- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

GENEVA (Agence France-Presse) A U.N. human rights specialist said yesterday he had gathered evidence suggesting that Israel's treatment of Palestinian child detainees was inhuman and could amount to torture.
In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, John Dugard, the special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, called on Israel to carry out an independent inquiry into the charges.
He said about 1,000 children under the age of 18 had been arrested and detained since September 2000 in connection with crimes relating to the Palestinian uprising, or intifada.
More than 90 percent were arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at Isareli soldiers, he said.
"The evidence collected by [nongovernmental organizations] and I also spoke to a number of children who had been detained indicates fairly convincingly that children are subjected to inhuman treatment, probably amounting to torture in terms of the torture convention," Mr. Dugard said.
He said the children were held for lengthy periods while being interrogated, blindfolded, forced to sit or stand in uncomfortable positions, denied food or sleep, and on occasion, assaulted.
The U.N. rapporteur said he had wanted to discuss the charges with Israeli officials, but the government declined to cooperate with him during two visits to the region in August and February.
Voicing disagreement, Israeli Ambassador Yaakov Levy reiterated that the government did not recognize Mr. Dugard's "flawed" mandate and said that Israel was especially concerned about the involvement of children in conflict.
"Israel makes every effort to ensure that Israeli and Palestinian children do not suffer as a result of current hostilities and are able to dedicate their energies to education and the pursuit of a normal life," he told Agence France-Presse.
Mr. Levy said the discovery of three children in a Palestinian ambulance carrying explosives in the West Bank earlier yesterday was an example of Palestinians' abuse of children's rights that the U.N. rapporteur "constantly overlooks."
Mr. Dugard suggested that Israel appoint a judge to make "surprise visits" to interrogation centers and prisons to ensure children are properly treated.
"What troubles me in particular is that Israel is a state that has a proud legal tradition. It's the state in the region that is probably most firmly committed to the rule of law within its own territory," he said.
"But when it comes to the treatment of Palestinians outside its territory, there seems to be a lack of concern for human rights, and this I find very disturbing."
In a report published Monday, the U.N. expert called for an international peacekeeping mission, saying it was the only way to control both sides, reduce violence and provide the right climate for negotiations.
Speaking the day after two international observers serving with the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) were killed in the West Bank, Mr. Dugard said TIPH plays a useful role, but its powers are weak.
"I certainly believe that any peacekeeping mission that would be established in the region at present would have to have greater powers than that body," he said.

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