The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced nearly 50% cutbacks in Palestinian prisoners’ family visits beginning in July 2016, in an action widely condemned by Palestinian prisoners’ associations and family groups. Join Samidoun in taking action to call on the ICRC to restore twice-monthly family visits for Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian prisoners are separated from their families by multiple facets of Israeli imprisonment. In clear violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that “persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein,” Palestinian prisoners are imprisoned inside the territory of the occupying power. Thus, rather than prisoners being directly accessible to family members, Palestinian prisoners’ family members must seek special permits in order to be able to visit their imprisoned loved one.
These permits are often delayed and denied, and take months to process – when they are approved. Addameer notes that “any male family member aged between 16 and 35 is typically prevented from visiting.” The process of the visit itself is lengthy and difficult, especially for the elderly parents or young children of prisoners. Sumoud Sa’adat describes her visit to her father, imprisoned Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat, here – the joy of connection, but the pain of seeing her mother’s visit denied, the humiliation imposed by guards, and the arduous process and lengthy waits involved.
The ICRC notes that it is taking this step first because of budget cuts, and second, because of “efficiency,” noting that families do not always take advantage of the opportunity for the second visit. From the denial of permits, to the multiple checkpoints and searches, to the dirty and uncomfortable waiting areas, to the sudden denial of visits, to the prohibition of goods, to the long wait times, Israel engages in systematic practices designed to discourage Palestinian family visits. By denying Palestinian families their second monthly visit, the ICRC is participating in the Israeli policy of undermining, minimizing and denying family visits.
The International Committee of the Red Cross should be working to bring an end to the Israeli obstructions of family visits, and the Israeli violations of the Geneva Conventions, beginning with the location of imprisonment for the vast majority of Palestinian prisoners, rather than placing the weight of budget cuts on those most vulnerable and least able to bear it – Palestinian prisoners and their families. Palestinian families have no other means of securing family visits. The ICRC family visit program is their only option – and this decision removes 50% of Palestinian families’ access to this essential lifeline.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges the ICRC to not only immediately reverse this decision and resume the full schedule of twice-monthly family visits, but to exercise its responsibility to protect people living under occupation – the Palestinian people.
Take Action! 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!
Samidoun’s letter to the ICRC: