U.S. Defends Its Human Rights Report Against Press Allegations

Edward Mezvinsky, the U.S. chief delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, cited the State Department’s report on human rights, formally issued in Washington Feb. 10, as “a balanced and fair picture” of the human rights situation in the Arab territories occupied by Israel. His remarks were made during a debate over Israeli practices-in the territories.

He said he wanted.” to take this opportunity to make absolutely clear the distinction between same of the allegations carried in press reports and the findings in the State Department’s Human Rights report ” Mezvinsky was referring to the Washington Post story of Feb. 6 reporting allegations that Israel systematically tortured Palestinians arrested for security offenses.

The Post story was apparently the basis for the cable sent to the Israel government by the Human Rights Commission last Thursday expressing “deep concern about the systematic torture practiced by Israel against Palestinian detainees.” The cable was approved last Wednesday night by a vote of 19-3 with eight abstentions.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Joel Barromi, charged that the “text was adopted without any shred of proof or evidence, on the basis of vague assertions and assumptions. The whole exercise was an unworthy charade.”

Referring to the State Department report, Mezvinsky said. “There have been some credible reports that instances of ill treatment have occurred. But our report does not state that systematic torture is being practiced by the Israeli authorities. I should also note that in repeated discussions with Israeli authorities we have been assured that mistreatment of detainees is forbidden by Israeli law and that violators are punished.”

Mezvinsky cited “another important paragraph that deserves emphasis” in the State Department’s report which noted that since 1977; representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “have been given increased access to detainees … without witnesses during their period of interrogation not later than the 14th day after arrest; to determine identity, state of health and conditions of detention.” In that connection the U.S. delegate said, “I would note that Israel is one of the very few nations in the world that permits ICRC access as early as 14 days.”

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