The International Commission of Jurists charged yesterday that the Israeli Army has harshly mistreated prisoners at its detention center in the occupied West Bank and is using it as an "intimidation center" in which "confessions are manufactured."
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose ministry has responsibility for the Al Faraa prison northeast of Nablus, dismissed the allegations in talks with editors of The Washington Post yesterday, calling them "total nonsense."
Military officials in Tel Aviv said they had "no intention of addressing the web of false claims and baseless facts originating from hostile organizations."
The 56-page report, based on affidavits by 20 Palestinians who had been held at Al Faraa, was released here yesterday by the International Commission of Jurists, an organization that monitors legal protection of human rights. The affidavits were gathered by its West Bank affiliate, Law in the Service of Man.
Jonathan Kuttab, a West Bank lawyer and a compiler of the report, said it would be presented today to congressional committees and the State Department's Human Rights Bureau in an effort to gain support for improved conditions.
The affidavits cover 1982 through May 1984. They allege beatings by soldiers, forced exposure to cold and water, inadequate food and medical care and other harsh treatment. Two prisoners charge that they were beaten after talking with Red Cross delegates visiting the camp.
"Conditions at Al Faraa were made deliberately harsh with the apparent aim of humiliating and degrading the detainees," many later freed without being charged, the report alleges. "The evidence demonstrates that Al Faraa is intended to operate as an intimidation center" in which Arab detainees are "given harsh treatment and later tried on the basis of confessions that appear in many cases to be extracted against their will, then released."
The report notes that one officer named in the affidavits -- a Captain Ghadir -- was convicted of assaulting prisoners and, on appeal, received a "derisory" two-month sentence and reduction in rank. It commends those responsible for bringing him and others to trial and says that "there is now more concern about prison conditions" on the part of Israeli legal advisers to the military government.
Kuttab said continuing monitoring of Al Faraa has indicated, however, that there has been no change in practices since a new unity government took effect in September, with Rabin as defense minister.
Although West Bank Arabs "expected a lot of Mr. Rabin personally," Kuttab said, "in fact no change has taken place so far."