By Albawaba.com Staff Writer
Amnesty International accused several Arab countries and Israel of widespread and serious human rights violations during 1999. According to a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty charged that violations include large-scale executions, routine use of torture and unfair trials, often before special courts, took place throughout much of the Middle East and North Africa.
Amnesty said the climate of impunity remained, with few steps taken to bring to justice those responsible for past human rights violations.
The following is a summary of the Amnesty Report:
Most members of the security forces enjoyed impunity for human rights violations. Torture continued to be officially permitted and systematically used until September when the High Court of Justice ruled that such methods of interrogation were unlawful. However, reports of Palestinians being beaten and otherwise ill-treated at checkpoints continued to be received. Eight Palestinian civilians were extra judicially killed or killed from excessive use of force. About 1,500 Palestinians and 29 Lebanese, including 16 held as hostages, continued to be detained. In Israeli-occupied South Lebanon, more than 150 Lebanese were held without
charge or trial in Khiam Detention Center.
More than 350 people were arrested during 1999 for political reasons in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, including suspected members of Islamic opposition groups and alleged "collaborators" with Israel. Orders by the High Court of Justice were systematically ignored.
Hundreds of people, including possible prisoners of conscience were executed. Arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of political opponents continued. Although the human rights situation in Iraqi Kurdistan had gradually improved since the cease-fire declared in 1997, cases of human rights abuses, such as arbitrary arrest and political killings, continued to occur.
Hundreds of suspected supporters of Islamic groups were released, but thousands of others, including possible prisoners of conscience, remained behind bars. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees remained systematic and caused, or contributed, to several cases of death in custody. More than one hundred people were sentenced to death. Civil society institution, including human rights organizations, sharply criticized a new law regulating NGOs, which imposed restrictive conditions on their activities.
Jordan & Lebanon
In Jordan and Lebanon scores of people were arrested for political reasons including during demonstrations. Cases of torture and ill-treatment were reported from both countries. Jordan carried out 12 death sentences, forcibly exiled four Hamas leaders and forcibly returned asylum-seekers to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights violations. In Lebanon former members of Israel’s proxy militia were given summary trials before military courts, most were sentenced to up to six months’ imprisonment.
Hundreds of prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners remained behind bars. Cases of death in custody, inhuman prison conditions and application of the death penalty were reported during 1999.
Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment continued in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International recorded 103 executions in 1999, though the actual total may well have been higher. Criminal judicial procedures fell far short of international standards, with detainees denied the right of access to a lawyer, the right to defense and the right to appeal. Safeguards against the use of confessions gained under torture were lacking. Political and religious freedom continued to be severely curtailed in Saudi Arabia, and a number of people were arrested during the year on political or religious grounds. Some were held without charge or trial and without access to their families or lawyers for prolonged periods.
Dozens of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, continued to be held in prison following their conviction in unfair trials since 1991. Despite the government's positive steps towards reform, it failed to address past violations including extra judicial executions and unfair trials by the Martial law and State Security Courts.
In Bahrain many political prisoners were released but several hundred others arrested in previous years continued to be held without charge or trial. The authorities continued to ban several Bahraini nationals from returning to the country.
In the United Arab Emirates at least eight people were sentenced to death during 1999, seven of whom were foreign nationals. Six of the eight were reportedly sentenced to death on drug-related charges.
In Qatar the government failed to clarify the legal status of Abd al-Rahman bin Amir al-Naimi detained since June 1998, apparently on political grounds.
In a number of prisoners of conscience, mainly journalists, were arrested and detained for short periods during 1999. Torture continued to be reported. The death penalty continued to be imposed and the judicial punishment of flogging, amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was a regular occurrence.
The number of killings was much lower than in previous years in Algeria, but remained high nonetheless. "Disappearances" and torture also diminished significantly but cases continued to be reported and no concrete measures were taken by the authorities to clarify the cases of some 4,000 people who "disappeared" in previous years. Impunity, hitherto widely enjoyed by the army, security forces and paramilitary militias appeared to be increasingly granted to members of armed groups who surrendered and "repented" under the terms of both the secret agreement concluded between the army and some armed groups as well as the new Law on Civil Harmony.
Although hundreds of political prisoners were freed in November, up to 100 continued to be detained. Former political prisoners were under strict surveillance. Human rights defenders and their families were increasingly targeted. The country witnessed further restriction on freedom of association and expression, including access to human rights organizations' websites from Tunisia being blocked. A new law which criminalized torture was passed, however, the definition of torture in the law is not as defined by the UN Convention against Torture. Torture and ill-treatment were reported to be used by security forces in Tunisia.
Hundreds of political prisoners remained in detention in Libya , many of them had been detained for more than a decade without charge or trial. The use of torture against political prisoners continued to be reported. Political detainees were often held in inhuman or degrading prison conditions that resulted in deaths in custody.
An arbitration body on compensation for the victims of "disappearance" and arbitrary detention was established and thousands of people submitted their claims. However, the authorities failed to clarify the fate of some hundreds of "disappeared", most of them Sahrawis. Freedom of expression, association and movement continued to be restricted in the camps controlled by the Polisario Front near Tindouf in southwestern Algeria – Albawaba.com.
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