GENEVA (Jun. 14)
A special U.N. committee investigating Israeli human rights practices toward Palestinians returned from a 12-day fact-finding mission to the Middle East with damning information, all of it obtained from Palestinians.
Since the committee was set up by the U.N. General Assembly in December 1968, Israel has refused to allow it access to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Israelis accuse the committee of a built-in anti-Israel bias. As a result, the committee takes testimony from Palestinians in Arab countries where no refutation is offered.
This year the panel heard 21 witnesses in Amman, Damascus and Cairo. They spent about three days in each capital between May 21 and June 1.
The committee currently consists of Daya Perera, the permanent representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York; Dragan Jovanic, a professor of law from Yugoslavia; and Alioune Sene, permanent representative of Senegal to the United Nations office in Geneva.
Sene also serves this year as chairman of the U.N. Human Rights Commission here.
The witnesses examined by the committee included Palestinian educator, public health specialists, a businessman, a farmer, a recent deportee from the territories and several Palestinians hospitalized with bullet wounds.
All were recently arrivals from the territories, where the uprising is now in its seventh month. They described curfews, school and university closures by the Israeli authorities, assaults on cultural identity, limits imposed on remittances from abroad, and restrictions of movement.
They complained of inadequate medical facilities for Palestinians, and the storming of Arab homes and hospitals by Israeli troops.
Most of the witnesses asked for anonymity on grounds they feared reprisals from the authorities when they return home.
In addition to hearing testimony the committee met with senior Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian officials. In Amman they met also with officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The testimony heard will be included in the committee’s annual report to the General Assembly. The committee also depends upon government communiques and numerous intergovernmental and nongovernmental sources and newspaper reports on the situation in the territories.
It takes particular care to extract information from the Israeli press which has not been contradicted by government sources. The committee also takes note of statements by Israel government officials regarding policy in the territories.