Agence France Presse 2 April 2003
WASHINGTON, April 1—The US State Department has quietly withdrawn all CD-ROM copies of its annual human rights report due to a one-word error that was thought to overstate the extent of Israel’s rights abuses, officials said Tuesday.
The embarrassing mistake — which is sure to raise eyebrows in the Arab world — was not caught until the department noticed that some media accounts of the report had quoted from a draft version of the Israel section, they said.
The draft was erroneously placed on the CD-ROM containing the 2002report on human rights practices that Secretary of State Colin Powell rolled out on Monday with great fanfare, the officials told
AFP on condition of anonymity. “It was an honest mistake,” one official said. “There was nothing intentional or devious about it.”
The final and correct version of the section on Israel is posted on the department’s website (www.state.gov) to which those with questions about the report should now refer, the officials said.
In the report on the CD-ROM Israel is cited for committing “numerous, serious human rights abuses” in the Palestinian territories.
“Israel’s overall human rights record in the occupied territories remained poor, and worsened in several areas as it continued to commit numerous, serious human rights abuses,” the CD-ROM version of the report says.
The revised, final version of the Israel section omits the word “numerous” from the sentence.
On the website the sentence reads: “Israel’s overall human rights record in the occupied territories remained poor and worsened in several areas as it continued to commit serious human rights abuses.”
Despite the removal of the word “numerous,” both versions of the report catalogue a number of Israeli human rights abuses including the killings of civilians during military operations aimed at Palestinian extremists.
“Security forces killed at least 990 Palestinians and two foreign nationals and injured 4,382 Palestinians and other persons during the year, including innocent bystanders,” the report says in both copies.
At the same time, both versions of the report note that the Israeli government says it is making “every effort to reduce civilian casualties during these operations.”
And, the report also criticized the Palestinians for committing human rights abuses, notably deadly anti-Israel attacks, including on civilians, and the failure of Palestinian authorities to crack down on them.
The report noted that there were nearly 226 anti-Israel terrorist attacks last year, including suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, mortar and grenade attacks and stabbings.
“During the year, more than 469 Israelis were killed and over 2,498 injured, a sharp increase from the previous year,” it said.
Washington has repeatedly defended Israel’s right to defend itself against such violence but also taken the Jewish state to task on occasion for some of its harsher tactics, including the demolition of Palestinian homes.