Tekoah Details Syrian Mistreatment of Israeli Prisoners of War

A 15-page document detailing “The complaint by the Government of Israel against the Government of Syria concerning grave breaches of the Geneva Convention relating to the treatment of prisoners of war” was submitted to Secretary General Kurt Waldheim today by Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Yosef Tekoah.

The complaint, which Tekoah requested to be circulated as an official document of the General Assembly and the Security Council, contains nine sections, each devoted to specific incidents of murder, torture, degradation and other cruelties practiced against Israeli soldiers and airmen on the battlefield and in prisons after their capture by Syrian forces during the Yom Kippur War.

The document noted that on Nov. 10 and Dec. 8, 1973, the Israeli government lodged two serious complaints with the International Committee of the Red Cross concerning the murder of Israeli soldiers who fell into Syrian hands. “Now with the return of the prisoners-of-war from Syria, the government of Israel has evidence which complements the accounts given in the two complaints,” the document said.

It also noted that three judges on the bench of district courts in Israel were appointed to collect evidence on oath from repatriated POWs in order “to establish the absolute veracity of all that happened to the prisoners-of-war during their captivity in Syria.”

RED CROSS CONFIRMED CONDITIONS

The accounts contained in the Israeli complaints omitted the names of some of the victims out of consideration for their families. The names of others were given in incidents of murder torture and brutality. Appended to the document submitted to Waldheim was a copy of the findings of Red Cross representatives who visited the Syrian jails which confirmed, in more general terms the abhorrent conditions cited in detail in the Israeli complaint.

Under the heading, “Further cases of murder,” the Israeli document cited two incidents involving four Israeli airmen who, after parachuting to safety over Syrian territory and surrendering, were shot repeatedly at point blank range by the Syrians. Other cases cited told of Israeli soldiers and air crews deliberately wounded by Syrian soldiers after surrendering.

The section of the complaint dealing with “Treatment during detention” cited among others the ordeal of an Israeli pilot, Gabi Gerzon who “was beaten on the nape of his neck and lost consciousness” and was subsequently stripped naked, blindfolded, his feet in stocks elevated at an angle of about 90 degrees and subjected to electric shock on sensitive parts of his body in the course of interrogation.

ISOLATION CELLS UNFIT FOR HUMANS

Electric shock, particularly applied to the genitals, was a favored form of torture used by the Syrians according to cases cited under the heading “torture.” In addition, “the Syrians, interrogators and jailers alike, delighted in pressing burning cigarettes and matches to all parts of the POW’s bodies, and especially their faces,” the Israeli account said.

The complaint charged that “Many of the prisoners who were wounded on the battlefield were not given the minimum of medical treatment on capture.” In hospitals they were given better medical treatment but the Syrian authorities did not “assign physicians with the specialized knowledge which the particular therapy required.”

The complaint stated that POWs were kept in isolation cells called “drawers” for periods of 4-5 months that “were totally unfit for human habitation.” According to the documented reports, the Syrian jailers “systematically prevented the POWs from going to the lavatory for long spells so that they were forced to exercise their bodily functions in their cells, dressed, with no possibility of washing themselves or changing….This hellish misery was hideously aggravated by the fact that, at that time, owing to the severe cold, the POWs suffered from inflammation of the urinary tract and diarrhea,” the report said.

A summary at the end of the document stated that the findings constituted “plain proof that the grave violations of the Geneva Convention were the outcome of the deliberate official policy of the Syrian authorities.”

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