Human Rights Watch Criticizes Israeli Bill to Authorize Hostage Taking

Published June 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Human Rights Watch condemned Thursday, as a war crime the Israeli parliament's introduction of a bill that it said would permit holding of hostages. 

The US-based human rights group said the measure would violate international law and could lead to the indefinite detention of some hostages. 

It said the bill, which passed its first parliamentary reading Wednesday, seemed to be an effort to maintain Israel's detention of two Lebanese Muslim militants, Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Abd al-Karim Obeid. 

In the past, Israel has held such detainees as bargaining chips against the return of Israelis missing in action in Lebanon or news of their fate, a practice the country's Supreme Court ruled illegal in April. 

"Israel's highest courts have acknowledged that the Lebanese hostages are held illegally," said Hanny Megally, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. 

"The Knesset (parliament) should not attempt to sidestep the courts." 

Human Rights Watch called on Israel to release Dirani and Obeid, who were kidnapped in Lebanon in 1989 and 1994, and are the only hostages who have not been released since the April court ruling. 

"The draft legislation not only fails to end Obeid and Dirani's detention, it opens the way to sweeping human rights violations against them and others by appearing to legitimize prolonged, arbitrary detention," the organization said. 

The group condemned the proposal's "sweeping language," which would authorize the imprisonment of members of any "force combatting Israel" or participation in the "hostile activities" of such a force. 

The proposal does not allow for sufficient judicial review of detentions and fails to give the defense ministry guidelines to determine which groups fall under the act, Human Rights Watch said. 

"This raises serious concerns that the legislation could be used to detain individuals based on their political beliefs, and not for any actual acts they have committed." 

Human Rights Watch said the parliamentary proposal was at odds with the Fourth Geneva Convention on the rules of war. 

"Hostage-taking, unlawful transfer, and unlawful confinement are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, that is to say, war crimes," Human Rights Watch said – NEW YORK (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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