Palestinian human rights organization Addameer condemned Israel’s ban on family visits to prisoners from Gaza in Israeli jails in a press statement of 27 December. Israel prohibited these visits in June 2007 following the Hamas victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections and the capture of an Israeli soldier in June 2006.
Addameer emphasizes that the right to family visits is entrenched in international law. However, the 443 Palestinians prisoners from Gaza who are currently detained in Israel are completely isolated from their families and communities.
The situation of the prisoners deteriorated further after Israel decided in November 2009 that any transfer of money to the prisoners required the physical presence of a family member at an Israeli bank. Families residing in the Gaza Strip cannot travel to Israel due to the Israeli siege. The Israeli Prison Service does not provide access to all basic necessities. Prisoners therefore depend on material support received from family members during visits or on funds transferred by their families to buy the necessary items in the prison canteen.
According to Addameer, the prohibition of family visits is designed to demoralize and punish prisoners’ families for the political choices the population of Gaza made in 2006 and for the June 2006 capture of an Israeli soldier.
Red Cross must not bargain about prisoner rights
The Israeli Prison Service should immediately allow family visits and telephone communications to Gazan prisoners, in accordance with its legal obligations. However, Israel has proposed video conferences to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as alternative to family visits, said Mourad Jadallah from Addameer yesterday in a telephone conversation. Families have the right to visit their detained relatives and the ICRC should uphold this right, clarified Jadallah.
Hisham Hassan, spokesperson of the ICRC in Geneva, confirmed that Israel is required by Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to allow family members to visit their relatives in detention. The ICRC repeatedly has called on Israel to resume the family visits for Gazan prisoners, according to Hassan. He was not aware of Israel’s latest proposal of video conferences. In the past, the ICRC has requested Israel - as temporary measure - to allow telephone calls by Gazan prisoners with their families. It is up to the detainees to decide what they need, says Hassan.
Jadallah is not satisfied with the ICRC’s efforts to protect the rights of the Gazan prisoners in Israeli jails in the past five years. International action is needed to pressurize the Israeli Government to end its violations of international law and to respect forthwith the rights of Palestinian political prisoners and their families.