Illegal demolitions, arbitrary killings: US takes aim at Israel's human rights abuses
The United States said Israel had issued demolition orders overwhelmingly against Arab/Palestinian-owned structures mostly in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both considered Palestinian territories.
In the 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Israel, West Bank and Gaza, released by the US State Department, it said Israeli military and civilian justice systems have rarely found members of the security forces to have committed abuses.
It said there were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
On contested demolitions, it said, "During the year Israeli authorities carried out 14 punitive demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, forcibly displacing 71 persons, including 29 children, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), compared to three identified in 2021. Several human rights groups and the United Nations stated that these punitive demolitions were a form of collective punishment that violated the Fourth Geneva Convention."
Authorities issued approximately 1,708 administrative and judicial demolition orders during the year, overwhelmingly against Arab/Palestinian-owned structures. In cases of demolitions with no agreement from the residents to relocate, the government levied monetary fines against residents to cover the costs of demolitions, the report said.
Alarmingly, it added, "A study published by a group of academic researchers in September 2021 concluded citizens with mental disabilities were at greater risk of being subjected to violence when interacting with police, and that four of the five cases in 2019-2020 that ended in civilian death due to a confrontation with police officers involved victims with mental disabilities, with all four belonging to a minority group."
It took note that there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
On the issue of torture of detainees or prisoners, it said the government acknowledged it used "exceptional measures" during interrogation in some cases, but the Ministry of Justice refused to provide information regarding the number of such "necessity" interrogations or which "exceptional measures" were used.
Highlighting unlawful detentions, it said, "Israeli civil law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements, although NGOs identified cases where the requirements were not followed, and Israeli authorities also did not always apply the same laws to all residents of Jerusalem, regardless of their Israeli citizenship status."
Authorities detained most Palestinian prisoners within Israel, the report added, saying many human rights groups said this was another violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
There were allegations authorities arbitrarily arrested Israeli citizens and Palestinians who participated in protests, the report said.
On press freedom, it said NGOs and Palestinian journalists had reported that Israeli authorities restricted press coverage and placed limits on certain forms of expression, particularly for Palestinians.
"The law restricts freedom of expression by imposing tort liability on any person who knowingly issues a public call for an economic, cultural, or academic boycott of the State of Israel, Israeli institutions or entities, including those in Israeli settlements in the West Bank," the report said.
The report also drew attention to restrictions on Palestinians residing in Jerusalem, including arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home.
It highlighted Israel's new Citizenship and Entry Law, passed in March, which "prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Lebanese, including those who are Palestinian spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status unless the minister of interior made a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds."