Four Palestinian prisoners launch hunger strike against ICRC family visit cuts

icrcbusFour Palestinian prisoners have launched an open hunger strike against the International Committee of the Red Cross’s new policy of cutting family visits for imprisoned Palestinian men from twice monthly to once monthly, reported the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society.

According to the PPS, the four, originally held in the Israeli Hadarim prison, are entering their fourth day of hunger strike. Mahmoud Sarahna from Bethlehem, Ziad Zahran al-Bazar from Ramallah, Amin Kamil from Jenin, and Ahmed Barghouthi. Sarahna, al-Bazar and Kamil were all transferred to other prisons, while Barghouthi was transferred internally. In one week, on 28 July, the Palestinian prisoners’ movement will begin collective actions against the ICRC policy, which they underlined supports the Israeli policy of isolating Palestinian prisoners from the people and their families, and collectively punishing the families of Palestinian prisoners.

The strike comes days after prisoners in Megiddo prison refused to meet with ICRC representatives on 19 July, in protest of the cuts to family visits. This followed a similar boycott by prisoners in the Ramle prison clinic, and a self-organized family visit by prisoners’ families from Jerusalem.

The strike also comes as the Palestinian prisoners’ movement is deeply engaged in the battle for freedom of Bilal Kayed, on his 37th day of hunger strike. Kayed, shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital, is demanding his release from administrative detention. He was ordered to imprisonment without charge or trial on 13 June, upon the expiration of his 14.5-year sentence in Israeli prisons. Kayed’s case is seen as threatening a dangerous precedent of indefinite imprisonment of Palestinian prisoners after the completion of their sentences. Dozens of fellow Palestinian prisoners have joined Kayed on open hunger strike, while the Palestinian prisoners movement has pledged full support for Kayed’s battle for freedom.  Many additional prisoners will be joining the collective hunger strike in the coming days.

Two brothers, Mohammed and Mahmoud al-Balboul, are on hunger strike for 17 days against their own administrative detention without charge or trial; while three more Palestinian prisoners held in administrative detention in Ofer prison are also on strike for freedom since 17 July: Ayad Herama, Muhannad Mutahna, and Malek al-Qadi.

Samidoun has written to the ICRCand protested in New York City and elsewhere against the visit cuts.

Take Action!  Sign and share the 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!