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New Yorkers protested on Friday, 17 June outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation to the United Nations, demanding the restoration of twice-monthly family visits for Palestinian prisoners and an end to the cutbacks that will see those visits slashed in half for adult male prisoners.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network rallied outside the ICRC office in protest of the recently-announced policy, which has been rejected by Palestinian prisoners and by a range of Palestinian prisoner support organizations inside Palestine.

Samidoun activists spoke with the head of the delegation, Philip Spoerri, and urged him to convey their message to ICRC headquarters in Geneva, and to the ICRC delegation in occupied Palestine – that Palestinian prisoners’ family visits are precious for over 7,000 families and must not be cut. They also spoke with Ernesto Granillo, the delegation’s media liaison, carrying the same urgent message from Palestinian prisoners and people around the world concerned for their rights.

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Due to the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation – and the Israeli imprisonment of Palestinian prisoners outside the occupied West Bank, in violation of the Geneva Conventions – Palestinian prisoners’ family visits must be coordinated by the ICRC.

Palestinians in the West Bank need special permits to visit their imprisoned family members inside Israel, where most prisoners are held in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These permits are often delayed or denied and take months to process; if and when they are approved, Palestinians must visit on special ICRC buses arranged twice monthly. The entire visit process begins early in the morning and ends late at night for a 45-minute visit, and includes often-abusive checkpoints, inspections, and interactions with Israeli guards; it is very difficult for young children and elderly parents.

The ICRC has claimed that budget shortfalls are the reason for the cuts, which would see only once-monthly visit dates available for adult male Palestinian prisoners.

However, Palestinian prisoners across the political spectrum have denounced the cuts as deeply damaging to prisoners and their over 7,000 Palestinian families. Further, they have noted that the ICRC, by carrying out these cuts, is complicit in an ongoing Israeli agenda of cutting back on family visits and isolating prisoners from the broader Palestinian public.

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Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is involved in ongoing efforts to call upon the ICRC to end these family visit cuts, which as the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said, “fit perfectly with the occupation policy aimed at restricting the prisoners and their families by increasing burdensome requirements and complications.”

Photos by Joe Catron

Take Action! Support Palestinian Prisoners and their Families:

1.  Sign and share the change.org petition to the International Committee of the Red Cross urging them to change this decision. Palestinian prisoners and their families need support – not yet more roadblocks in the way of family life and family connections!

2. Join or organize a protest at an ICRC office near you. Email us at samidoun@samidoun.net to let us know about protests or actions telling the ICRC to reinstate full family visits for all Palestinian prisoners. See ICRC office locations here: https://www.icrc.org/eng/who-we-are/contacts/