BIRZEIT UNIVERSITY

 December 9, 2002

 

 Violations by the Israeli Occupation Army

 Against the Birzeit University Community

 

Summary Report

 

Birzeit University has been hindered severely from pursuing a normal academic work or normal university activities due to the Israeli practices which and violations of human rights.

As a society living under a military occupation, Palestinians should be governed by the terms of the fourth article of the Geneva Conventions, which affirms protection to civilians and civilian institutions. Unfortunately the Israeli violations of this convention has been going on for such a long period of time that it has become an established practice.

Within the last two years or so, the escalation of these violations has risen significantly and this report expresses examples of such violations against Birzeit University:

1) The Birzeit-Ramallah Road – One of numerous Israeli Checkpoints and Roadblocks preventing access to education

Over the last two years, the University has been operating under severe conditions due to the closures and curfews being imposed on most major cities, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank.  Many of our students come from various parts of the West Bank and from Gaza as well.  For students from Gaza, access to Birzeit (and to other educational institutions in the West Bank) has been totally prohibited and many of our students from Gaza (about 130) have since dropped out of the University. Three of our faculty members from the Gaza area have not been able to continue teaching at the University during the past two years as well. For students and faculty who come from the North or South of the West Bank, the situation changes daily.  Travel time, when travel is possible, has doubled, tripled or quadrupled. For example, a ten minute drive between Ramallah (where most of our faculty, staff and students come from) and Birzeit has become a 45 minute journey that includes a ten minute walk through the length of an Israeli checkpoint and roadblock that has been in place since March 2001.  Israeli army officers manning the checkpoint randomly stop students, faculty members and other residents of the area and harass them, beat them, detain them for hours or arrest them.  To ensure that no vehicle traffic passes the checkpoint, this road has been severely damaged by bulldozers, with trenches, dirt hills and cement blocks strewn over a kilometer of the road making it quite treacherous to traverse in the best of weather conditions.

The changes which occur in the status of the checkpoints on an almost daily basis ensure the total inability of institutions to function properly and make planning impossible.  A glimpse of the Ramallah-Birzeit road during October 2002 provides one example. On October 8, the road was leveled and opened by Palestinians under the supervision and approval of the Israeli army. On October 9, 2002, the very next day, the road was dug up once again and two dirt mounds were placed at either end of the one-kilometer stretch of the checkpoint. The checkpoint was manned by Israeli soldiers who stopped individuals at random and disallowed some individuals to pass. On October 19, 2002, the road was totally closed in the morning and no individual was allowed to cross the checkpoint for any reason. On the morning of October 26, 2002, the road was leveled once again by Palestinians. In the afternoon of October 27, 2002, the road was once again closed by the Israeli army.

The Israeli army checkpoint, in addition to Israeli incursions into Ramallah and imposed curfews and closures, caused great delays in the academic process.  The 2nd semester of the academic year 2001-2002 was completed two-months after the scheduled end date.  During the semester almost two-thirds of scheduled teaching days were lost, meaning the University was inaccessible and no classes could be convened.  Emergency measures adopted by the University enabled it to complete the semester in August 2002 as opposed to June 2002 as originally planned. But we lost the summer session – a session which is important to students (who wish to graduate) and for the University (as a source of income).

2.) Incursions into the Birzeit University Campus

On July 27, 2002, and for the first time in the history of the University, Israeli Occupation Army vehicles stormed the Birzeit University Campus in the middle of the afternoon and for no apparent reason.  The 10 minute incursion into the campus was repeated several times thereafter.  

On September 3, 2002, at ten o'clock in the morning, two Israeli military vehicles, carrying about twelve soldiers, arrived at the main gate of Birzeit University. They stayed for about twenty minutes, during which time the soldiers prevented students, faculty, and staff from entering or leaving the campus.  During this provocation, the Israeli army informed the administration that there is an intention to place a military checkpoint at the University gate.

In the middle of the night of October 16, 2002, Israeli army vehicles once again entered the University and ransacked the offices of the Student Council, taking the computer hard disk with them and leaving the office in absolute chaos with papers and office supplies thrown all over the place.  That same day, at around 10.00 a.m., and as students were heading toward the University to attend their classes, an army vehicle immediately erected a checkpoint at the main gate, stopping each and every student, staff and faculty member, and delaying them from reaching their classes and offices for several hours. On November 22, 2002, on a Friday when the University is closed, the Israeli army once again entered the campus.

These incursions are serious violations of all international norms and part of the continuing attempts by the Israeli occupation to dismantle the educational process in Palestine. 

