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Rights Group Says Israel is Using Excessive Force in the Territories

Israeli authorities continue to use excessive force against Palestinians in the administered territories and still detain them for long periods without trial, Amnesty International charges in its 1991 survey of human rights violations around the world.

The watchdog group’s annual report, issued Tuesday, also accuses Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and other Arab countries of disregarding basic human rights and mistreating prisoners.

The report covers human rights violations in 141 countries and concludes that governments around the world are in danger of “sabotaging the world’s hopes for human rights.”

Last year, over 100 governments tortured or ill-treated prisoners, in 29 countries thousands of people “disappeared,” and 90 countries handed down or carried out death sentences, which Amnesty opposes in all cases.

The report alleges that Israeli authorities have beaten Palestinian detainees with truncheons, deprived them of sleep and squeezed their testicles, among other actions it calls excessive.

It calls on Israel to end widespread use of administrative detention, whereby Palestinians are imprisoned without trial, and the imprisonment of soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories.

While Amnesty’s criticisms of Israel echo last year’s annual report, the 1991 survey also points out the increasing number of Palestinians being killed by other Palestinians. In 1990, some 150 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians, while 120 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces, the report says.

Amnesty also charges Israeli forces with misusing tear gas and endangering people’s lives. It accuses Israel of being lax in investigating and prosecuting abuses by its own forces.

DETENTION OF SYRIAN JEWS CITED

Although many Arab countries in the Middle East are accused of worse human right violations than Israel, an Amnesty official warned against a comparative approach to human rights violations.

Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast regional director for Amnesty, said, “If it’s wrong to beat up a prisoner, then it’s wrong for a democracy to do that, and it’s wrong for a dictatorship to do that. The standards must be the same.”

The Amnesty report on Syria states that some people have been detained without trial for up to 20 years, and that torture is routine.

The report notes that in 1990, four Syrian Jews were in detention. Two of them have since been sentenced in a closed trial held a few months ago, according to recent reports.

Egyptian authorities are charged with detaining without trial thousands of Islamic sympathizers, while allegations of psychological and physical torture continued through 1990.

In Jordan, Amnesty alleges that trials did not adhere to international standards, that 30 people were in jail on political grounds and that there were ongoing reports of ill-treatment or torture of detainees.

Although Lebanon’s lack of a central government last year made it difficult to gather information, the Amnesty report says all groups have been accused of human rights violations.

This includes the South Lebanon Army, the militia financed, equipped and trained by Israel that patrols in Israel’s self-declared security zone along the border between the two countries.

Syria, which now backs the new Lebanese government and has widened its control over the country, “reportedly carried out scores of extra-judicial executions,” the report says.

Amnesty says it made two trips to Israel in 1990, during which representatives met with several civilian and military officials and observed administrative detention and military court trials.

Israeli officials told Amnesty that administrative detention, in which a person can be detained for up to one year without trial, is necessary, given the violent aspects of the intifada, now in its fourth year.

Rubenstein said that while Israeli officials had allowed fact-finding missions into the country and usually answered inquiries, this is insufficient.

“We do not feel that response is in and of itself enough. We want to see action,” he said, meaning changes in human rights practices.

Israeli officials in New York would not comment on the report until it had been studied in Jerusalem.

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