GENEVA (Feb. 15)
The United Nations Human Rights Commission voted 19-3 with eight abstentions to send a telegram to Israel expressing “deep concern about the systematic torture practiced by Israel against Palestinian detainees, as reflected once again in recent international reports.” The telegram also expressed the Commission’s “grave concern about policies of repression and collective punishment by the Israeli occupation farces against the Palestinian people in Palestine and in the Arab occupied territories.”
The three countries voting against the telegram were the United States, Canada and Australia. Those abstaining were Austria, Colombia, France, West Germany, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Sweden and Uruguay. Benin and Panama were absent. The Commission began its weeklong meeting to discuss human rights in the occupied territories as well as the situation in South Africa, Chile, and Democratic Kampuchea which is located in the Indochina Peninsula.
The Commission’s telegram, by referring to systematic torture, ignored a State Department report issued last week which said that while there have been “instances of mistreatment,” torture “is prohibited by law and is virtually on heard of.” The report also noted that even in cases where “excessive force” has been used by Israeli troops and border police to quell demonstrations and restore order, “these actions clearly did not reflect the policy of the government.”
U. S. chief delegate Edward Mezvlnsky protested against sending the telegram, which was proposed by Pakistan at the outset of the Commission’s debate on the question of human rights in the occupied territories, on grounds that the Commission had not yet received a written notice of the text and that the proposal violated a rule calling for a 24 hour delay before proposals are acted upon. The Commission decided to waive this requirement by a vote of 16-9, with two abstentions. Yoel Barromi, Israel’s observer at the Commission, denounced the charges in the telegram as entirely without foundation.