TEL AVIV (Jan. 16)
A special appeals committee recently set up by the Israel army has recommended the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners of the 5,400 detained for the past eight months at Ansar camp in south Lebanon.
Army sources said some of the detainees have already been turned over to the International Red Cross for return to their homes. The appeals committee so far has heard the cases of only 1,100 detainees.
Leah Tzimel, a Jerusalem lawyer who frequently defends members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, charged that the army established the appeals committee only under international pressure and just a day before the Israel Supreme Court was to hear an appeal against the Ansar detentions last November, six months after the war in Lebanon started.
The army’s chief military prosecutor, Gen. Dov Shefi, said the committee was established at the army’s initiative without outside pressure. He attributed the delay to the unexpectedly large number of detainees. The commission was set up under the Fourth Geneva Convention governing the treatment of civilians in war zones.
Israel contends that the detainees at Ansar are members of a terrorist organization which makes them neither civilians nor soldiers. The PLO claims its men are soldiers and should be treated as prisoners of war. Israel insists that the distinction is clear under the Geneva conventions. Soldiers wear recognizable uniforms and insignia and bear arms openly. PLO terrorists conceal their weapons and place bombs in supermarkets or buses and therefore cannot be recognized as soldiers, the Israelis say.
Under the Geneva Conventions, soldiers cannot be interrogated. Civilians can be but must be allowed visits by relatives. The Palestinians charge they have been allowed no such visits.