Emergency Call to Action: Hold the ICRC Accountable, Demand Action for Hunger Striking Palestinian Prisoners

Photo: Wissam Nassar

As Palestinian prisoners enter their second month of a hunger strike launched by 1500 prisoners – out of 6300 Palestinians held in Israeli jails – for their basic human rights, it is urgent that the organizations and institutions of the world with a responsibility to uphold human rights and protect people living under occupation, colonialism and incarceration end their silence and complicity. In response to the call of Palestinian prisoners’ families in Jerusalem, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is issuing this emergency call for action to pressure the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to end its complicity with the violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights and take real action as the hunger strikers face an increasing health crisis and Israeli impunity. 

The hunger strike has a series of basic, fundamental rights demands, including an end to the denial and limitation of family visits, the right to pursue distance higher education, proper medical care and treatment and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. Over 31 days of hunger strike, the striking prisoners have faced harsh repression including repeated abusive transfers, confiscation of personal belongings and even the salt they rely on, with water, to preserve their life and health, denial of legal and family visits, isolation and solitary confinement, punitive fines and frequent repressive raids.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been largely silent in the face of the denial of Palestinian rights and the suffering of the strikers, even as they lose massive amounts of weight, vomit blood and are increasingly unable to stand. It should not be forgotten that the ICRC are also not mere bystanders; it was the ICRC’s action that cut the Palestinian prisoners’ family visits one year ago from twice monthly to once monthly, claiming “budget restrictions” despite Palestinian offers to fund additional visits. The restoration of that second monthly visit is in fact one of the demands of the hunger strikers – one which the ICRC is in every position to implement immediately.

Families of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Jerusalem with youth organizations in Palestine have issued an urgent statement on the role of the ICRC on Wednesday morning, 17 May:

For immediate release and circulation

While Palestinian prisoners in “Israeli” occupation jails are fighting their battle and demanding their rights as political prisoners and human beings. the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) refuses to uphold its responsibility towards our prisoners.

ICRC has always bragged about its neutral nature and role in observing conditions of prisoners, however they remain silent while over 1500 prisoners mark their 31 days of hunger strike living only on water after the prison administrations have confiscated salt from them. This is not the first time where ICRC remains silent when prisoners are on hunger strike and being punished by “Israeli” prison administration. ICRC silence and refusal to meet with prisoners inside their sections and rooms can be only interpreted as collaboration and conniving with “Israeli” occupation forces.

ICRC failure to attend to this cause contributes to the aggravation of the crisis and putting the lives of the prisoners at stake.

Fadwa Al-Barghouthi, wife of prisoner Marwan Al-Barghouthi –who’s on hunger-strike for more than 30 days- said that the Red Cross refused to inform her of his health conditions and only delivered his greetings to her after meeting with him.

Comrade Ahmed Saadat declared to Addameer when they met him “The striking prisoners refused to meet with ICRC delegates during their visit to “Askalan” prison since the latter refused meeting prisoners in their sections and rooms in which they are held.

We reject and condemn ICRC actions, and call on holding them accountable for prisoners’ lives or any deterioration in their health conditions.

#RedCrossConniving #DignityStrike

As Palestinian prisoners enter their second month of hunger strike, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network echoes this urgent call from the families of the prisoners and the youth activists threatened daily with arrest and political imprisonment by occupation forces.

We urge supporters of Palestine, of the Palestinian prisoners’ struggle, and of human rights and justice to pressure the ICRC to take a real stand and end its complicity in the denial of rights to thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.

Take Action:

1) Protest and demonstrate at an ICRC Office or Affiliate in your city. 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. See ICRC office locations here: https://www.icrc.org/eng/who-we-are/contacts/ or affiliate locations here: http://www.ifrc.org/en/who-we-are/directory/

2) Call your local ICRC Office or Affiliate and emphasize that you are calling about Palestinian prisoners and that you are concerned with the role of the ICRC in Palestine. Tell them: you want to see family visits restored to Palestinian prisoners and that the ICRC must take a real stand to defend the rights of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. See your local office number here: https://www.icrc.org/eng/who-we-are/contacts/ or affiliate locations here: http://www.ifrc.org/en/who-we-are/directory/

3) Write to the ICRC in Palestine. Send them the statement from the families of the suffering prisoners and urge them to restore Palestinian prisoners’ family visits, end their complicity in the isolation of Palestinian prisoners and take a real stand for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, whose lives are on the line for freedom and dignity. Email Jacques De Maio at jdemaio@icrc.org or tweet towards him at @JdeMaioICRC and email Christian Cardon at ccardon@icrc.org.