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The Human Rights Fruits of the Wye Memorandum

B'Tselem expresses concern that the Wye Memorandum will cause further deterioration in the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories. The fruits of the Agreement are already apparent two weeks after the signing: mass arbitrary arrests by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

A large portion of the Wye Memorandum is devoted to security concerns and the prevention of terrorism. B'Tselem condemns all political violence and welcomes efforts to ensure the safety of civilians. There is no contradiction
between the legitimate struggle against political violence and the respect for human rights. However, the language of the agreement appears to sanction the sacrifice of human rights in the struggle against such violence.

Israel's Wanted List: Guilty Without Trial A much debated element of the agreement concerns the arrest of thirty persons on Israel's "Wanted" list:

The Palestinian side will apprehend the specific individuals suspected of perpetrating acts of violence and terror for the purpose of further investigation, and prosecution and punishment of all persons involved in acts of violence and terror. (Section II A 1 d)

B'Tselem welcomes the language of this provision, which calls for principles of due process to be applied against all those suspected of illegal activity. However, the rhetoric and actions of all parties to the agreement suggest that rather than a list of suspects, these 30 are considered guilty even before trial. The Israel Government Press Office describes almost all of the 30 Palestinians as if they had already been convicted in a court of law. Furthermore, both Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and US Ambassador Edward Walker have pledged that the United States will prevent "unwarranted releases" and a "revolving door" of prisoner releases. There is no parallel commitment to prevent unwarranted detentions or other violations of human rights.

The Palestinian Authority has a poor record regarding detention and trial. Large numbers of detainees are held for months without charge. Others are tried in extremely rapid sessions of the State Security Court which deny the most
basic principles of due process. Yet were the PNA to adhere to standards of due process, both Israel and the U.S. appear determined to prevent release of any of these individuals, even those acquitted in a court of law.

Any individual suspected of committing acts of violence against civilians must be investigated, charged and tried. The PNA must not immediately release Palestinians convicted of serious crimes; this sort of "revolving door" must be firmly opposed. Yet, neither should individuals who have not been convicted in a fair trial remain in prison. If there is not sufficient evidence to try a person, or if a person is acquitted in a fair trial, the individual must be set free. Neither Israel nor the United States can fault the PNA for releasing individuals that a court of law has not found guilty.

Israeli Lip Service to Human Rights The Agreement does contain a provision regarding human rights. The language of this provision is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. First, it seems to imply that human rights concerns are
secondary to security concerns. Most importantly, the Agreement represents a significant retreat from previous agreements: it only obligates the Palestinian Police to respect human rights, whereas the Interim Agreement (Oslo II) obligated both Israeli and Palestinian civil and military forces. Furthermore, contrary to the elaborate mechanisms to monitor compliance with the security provisions in the agreement, no system for monitoring compliance with human
rights standards has been established. This suggests that the agreement merely pays lip service to human rights, with no intention by any of the parties - Israel, the PNA or the United States - to hold the sides accountable for human rights violations.

The Fruits of Wye: Mass Arbitrary Detentions Within a week after the signing of the Wye Memorandum, both Palestinian and Israeli militants have perpetrated acts of violence. The Palestinian Authority has reacted by arresting hundreds of suspected members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. B'Tselem fears that these mass arrests without due process and legal safeguards are the sorts of measures Israel demands as a condition to conduct the further
redeployments. Israel for its part has detained an additional 26 Palestinians under administrative detention, bringing the current total to 77 administrative detainees. In addition, Israel continues to use interrogation methods which constitute torture in interrogations of Palestinians.

B'Tselem calls upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to ensure the safety of all civilians, whether it be safety from political violence or safety from government- perpetrated human rights violations. Both sides must afford all detainees the basic rights of due process and a fair trial. No detainees can be subjected to interrogation methods which constitute torture or ill-treatment. In addition, B'Tselem calls on the tripartite U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian committee establish following the Wye Agreement to monitor observance of human rights principles as part of its monitoring of the agreement.