The Amnesty International 2013 Report documents the state of human rights during 2012. In five regional overviews and a country-by-country survey of 155 individual countries and territories, the report shows how the demand for human rights continued to resound in every corner of the globe.
I’ve read through the reports on the U.S. and Israel, and I must conclude, as I have done since starting to download these things – I have no idea how they can possibly improve anything, anywhere.
And, judging by the sheer onesidedness of the parts I’ve read, I cannot see how the report can serve as a foundation for discussion. In many, many cases, it’s basically adopting the point of view of one of the sides in the disputes, shaping it in official language and calling it a day.
Here’s the report’s summary, the short version:
“The world became an increasingly dangerous place for refugees and migrants. Governments around the world showed more interest in protecting their national borders than the rights of their citizens or the rights of those seeking refugee or opportunities within those borders.
“Resistance to injustice and repression took many forms, often inspiring acts of enormous courage and determination from the communities and individuals facing seemingly insuperable obstacles. In the face of indifference, threats and attacks, human rights defenders pursued legal challenges at the national and international level to long-standing impunity and endemic discrimination.
“The report reflects an approach to tackling human rights abuses that is informed by both the challenges and the opportunities for change. As Amnesty International moves into its sixth decade, this report bears witness not only to the plight of those living in the shadow of human rights violations, but also to those who continue to be inspired to action by the principle of human dignity.”
Now, here are some of the countries in which we are especially interested—now, the fact that we’re re-printing these reports without comment does not at all mean that we agree with them. I also apologize for not flipping all the “Occupied West Bank and Gaza” into “Liberated Gaza, Judea and Samaria,” to maintain the authenticity of the cites.
For the full report, kindly go to State of the World 2013:
ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
There are separate reports on the PA, which includes Gaza, but I must point out this remarkably autistic version of history:
“Periodically throughout the year, Israeli military forces carried out air strikes on Gaza while Palestinian armed groups launched rocket attacks on Israel. Israel continued to fire live ammunition to enforce the land and sea “exclusion zones” inside Gaza’s perimeter and territorial waters, killing at least six civilians and injuring others. Israeli leaders publicly advocated bombing Iranian nuclear sites.”
Yes, that’s exactly how I remember it…
Elsewhere in the report, you’ll find this telling paragraph:
“Israeli forces carried out aerial and artillery attacks n the Gaza Strip periodically throughout the year and during an eight-day military campaign in November, killing many civilians and destroying homes and other civilian property. Palestinian armed groups periodically red indiscriminate rockets into Israel from Gaza, and red over 1,500 rockets during the November conflict.”
In other words, judging by this narrative, first Israel attacked civilians in Gaza for no apparent reason, which was followed by retaliation—with rockets.
The report is chock full of these “minor” inaccuracies.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip continued, particularly of their respective political opponents. In both areas, security forces tortured and otherwise ill treated detainees with impunity. Four detainees died in custody in suspicious circumstances; two in Gaza and two in the West Bank. Palestinian armed groups in Gaza continued to commit war crimes by firing indiscriminate rockets into Israel, especially during an eight-day armed conflict with Israel during November. During that conflict, Hamas’ armed wing summarily killed seven men accused of “collaborating” with Israel. Both the PA and Hamas arbitrarily restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and their security forces used excessive force against demonstrators. Women in both areas continued to face violence and discrimination; at least six women were reportedly killed in “honor” killings. In Gaza, at least five people were sentenced to death and six people were executed. One man was sentenced to death in the West Bank; there were no executions there. The 1.6 million residents of the Gaza Strip continued to suffer severe deprivation due to Israel’s ongoing military blockade and the sanctions imposed on Hamas by other states; however, conditions eased in comparison to previous years.
