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Israel’s Amnesty International Branch Head Calls for European Commission to Probe Israeli Scene

A call for the European Commission on Human Rights to examine the situation in Israel was made here by the chairman of the Israeli branch of Amnesty International. Prof. Yoram Dinstein, of Tel Aviv University, said that the greatest contribution that the European community could make to peace in the Middle East would be to permit Israel’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Dinstein, an authority on international law, said the European body was virtually the only international institution whose findings on allegations of torture of political prisoners in Israel would be respected. Addressing a luncheon several days ago attended by representatives of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, Dinstein said that there had been hundreds of allegations of torture of prisoners in Israel but almost every case had been proved to be unfounded.

Many of the cases involved terrorist suspects who were defended by Mrs. Felicia Langer, a member of the Control Committee of the pro-Moscow Rakah Communist Party. In Dinstein’s view, Mrs. Langer’s constant readiness to allege torture of terrorist suspects had become counter-productive. By crying “wolf,” she risked being disregarded should a genuine case occur, he said.

The Israeli branch of Amnesty International is not a typical one because, unlike other branches, it takes an interest in alleged cases in its own country. Dinstein said that his branch functioned partly as a “conduit” for the international secretariat of Amnesty, which is based in London.

CRITICAL OF TORTURE REPORT

In the past, relations have not always been-smooth between the organization and the Israel government. The Israeli authorities had been especially critical of Amnesty’s publication of a combined report on allegations of torture by Israel and Syria after the Yom Kippur War. A senior Amnesty official at the luncheon told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the organization had been wrong to publish the report, Instead, it should have simply submitted its findings privately to the governments of both countries.

The official also praised the prompt and careful replies which the organization receives when it sends inquiries to the Israeli Attorney General. Like other branches of Amnesty, the Israeli section has adopted “Prisoners of Conscience” in other countries. They include people in South Africa, Bolivia, Indonesia, East Germany and Rumania.

In a discussion about terrorism. Dinstein said that the perpetrators of the massacres at Maalot and Kiryat Shemona in 1974 should be tried under a law based on the 1948 convention on genocide. Although he was not prepared to give the Israel government a “blank check” over allegations of maltreatment of prisoners, he stressed the sensitivity of Israeli society to human rights. In the United States it had taken two years for details of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam to leak out. Then, only one man was tried and was later amnestied by the President, Dinstein noted.

But when Israeli border guards executed Arabs in the border village of Kfar Kassem in 1956, every person in the unit responsible was apprehended, tried and sentenced within weeks. The Major in charge was sentenced to 15 years.

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