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Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Conflict and occupation have brought untold suffering on the Palestinian and Israeli people. ICTJ's work in this region focuses on helping local civil society learn how they can use transitional justice mechanisms to deal with the past.

The wall in Qalqilya, which runs from the north to the south of the West Bank & around Jerusalem.(Tom Spender/IRIN)

Background: A Local Conflict with Global Repercussions

Israelis and Palestinians, acknowledging grave human rights violations on both sides, approached ICTJ to learn about transitional justice. ICTJ began formally working in the area in 2006.

Sixty years of bitterness and conflict have left a heavy burden. Israeli abuses include targeting civilians and their living spaces; unofficial executions; unjustified detention, torture, forced displacement, land grabbing and restricting freedom of movement. Palestinian violations include executions and deliberate attacks on civilians.

The last 60 years of conflict and occupation have been characterized by serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, much of it borne by civilians.

Israeli breaches of international law during its decades-long occupation have included directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, extrajudicial executions, prolonged administrative detention, torture, forced displacement, property confiscation and destruction, and movement restrictions.

Palestinian armed groups have carried out extrajudicial executions and have deliberately attacked civilian populations. Moreover, the fissure between Fatah and Hamas has been accompanied by extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment.

Despite these abuses, proposed peace agreements and other efforts to resolve the conflict have overwhelmingly focused on issues of security—rather than mechanisms to address past violations and protect rights in the future. The internal Palestinian conflict further complicates an already fraught situation.

While renewed discussions have faltered over the last decade, Palestinians and Israelis have begun to question how their societies will deal with the legacy of human rights abuse. Although transitional justice has not been part of any official agenda, there is increasing interest among civil society groups in exploring the options transitional justice strategies could offer.

ICTJ's Role:

Since 2006, ICTJ's work in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory has focused on developing local knowledge of transitional justice mechanisms that may contribute to sustainable peace in the region.

  • We organize and facilitate discussions on transitional justice mechanisms between ICTJ experts and local activists, academic institutions, research bodies, policymakers, and intergovernmental agencies.
  • We run workshops and trainings to brief Israeli, Palestinian and international institutions—such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Human Rights Clinic of al-Quds University—on the value of transitional justice as a potential framework for seeking accountability and preventing future abuses.
  • We analyze and share material—in Arabic and Hebrew—on worldwide transitional justice initiatives. These include domestic commissions of inquiry, international fact-finding activities, oral history projects, reparations, and security sector reform efforts.
  • We assist local and international actors working on accountability around the December 2008/January 2009 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.