LONDON (Apr. 9)
Both Syria and Israel are accused of violating the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war in a report by Amnesty International to be released here tomorrow. A special three-man investigating commission that visited the two countries and interviewed former prisoners of the Yom Kippur War state in their report that they found corroborative evidence that “both countries were guilty of certain abuses” but had not been able to obtain “absolute proof” because of the scarcity of medical documents.
The 34-page report was prepared by Asbjogn Eide, of Norway, director of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo; Peter Nobel, a lawyer of Uppsala, Sweden; and Dr. Kees van Vuuren, of Rotterdam, a Dutch physician. Amnesty International is a privates world-wide organization based in London that seeks to preserve the rights of political prisoners or obtain their release.
The report cited the Syrian authorities’ refusal for nearly five months to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit captured Israeli POWs as a major breach of an international safeguard that would have lessened the opportunity for torture and poor detention conditions. The report said that both countries had failed to observe fully the safeguards contained in the Third Geneva Convention on the treatment of POWs. “These violations…are extremely serious in that they created circumstances under which ill-treatment and torture could more easily occur,” the report said.
The investigating commission visited Israel and Syria during a two-week period last October and interviewed 25 former Israeli and 21 former Syrian POWs as well as three Syrian civilians who claimed they were kidnapped by withdrawing Israeli forces in the summer of 1974 when Israel pulled back from parts of the Golan Heights under the disengagement agreement with Syria. The investigators also met with officials of both governments.
ABSOLUTE PROOF NOT OBTAINABLE
The report noted that, among other things, the length of time that elapsed between the occurrence of the alleged abuses and the examination of the former POWs, and because of the scarcity of medical documents, “absolute proof” could not be obtained that ill treatment and torture had indeed taken place. But the commission found reasonable ground to reach certain conclusions, the report said.
“At least some of the former prisoners of war from both sides were subjected to brutality in the form of beating, kicking and threats, especially during transportation,” the report said. “Most of the former Israeli POWs in Syria stated that they had suffered systematic torture during interrogation, especially in the form of fallaka (beating on the soles of the feet) or electric shocks. The commission found the individual testimonies to be consistent in themselves and among one another. In some cases, the findings of the medical examination appear to corroborate complaints by Israeli POWs of certain kinds of beatings.”
The report continued: “The commission notes the allegations of torture made by former Syrian POWs in Israel and finds that the testimonies given by the commando soldiers describe the more brutal treatment, which in one case appears to be corroborated by the findings of the medical commission. The testimonies given by three Syrian civilians captured by Israeli forces contained allegations of a very serious nature. One complaint of burning with cigarettes appears to be corroborated by the findings of the medical examination.”
The report concluded that the commission found that the complaints made by former Israeli POWs in Syria of certain deprivations, including lack of food, water, hygienic facilities and complaints made by former Syrian POWs in Israel about overcrowding and otherwise “unsatisfactory conditions of detention” appear to be mostly corroborated by the reports of the visits to the POWs held in both countries by the delegations of the International Red Cross Committee.”
Martin Ennals, secretary general of Amnesty International, stated in letters to Premier Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and President Hafez Assad of Syria and in his introduction to the commission’s report, that “The purpose of this report is not to condemn and seek retribution for what happened in the past, but to create awareness of the need to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future.”