49. This is a specific reference to al-Haq fieldworker Sha'wan Jabarin (see below), who in October 1989 was tortured so severely that according to his sworn affidavit, "I felt I was going to die." For full details see Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, pp. 106-107, 617-618, 625-63.
50. A number of al-Haq staff, particularly fieldworkers released from detention, have been issued with specially-marked green identity cards restricting them from entry into Israel and annexed East Jerusalem. In the case of al-Haq Gaza Strip fieldworker Yusuf Abu al-Jidyan, the authorities refused to issue him with the magnetic identity-card whose possession was in May 1989 made compulsory for male Gaza Strip residents between the ages of 16 and 60 wishing to travel to Israel or (via Israel) to the West Bank. Mr. Abu al-Jidyan has thus been unable to report to the al-Haq offices in Ramallah since that date. In the summer of 1990, al-Haq fieldworker for the Jenin district 'Izz al-Din al-Ruzzi was first denied an exit permit to attend a human-rights conference in Italy and then informed that permission could be obtained only if he signed a written undertaking not to return to the Occupied Territories for a period of at least three years.
51. See for example, Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, pp. 632-633.
52. The harassment of al-Haq fieldworkers, including incidents of all the violations enumerated, has been widely publicized by the human-rights community as a whole. For the most comprehensive treatment see, Al-Haq, Punishing a Nation, pp. 202-205; Al-Haq, A Nation under Siege, pp. 613-640; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, An Examination of the Detention of Human Rights Workers.
53. See for example, Al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, p. 619.
54. European Parliament Resolution, "On the Torture and Detention of a Human Rights Fieldworker in Hebron, West Bank" (Doc. B-3-552/89), adopted 23 November 1989. Full text in al-Haq, A Nation Under Siege, pp. 630-631.
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|Publication:||Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1994|
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