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Oslo: Before and After: The Status of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

May 1999, Summary

In its new report, B'Tselem compares the status of human rights before the Oslo Accords - from the beginning of the intifada until the signing of the Declaration of Principles on 13 September 1993 - with the period from the signing of the Declaration of Principles to the end of the interim period - 4 May 1999. In its comparison, B'Tselem notes, subject by subject, whether human rights violations have deteriorated or improved, and discusses policy changes that have taken place.

Since the report deals with human rights violations against residents of the Occupied Territories, it covers violations committed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA, which systematically violates the human rights of Palestinians, is itself a product of the Oslo Accords.

The violations described in the report occur despite the explicit commitment of the parties in the Oslo Accords to act to respect international norms and procedures regarding human rights.

The principal findings of the report are as follows:

Human rights violations by Israel decreased in certain areas and increased in others.

Despite the decrease in some violations, Israel's relevant policies did not change. Thus, for example, the Open-Fire Regulations, which enable lethal gunfire against persons who do not constitute a life-threatening danger, continue to apply; torture during interrogations continues; and prolonged administrative detention still occurs.

In the following areas, there has been a quantitative decrease in Israel's human rights violations. This decrease results from the redeployment of Israeli security forces from Palestinian population centers, and the decrease in direct contact with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories:

  • persons killed or injured
  • persons detained and imprisoned
  • persons administratively detained
  • house demolitions as a means of punishment

The number of Palestinians tortured during interrogation has decreased. However, this decrease is a result of fewer Palestinians being interrogated by Israel. The percentage of interrogated Palestinians whom Israel tortures has not decreased.

The Interim Agreement improves the water situation of Palestinians, providing them with more water and some influence over the distribution arrangements. At the same time, however, the Interim Agreement perpetuates the pre-existing inequality, and gives Israel veto power over any change in the status quo.

Since the mass deportation of 415 Palestinians in December 1992, Israel has not deported Palestinians from the Occupied Territories.

In August 1993, a month before the signing of the Declaration of Principles, Israel began to approve family unification requests of two thousand Palestinian families a year. Previously, Israel had rarely approved such requests. Despite the transfer of authority over the population registry to the PA, in 1995, Israel continues to apply the same quota, which does not meet the Palestinians' needs, and to determine which families will be allowed to live together in the Occupied Territories.

In the following areas, there has been a deterioration in human rights:

  • Since 1993, Israel has imposed a permanent closure on the Occupied Territories. The closure is the broadest violation of the human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, affecting almost every person in many areas of their daily life.
  • In the Oslo Accords, Israel undertook to establish a safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This undertaking resulted from the parties recognition of the two areas as comprising "one territorial unit." Israel has not fulfilled its commitment, causing harm to the Palestinian economy, to relations between relatives who are unable to meet, and to Gazan students wanting to study at West Bank universities.
  • Although the Oslo Accords left Israel with power over planning and building over only some five percent of the West Bank's population, there has been no reduction in the number of houses Israel demolishes each year because they were built without a permit.
  • Beginning in 1995, Israel initiated a policy of mass revocation of the residency and social rights of East Jerusalem Palestinians.

Areas in which Israel's policy remained the same:

  • The Oslo Accords did not relate to Jewish settlements during the interim period, and enabled continuation of Israeli policies of land expropriation, house demolition to build bypass roads, application of two different systems of law, and discrimination between settlers and Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Since 1993, Israel has established thirty new settlements in the Occupied Territories. Seventeen of these were established just prior to and after the signing of the Wye Memorandum.
  • Regarding planning and building in East Jerusalem, the Interim Agreement stipulated that the issue of Jerusalem would be discussed in the context of the permanent-status arrangements. The Oslo Accords led to no change in Israeli policy on East Jerusalem. As a result, its policy of intentional and systematic discrimination in planning, building, and demolition of houses built without a permit continues.

As for human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority, since its establishment in May 1994, the PA has systematically violated the rights of residents under its control. Its principal violations are the following:

  • Imposition of capital punishment
  • Mass, arbitrary detentions
  • Imprisonment without trial
  • Torture
  • Denial of the right to due process and a public trial
  • Censorship

It was hoped that the peace process between the two parties would lead to an improvement in human rights in the Occupied Territories. However, as of now - the end of the interim agreements, 4 May 1999 - no such improvement has taken place.