3) Detentions and Arrests of Birzeit University Students and Staff as of December 2002·

Birzeit University has been greatly affected by the illegal and violent harassment, arrest and detention of students, staff and faculty by the Israeli occupation authorities since the beginning of the current crises.  Currently, 72 members of the Birzeit University community are in Israeli prisons or are awaiting sentencing.  Of these more than 60 have been arrested or detained just during the past two and half years.  This includes two faculty members and one female student. 

Status

Number

Detainees under interrogation

11

Administrative Detainees*

12

Awaiting Trial

31 (of which 3 are outside prison)

Sentenced Detainees

18

Total

72

In addition, 28 students have recorded incidents of being detained for short periods of time and subsequently released since September 29, 2000 and up to the date of this report. It is expected that tens of other students have fared similar fates but have not reported these incidents of short-term detentions to the University. 

In April 2002, the Israeli occupation authority set up a make-shift detention facility in Ofer west of Ramallah.  Students who have been detained in Ofer state that they were forced to wait for long periods of time before they were interrogated.  They were not provided with sufficient food, warm clothing or even mattresses to sleep on.  They were refused medical treatment when needed.  For months after the detention center was established, lawyers were not allowed to visit detainees at the detention center.  Now visits by lawyers are allowed, but continue to be difficult due to the lack of a specified official office with which to communicate and get information.

4) Forced Entry, Humiliation, Destruction and Theft by Israeli Army Personnel

The Israeli army has forcibly entered the residences of students and faculty in Ramallah and Birzeit.  On July 17, 2002, Israeli army officers entered Al-Hamra Dormitory for Female Students in Ramallah, evacuated the dorms and made the residents wait outside while they proceeded to search the premises.  Afterwards, two female army officers conducted a full body search of the 16 female residents of Al Hamra.  The Israeli soldiers destroyed property and confiscated personal belongings of the students.  This was the sixth time since March 2002 that the dormitory was invaded. On previous occasions, the dormitory was shot at from the exterior and destroyed from the interior.

In the middle of the night on October 14, 2002, the Israeli army conducted a raid against an apartment building in the town of Birzeit that normally houses students.  After surrounding the apartment, and shooting and throwing sound bombs for several hours while calling on the inhabitants of the apartment building to come out, the army forcibly entered the apartment building only to find it totally empty.   

In the middle of the night of November 12, 2002, the Israeli Occupation Army invaded the town of Birzeit and proceeded to arrest 12 students of Birzeit University (eight were released within one week).  The Israeli authorities forcibly entered these students’ homes forcing the students to leave the premises.  After the incursion many students filed complaints against the Israeli Army for destruction and theft of private belongings. 

During the Israeli Army incursion in Ramallah on March 29, 2002, many students and faculty were directly affected by the onslaught.  Scores of students and staff members were detained for hours, days or weeks, often with no knowledge of their whereabouts.  In addition, the Israeli army occupied individual’s houses and evacuated their residents, leaving individuals stranded.  At least three faculty members were forced to leave their homes and stay with neighbors or relatives after having their houses occupied by the Israeli army. 

Conclusion:

The Israeli practices are in direct contravention to the fourth article of the Geneva Conventions. Moreover, they are contrary to any approach to a resolution of the present Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The continuous harassment of the University and its community has been going on for a long period, greatly affecting the University and its performance. A definite cessation of these violations should be made as soon as possible so that the University can resume its operations in a normal fashion. The amount of days that have been lost due to the Israeli closures is more than 100 days last year. The loss in productive work is over 1.5 million dollars. The loss in respected revenues from students who were not able to enroll or continue their studies in the University is around 0.5 million dollars. The loss of days in construction projects and added expenses as a result are over 0.5 million dollars. Hence the material loss is around 2.5 million dollars for last year. But the loss in terms of quality of education and achievement cannot be measured in dollars. These losses are sure to have a long-term detrimental effect not only on the development of the University, but on the development of the society, which it serves.



· The situation in terms of individual cases and numbers of detainees is changing on a daily basis.  As such the information included in this report is valid as of December 9, 2002.

* Administrative Detention is the process by which the Israeli occupation authorities sentence detainees for 3 or 6 month periods which are renewable without charging the detainees or holding trials.  This sentence can be administered to anyone for whom the Israeli military claims they have secret evidence against the accused.  The Israeli military is not required to show this evidence to the defense lawyer entailing that most administrative detainees themselves do not know on what basis they are being held.