Magazine article UN Chronicle

Special Committee Hears Witnesses on Israeli Practices in Occupied Areas

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Special Committee Hears Witnesses on Israeli Practices in Occupied Areas

Article excerpt

Special Committee hears witnesses on Israeli practices in occupied areas

The three-member Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population in the Occupied Arab Territories heard testimony from a number of witnesses in both open and closed sessions during a series of meetings held in Switzerland, Jordan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Egypt from 13 to 31 May.

The testimony concerned Israeli measures in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Witnesses spoke of "inhuman conditisons" of daily life in the occupied territories; expropriation of Arab land for Israeli settlements; the "extension of cultural colonization" by a systematic stifling of the development of the arts and other areas of Arab cultural heritage; 'denial of trade union rights; arbitrary laws and military and administrative measures to impede Arab economic activity and education and health services; and creation of what a witness called "a general climate of terrorism" against the Arabs.

The Special Committee has been consistently refused permission to visit the occupied territories, and relies on hearing testimony in cities of neighbouring Arab States with concentrations of Palestine refugees and other persons having direct experience of the human rights situation in those territories. Its members are Nissanka Wijewardane (Sri Lanka), Chairman; Dragan Jovanic (Yugoslavia); and alioune Sene (Senegal).

Torture Charged

Abdul Aziz Ali Shahin, a Palestinian from the Ramla district in the West Bank, told the Special Committee that he was 23 years old when he was first arrested in 1967. He spent the next 15 years at various interrogation centres, detention camps and prisons. He said torture techniques included hanging him upside-down while his arms and legs were tied. Then, he was kicked and punched. He had his head put in a bucket full of dirty water, and was beaten with electric wire. For many days, he was prevented from sleeping, eating or drinking water.

Isolation cell number 139 in Ramla prison, he said was a small cubicle of only 60 by 160 centimetres and 150 centimetres high. Being locked up in that cell was the worst treatment of all, he said. It had no windows and one could not walk. He was kept there for days, except for the early morning when he was let our for four minutes, and for another four minutes in the evening to go to the toilet. There were moments when he realized what it meant to die a slow death in a Nazi concentration camp.

Jawad Boulos, a Palestinian lawyer who lives in Jerusalem, said even the Israeli press recognized the prison conditions in the occupied territories as bad. There had been cases where Arab detainees had been brought to court showing marks of torture, beating with truncheons and burns from cigarettes. In certain cases, the torture had been recognized by the court and the prisoner had been released. Infection among prisoners was being spread either through the detainees sharing their razor blades or from using unwashed blankets. There had been strikes in several prisons over poor conditions.

Abdel-Rahman Namurah, a doctor from Hebron, told of acts of obstruction and intimidation Arabs had to overcome to go to Jordan, and of the "relentless harassment" of himself and his family, such as the imprisonment of a brother, also a doctor, and attempts to confiscate his family land. …

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