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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 777

Senator Gareth Evans —On 27 February (Hansard, page 238) Senator Primmer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, without notice:

Is the Minister aware of recent reports indicating increased abuse of the human rights of Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military occupation, in particular the critical situation at Dehaishe Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, and of the call by the Israeli League for Civil and Human Rights for immediate international pressure to stop attacks on the residents? Further, is the Minister aware of a report by the International Commission of Jurists concerning the torture of Palestinian prisoners at Al Faraa Prison?

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

1. The rights of the population of the Occupied Territories are governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The situation in the Occupied Territories is coming under increasing scrutiny in United Nations bodies, most recently the Commission of Human Rights, and by other international agencies. As a member of both the Security Council and the Commission on Human Rights Australia is required to monitor closely the situation in order to consider allegations of abuses which come before these bodies. Australia has urged that Israel abide by its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

2. The Australian Government is aware of the recent reports to which the honourable senator has referred.

3. At the Dehaishe Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the Leader of the Jewish settlers in Hebron, spent most of the last four months living in a caravan opposite the camp. This was in protest at alleged rock throwing by inhabitants of the camp. On 4 February he fired shots into the air after his caravan became the target for a stone throwing protest. Levinger is reported to have chased his assailants into the camp where he remained for more than an hour before being removed by Israeli security forces. Rabbi Levinger has now called off his protest.

4. The Government is also aware of reports that the Israeli Government proposes to institute new measures against alleged 'rioters and subversive elements' among the West Bank Palestinian population. Prime Minister Peres is reported to have described these measures in terms of 'increased presence, heightened alertness and appropriate punishment for those found guilty'. The measures are in the wake of a number of serious recent attacks which have claimed the lives of two Israelis and left several injured. Jewish settlers in the West Bank have for some time been demanding tougher measures by the Government for security in the area.

5. The Government is also aware of the report prepared by Palestinian lawyers in the West Bank and released recently by the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. The Government is currently studying the report which I understand takes the form of twenty separate sworn affidavits by Palestinian detainees in the West Bank detention centre of Al-Fara'a.

6. The Australian Government is concerned with the question of the human rights situation in the Israeli Occupied Territories. The Government has also consistently expressed the view that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are contrary to International Law and a significant obstacle to peace efforts.