For at least 11 years, Israel has held a number of Lebanese it suspects of being members of Hezbollah, the militant, Iran-backed Islamic organization that sprang to prominence after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. Some of these men have apparently never been charged with specific crimes. Some who were convicted remain in custody even though they have completed their sentences. Until recently, many of the prisoners were not even allowed to have access to lawyers.
Last November, in a decision that has become known only in recent days, a panel of the Israeli supreme court ruled that the detention of the Lebanese is permissible. However "grave and painful" a violation of human rights they are suffering, said the justices in a 2-1 decision, their captivity is justified by Israel's security needs and its continuing efforts to win the return of Israeli servicemen missing in Lebanon. In short, the justices sanctioned the seizing of Lebanese to be used as bargaining chips.