Family visits for Palestinian prisoners continue to come under attack by the Israeli occupation as well as under cutbacks by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). On Wednesday, 17 August, the families of Palestinian prisoners from Jerusalem protested outside ICRC headquarters in Sheikh Jarrah to demand the restoration of family visits to twice monthly.
The ICRC announced that as of 1 July, it was cutting family visits to detention centers housing adult male Palestinian prisoners from twice monthly to once monthly, citing budget cuts and inefficiency. Family visits are extremely arduous, require a full day of lengthy bus transport through multiple checkpoints, and, for Palestinian families in the West Bank, require pre-approved permits from Israeli occupation authorities that can take months to process and are still at times denied at the last minute.
Prisoners’ families have widely protested the ICRC decision as have prisoners themselves, who have refused meetings with the ICRC and gone on hunger strikes in protest of the decision, noting that it comes in full alignment with Israeli policies of constantly denying and cutting family visit access for Palestinian prisoners.
The Jerusalem protest was barred from entering the ICRC building and was set upon by Israeli police with horses and dogs. In addition, the protest came as five prisoners, also from Jerusalem, at Nafha prison were assaulted on Wednesday for protesting the mistreatment of their family visitors. Family visitors are subject to lengthy waits, interrogations, visit denials and searches.
Amjad Abu Asab, of the Jerusalem Committee for Prisoners’ Families, told Ma’an News that Samer Rajbe, Ammar Rajbe, Osama Rajbe, Abada Dandis and Nafez Gharouf were assaulted by Israeli prison guards with dogs in front of their families on 17 August. The five men were handcuffed and their families threatened with visit bans.
Samidoun has participated in protests against family visit cuts by the ICRC in New York, Brussels and elsewhere, while Inminds protested in London against the policy. These protests have accompanied numerous demonstrations in Palestine calling for increased, rather than reduced, family visitation.