The Israeli authorities held more than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 178 administrative detainees at the end of the year, after a temporary decrease in numbers following Palestinian and international protests. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees during arrest and interrogation was reported. Israel’s military blockade of the Gaza Strip continued to severely affect Gaza’s 1.6 million residents. In November, Israel launched an eight-day military campaign against Palestinian armed groups who fired rockets indiscriminately from Gaza into Israel; more than 160 Palestinians as well as six Israelis were killed, including many civilians. Both sides violated international humanitarian law in the conflict. The Israeli authorities continued to restrict the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, construct the fence/wall, and expand illegal Israeli settlements while failing to protect Palestinians and their property from settler violence. They also continued to demolish Palestinian homes and carry out forced evictions.
The Israeli military continued to use excessive force against protesters in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); in addition to 100 civilians killed during the November conflict in Gaza, Israeli forces killed at least 35 civilians in the OPT during the year. Palestinian citizens of Israel faced discrimination in housing and residency rights, and continued home demolitions, particularly in the Negev/Naqab region.
Thousands of people seeking international protection were detained administratively under a new law implemented in June. Israeli forces responsible for the killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians and torture and other ill-treatment of detainees continued to evade accountability.
Freedom of movement – Gaza blockade and West Bank restrictions
The myriad restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the movement of Palestinians amounted to collective punishment of the population of Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of international law. Over 500 Israeli checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank, as well as the fence/wall, restricted Palestinians’ movement, particularly in East Jerusalem, part of Hebron, the Jordan Valley and areas near settlements. Palestinians were required to obtain permits from the Israeli authorities while Israelis, including settlers, enjoyed free movement in these areas. There were continued reports of harassment and abuse of Palestinians at checkpoints by Israeli personnel. Movement restrictions also impeded Palestinians’ access to medical care, water and farmland.
As Israel’s military blockade of the Gaza Strip entered its sixth year, its impact on basic infrastructure, including water, sanitation and power supplies continued to be severe. Israel continued to severely limit exports from and imports to Gaza, stifling its economy and driving the perilous underground smuggling trade from Egypt, which continued to claim the lives of those using the tunnels. More people were able to travel through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt than during previous years, despite continuing restrictions, but permits for travel to the West Bank remained rare and difficult to obtain, even for patients requiring urgent medical treatment. In September, Israel’s High Court of Justice affirmed this policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank, rejecting a petition by Gazan women seeking to study at West Bank universities.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Forty-three men were executed during the year, and concerns about cruel prison conditions continued. Scores of detainees remained in indefinite military detention at Guantánamo. Pre-trial proceedings continued in six cases in which the administration was intending to seek the death penalty following trials by military commission. Use of lethal force in the counter-terrorism context continued to raise serious concerns, as did continuing reports of the use of excessive force in domestic law enforcement.
Use of lethal force
The USA’s “targeted killing” of terrorism suspects, including in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, particularly through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, continued during the year. Available information, limited by secrecy, indicated that US policy permitted extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law under the USA’s theory of a “global war” against al-Qa’ida and associated groups.
Incarceration rates remained at historically high levels.
Thousands of prisoners across the USA remained in isolation in “super-maximum security” prisons. They were confined to cells for 22-24 hours a day, without adequate access to natural light, exercise or rehabilitation programs. Conditions in such facilities violated international standards and in some cases amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
In October, five men were extradited from the UK to the USA to stand trial on terrorism-related charges after the European Court of Human Rights rejected their claim that they would face a real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if imprisoned in the federal ADX “supermax prison” in Florence, Colorado. The US authorities denied an Amnesty International request to visit ADX prison.
Legislation outlawing the shackling of women prisoners at all stages of pregnancy was passed in California in October. This was the first such law in the USA.
In June, legislation came into effect in Virginia requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.
Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which includes provisions to address the high levels of violence against Indigenous women and to provide protection and services for survivors of domestic violence.
Finally, I think these reports are valuable, if we learn to ignore just about all the editorial manipulations that turn the report’s enormous research into shoddy propaganda. Take it for granted that the facts presented in the report are not the only truth, certainly not the entire truth.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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