Israel vows to improve minority, prisoner rights

Israel says it will improve treatment of minorities and prisoners, but it is rejecting calls to abolish the death penalty. Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar told told the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council Thursday that Israel would address "gaps between the various populations" in Israeli society by, for instance, increasing participation of women and Arabs. He said Israel would investigate allegations of torture and ensure prisoners receive prompt, fair hearings as required under international rules. But he said that Israel would not abolish the death penalty even though it was last applied in 1962. He also declined to commit Israel to improving protection of human rights in the Palestinian territories and in its fight against terrorism.