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.
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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