Question of Palestine home
12 February 1999
Agenda items 40, 46 and 110
THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNIVERSAL
DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS
Letter dated 11 February 1999 from the Permanent Representative of
Lebanon to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General
On instructions from my Government and further to our earlier letters concerning the plight of the Lebanese detainees being held in Israeli prisons and in the detention camps established by the Israeli occupation authorities inside Lebanese territory, I have the honour to transmit to you herewith the text of a letter from the Follow-up Committee for the support of Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons addressed to Mr. Selim Hoss, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lebanon (see annex). The letter provides information on the situation of the Lebanese being held in Israeli prisons and in the detention camps inside occupied Lebanese territory that are under the supervision of the Israeli occupation forces, with particular reference to their state of health, to the presence among them of juveniles and women as well as persons who are elderly and infirm and to the repression, torture and neglect they must endure at the hands of the Israeli occupation authorities in violation of the relevant international covenants and all humanitarian principles.
I must here recall the improper decision adopted by the Supreme Court of Israel on 4 March 1998, whereby the Israeli authorities were granted permission to hold Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons and detention camps without trial and to keep them as hostages and as a bargaining chip. This constitutes a flagrant violation of all the relevant international covenants and conventions and, in particular, of the fourth Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocol I, which require civilians under foreign occupation to be protected from torture and arbitrary detention. Moreover, this decision, which has the goal of imparting a gloss of legality to the practices of the Israeli occupation authorities, is to be classed as State terrorism that Israel commits against Lebanese civilians through its various practices. The latter include the artillery bombardments to which they are subjected on an almost daily basis, persistent arbitrary abductions and arrests, excruciating torture, the destruction of their homes, the confiscation of their property, their expulsion from their domiciles, the encirclement of their villages and other practices.
I am also transmitting to you a detailed schedule giving such basic information about these Lebanese civilians as the date of their arrest and their state of health, as vivid testimony to be placed before world opinion and the world Organization (see appendix).
In the light of the foregoing, we request your assistance in bringing an end to this tragedy, of whose far-reaching dimensions you learned from the mothers of the detainees at the time of your last visit to Lebanon. We are confident that you will spare no effort and leave no means untried in order to assist the detainees in whatever ways you deem appropriate and effective.
As we convey to you in advance our deep gratitude for any step you will be able to take in this matter by virtue of your position and your high personal standing, which ensures you the trust and respect of all, we ask you to accept, Sir, the expression of our sincere affection and esteem.
I should be grateful if you would have the present letter and its annex circulated as a document of the General Assembly under agenda items 40, 46 and 110.
) Samir MOUBARAK
Letter from the national Follow-up Committee for the support of
Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons addressed to the Prime
Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lebanon
The Follow-up Committee for the support of Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons, anticipating your success in your great national task, is hopeful that you will give your attention to an important issue for the nation, namely that of the Lebanese hostages in Israeli prisons. The fact is that Israel is holding 183 Lebanese hostages, 140 of them in Khiyam detention camp and 43 in prisons inside Israel (at Ashkelon, Ayalon, Nafhah, etc.).
The age-range of the detainees is 14 to 75. They have been held hostage in Khiyam detention camp since 1985 without any legal grounds, without charge and without trial, and they are not allowed to engage lawyers for their defence.
Israel supervises this detention camp, and Israeli intelligence interrogates detainees before taking them to Khiyam or to Israeli prisons.
Fourteen prisoners have died under torture in the camp, and two, namely Salim Awwadah and Rida Yusuf Mustafa, have died at the American University of Beirut Hospital after their release.
Rheumatism, thalassaemia, memory loss, vision problems and stomach pains are widespread among the detainees owing to the absence of health care and because of malnutrition and defective lighting.
There are sick and wounded in the Khiyam camp. Sulayman Ramadan's foot was amputated in 1985 in an Israeli hospital because of delays in treatment, and he is now facing the threat of another amputation because the first procedure was faulty.
Israel is holding a number of juveniles in the camp, such as 14-year-old Ali Mustafa Tawbah, who is being held with his father, Mustafa Tawbah, and 15-year-old Muhammad Qazan. There are also elderly persons such as 60-year-old Ali Ghanawi, 64-year-old Muhammad Salim Qatibay and 75-year-old Hasan Muhammad Sa`id. There are four mothers, namely: Fatimah Abd al-Nabi, being held with her husband, Muhammad al-Sayyid; Samirah Sharaf al-Din; 70-year-old Al-Abdah Malikani, being held with her husband, Al-Kahl Hasan Sa`id; and Yvonne Suwaydi, also being held with her husband, Bulus AbuZayd.
As for those abducted and taken to Israeli prisons, it must be said that removing them from the occupied area of Lebanon and bringing them to trial are in violation of articles 49 and 76 of the [fourth] Geneva Convention. Article 49 states that "Individual or mass forcible transfers [ ... ] from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power [ ... ] are prohibited, regardless of their motive".
Abductions are a violation of Lebanese sovereignty, and the sentences against those abducted that are handed down by Israeli military courts are illegal and inconsistent with the international standards for fair trials.
Although 19 of the prisoners at Ayalon Prison have completed their sentences, every six months Israel extends their detention. This is despite the fact that nine years have passed since some of them, such as Bilal Dakrub and Ahmad Ammar, completed their sentences.
Trials are purely pro forma, and there is no difference between those tried, those who have served their sentences and those being held without trial. All of them are hostages.
By its decision of 13 November 1997, the Supreme Court of Israel acknowledged that the Lebanese detainees are hostages and are a bargaining chip.
That Israel has enshrined hostage-taking and torture in its laws is a flagrant violation of international law and sets a precedent that is the first of its kind in the world. It has never before happened in all of history that a court of justice has sanctioned the taking of hostages. Some detainees were not tried following their abduction, and they are languishing in prisons that the International Committee of the Red Cross is forbidden to enter and are not allowed to exchange letters with their families. Examples of this are Sheikh Abd al-Karim Ubayd and Mustafa al-Dirani.
In the desert prison at Nafhah, Samir al-Qintar is incarcerated. He is the longest serving Lebanese prisoner in the Israeli prison system, having been placed in detention for life on 22 April 1979. He is not allowed to meet with his family or his brothers despite the fact that it is 20 years since he was first arrested. Most of the detainees endure difficult physical and mental conditions since their families are prevented from visiting them and they live in complete isolation from the world.
Dozens of Lebanese are also being held whose existence is not acknowledged and whose fate remains unknown.
The charges made against detainees can be summarized as follows:
(a) Resistance to the Israeli occupation;
(b) Refusal to enlist in the militias collaborating with Israel;
(c) Refusal to pay duties and taxes;
(d) Dealing with the Lebanese Government and providing information to the Lebanese Army;
(e) Possession of cell phones;
(f) Refusing Israeli assistance and the organization of tourist visits to Israel.
The issue of the Lebanese hostages in Khiyam camp and in Israeli prisons is an international humanitarian problem, and it therefore requires that the United Nations, the world's governments and Arab and international humanitarian organizations should launch an international campaign to bring pressure to bear on Israel to close Khiyam camp and to release all the Lebanese hostages being held in Israeli prisons.