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Amnesty International Official Defends Report on Treatment of Arab Prisoners

The Secretary General of Amnesty International has defended its publication of a report alleging that Israel mistreated Arab prisoners. In a letter published in the Times today. Martin Ennals criticized Mark Benenson, chairman of Amnesty’s American section for dissociating the American section from the report. He wrote that “Mr. Benenson is not a member of the international executive committee which drafted the document and was therefore unaware of the confidential discussions with the Israeli government” prior to publication of the report. The report, released here April 1, was denounced by the Israel government as one-sided and biased. Amnesty itself conceded that all of the charges of torture levelled against Israeli authorities came from the prisoners themselves and could not be verified. But it considered the charges serious enough to warrant an immediate on-the-spot investigation by an independent commission. Mr. Benenson said in New York at the time that the report was “either sloppy writing or biased; I prefer to believe the former.”

Mr. Ennals said in his letter that Mr. Benenson was”unaware of various proposals put to the Israel government, including the appointment of an Israeli lawyer to investigate the evidence.” He said publication was delayed to enable the Israel government “to decide on this suggestion which, in fact, emanated from Israel.” “The sickening part of this controversy is that it’s not over procedure or protocol.” Mr. Ennals wrote. “We are arguing whether human beings are subjected to ‘torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ as per Article 5 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The human element seems to have been overlooked.”

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