Accused Palestinian Collaborators Unlikely To Get Fair Trials

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - There is not much chance of a "fair trial" for Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, a Palestinian human rights organization has said.

Although there are no official numbers, estimates published in the Israeli media say at least 200 Palestinians are being held in PA prisons on suspicion of collaborating with Israel.

Mamoun Kassem, assistant director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, could not confirm how many suspected collaborators are in PA custody, but he said they would not get a fair trial.

"They will go to the illegal state security court," Kassem said. "The basic principle of a fair trial is not there."

The international community has condemned the state security courts for summary trials where hasty judgments are based on secret information - often within hours of arrest - and where death sentences are carried out immediately.

Last year, two accused collaborators were tried and executed that way, Kassem said.

According to Kassem, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has already signed a decree implementing the Basic Law of the PA, including the establishment of a supreme judiciary. Within its articles is the cancellation of the state security court. But it has not been implemented, he said.

Shawqi Issa, director of a Palestinian human rights and environmental group, said his organization calls for a "fair trial" for any alleged collaborators.

"In general there mustn't be the death penalty," Issa said. "[But] collaborators should be punished as in any country."

Issa recalled one case in 1997, when nine people were found innocent of collaborating with Israel in a civilian court in Ramallah.

Street Justice

Kassem declined to say whether or not he believed all those in jail are collaborators. However, he said there have been cases where suspected informants are killed by mobs and later a public apology is made.

"Sometimes people are dragged out and killed in the street," Kassem said. "A few weeks later the PA issues a communique saying the person wasn't a collaborator after all and they are very sorry."

Sometimes a person has a personal dispute with a neighbor or friend and accuses him of being a collaborator, he said.

In 1995, the former PA Justice Minister Freih Abu Meddein estimated that out of 1,100 Palestinians killed by other Palestinians during the first intifadah (1987-1992), about 45 percent of them were not Israeli collaborators at all.

According to PHRMG's website, 34 people have been killed in street executions since November 2000. Other estimates put the number at more than 60.

Ikhlas Khouli, 39, a mother of seven, was dragged from her home in Tulkarem last month and shot to death in the town square as a warning to other accused would-be collaborators.

The story later emerged that her 17-year-old son accused his mother of helping Israel after being abducted from his house and tortured.

Bakir Khouli said he had been accused of working with Israeli intelligence. Bakir, who showed his back striped with multiple bruises to television cameras, said he had been beaten with electrical wires and then confessed, inventing the story about his mother.

Ikhlas was believed to have been the first woman executed for collaborating during the current intifadah (uprising). Before her death she allegedly confessed to spying for Israel on videotape.

One Israeli official said that he understood that Ikhlas had nothing to do with Israel. He said that during the past two years, of all those killed in street executions as accused collaborators, only two had really been working with Israel.

Deputy Minister of Internal Security, Gideon Ezra said that Israel offers protection to those who really are collaborators.

"Israel has got an obligation toward each collaborator if he is in danger," Ezra said.

Currently, he said, there are not a lot of people that fall into that category. But after the Oslo Accords were signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993, Israel took in a number of former informants.

According to the Oslo agreement, all collaborators were allowed to stay in the West Bank and Gaza, without threat of reprisals, but many feared for their lives.

"They didn't believe the Palestinians, and rightly so," Ezra said. "The PA began to fight against them."

Recently, Ezra said, Israeli troops that occupied Palestinian areas during Operation Defensive Shield in April and May did their best to free accused collaborators from PA jails.

"When we came to...Nablus, we freed them," Ezra said. "Some were executed by the PA. Not all of them were really collaborators... If they helped Israel, Israel will take them in."

Nevertheless, he added, Israel cannot help those who are not really informants.

"A lot of people are said to be collaborators and they are not," Ezra said. "Israel is not ready to give them shelter because they didn't help Israel."