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From the field

Harm to palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada, Palestinians have killed dozens of Palestinian civilians on suspicion of collaboration with Israel. Some of the victims were killed in assassinations conducted by organizations; others died at the hands of Palestinian Authority security forces as a result of being tortured or when attempting to escape, while other were lynched by crowds of people. Also, the Palestinian Authority killed several Palestinians whom the State Security Court, in a patently unfair judicial process, had convicted of collaborating with Israel.

This phenomenon is not new. During the first intifada, hundreds of Palestinians were killed by their fellow Palestinians for allegedly collaborating with Israel. The definition of "collaboration" was much broader then, and included, for example, directly assisting Israeli security forces by gathering information and trapping wanted persons, serving on Israel's behalf in political positions in local authorities, the Civil Administration, and the Israel Police Force, brokering and selling land to Israeli organizations, failing to participate in work strikes, marketing banned Israeli merchandise. Also, collaboration included actions defined as "immoral", even if not directly related to assisting the Israeli authorities. Prostitution and drug dealing came within this category. In the current intifada, individuals who maintain contacts with Israel's security services are deemed collaborators.

In many cases, the attacks against suspected collaborators were particularly brutal. Some suspects were abducted, tortured, killed and then had their bodies mutilated and placed on public display.

These acts against collaborators, particularly the killing of suspects, are patently illegal and immoral. They constitute grave breaches of the Four Geneva Conventions, and the International Criminal Court Statute defines these acts as war crimes. Every state, organization and individual, even those that are not formal parties to these international agreements, are subject to its rules and principles.

International law also provides that a person may be punished only after being charged and convicted of a recognized criminal offense. In addition, defendants are entitled to due process and the opportunity to properly defend themselves.

Israeli security forces pressure Palestinians to collaborate. A usual method entails the security forces requiring Palestinians to collaborate as a condition to receiving the permits necessary to earn a livelihood, obtain medical treatment, and the like, in exchange for information. It is also common practice for Israel to pay for information, a practice that takes advantage of the poverty that prevails in the Occupied Territories. In some cases, security forces use collaborators to perform or assist in the commission of acts that are illegal under international law, such as assassinating suspected terrorists or torturing detainees.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the occupying state to recruit collaborators from the local population by means of threat, extortion, or condition for granting a specific service.

B'Tselem urges the Palestinian Authority to ensure the safety and well-being of suspected collaborators with Israel, and to protect them from being abducted by unauthorized individuals and groups. In particular, the PA must immediately cease the use of torture of persons suspected of collaboration. Of course, the PA has the right to arrest and try a person suspected of having perpetrated a crime, but it must do so in accordance with due process. The proceeding must be held in the civil courts and not the State Security Court. B'Tselem further urges the PA to investigate the cases in which suspected collaborators were killed and to prosecute the persons involved in the killing.

B'Tselem urges the Israeli government to cease placing forbidden pressure on Palestinians to get them to collaborate with its security forces, and to refrain from using Palestinians to make arrests that are prohibited by international law.