Former High Court Justice Accuses Israel of Violating Human Rights of Golan Heights Druze Villagers

Former Supreme Court Justice Haim Cohen accused the Israeli authorities today of violating the human rights of Druze villagers on the Golan Heights. He referred to the 40 days of military blockade of the villages during which the population was confined to the immediate area, deprived of basic services and allegedly subjected to physical abuse for refusing to accept Israeli identity cards.

Cohen, speaking at a press conference here called by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, noted that Israel applied its law to the Golan Heights last February 14. But “there is no similarity between Israeli law aid what is happening (to the Druze) on the Golan — this is barbaric law,” he charged.

The military blockade was imposed February 25 after Druze leaders called a general strike to protest Israel’s annexation of the territory. The strike is in its ninth week. The blockade was lifted April 5 after four days of curfew during which the inhabitants allegedly were forced to accept Israeli civilian identity cards in place of their military ID cards which were withdrawn. Villagers without cards had their telephone and postal services cut off and their movements restricted.

COMPLAINTS LODGED BY DRUZE

A delegation of the civil rights group visited two Druze villages on the Golan last Sunday to interview the residents. “If only a small percentage of these stories is true, then it is quite shocking,” Cohen said.

According to the delegation, Druze were arrested and speedily tried for illegal assembly, receiving prison terms of 1-6 months; a Druze boy died on the way to a clinic because he was held up at an army road block; Israeli soldiers went from house-to-house to distribute ID cards and in some cases beat up people who refused to accept them; soldiers opened fire on villagers two days before the blockade was lifted, wounding several people who were hospitalized.

Even now, villagers who do not carry Israeli ID cards cannot leave the area, have no telephone service and cannot pick up their mail, the civil rights group charged.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is a non-political body affiliated with the International League for Human Rights. It is demanding an immediate end to travel restrictions on the Golan Druze, restoration of public services and on impartial investigation of the charges. An army spokesman had no comment today.

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