NEW YORK (Dec. 9)
The chairman of the American branch of Amnesty International issued a statement today questioning assertions of the London-based international civil liberties group that Israeli authorities had mistreated Arab prisoners. Earlier this week Israeli officials took sharp issue with the Amnesty report and said no further visits would be permitted by Amnesty representatives to the occupied territories.
Mark K. Benenson, chairman of the American branch, said that the American affiliate “was not consulted” about the London statement and added that under rules of the organization, it was supposed to help non-violent “prisoners of conscience,” but that the Arab prisoners involved in the controversy were “apparently terrorists.” He also said that Amnesty-USA was against any mistreatment of prisoners, if that had occurred, but that Amnesty should “concentrate on cases within its own frame of reference.” He said “we do not understand the reasons for the apparent deviation in this case.”
He also declared that he regretted that the London statement had not made clear that while Amnesty had been permitted to send an investigation team into Israel, with the full cooperation of Israeli authorities, this had not been the case in any of the Arab countries. Moreover, he asserted, the Israelis, to whom Amnesty had given the names of the prisoners making the charges of ill-treatment, had submitted “extremely detailed replies” to the organization. He added that he understood that all of those cases had been “satisfactorily disposed of in Amnesty’s opinion.” He reported that the American affiliate had called for an impartial investigation of imprisonment conditions in any country in which they might be found, regardless of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In barring further investigations by Amnesty, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman had said in Jerusalem that the organization had published unsubstantiated accusations of maltreatment of Arab detainees in Israel, even though a formal report by Amnesty said conditions in Israel jails holding captured Arab guerrillas were considered satisfactory.