The prisoner exchange involving Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and 477 Palestinian prisoners highlights the need for the humane treatment of all detainees in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Amnesty International said today.
“This deal will bring relief to Gilad Shalit and his family after an ordeal that has lasted more than five years. Many Palestinian families will feel a similar sense of relief today when they are reunited with their relatives, many of whom have spent decades under harsh conditions in Israeli detention,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.
“However, more needs to be done to protect the rights of thousands of others who remain in detention. The Israeli authorities, the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank must seize this opportunity to ensure respect for the rights of all prisoners and detainees in their custody.”
Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza in a cross-border raid on 25 June 2006. Since then he has been allowed no contact with his family, who have campaigned relentlessly for his release. Nor was he allowed access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, despite repeated appeals by Amnesty International and other organizations, which made it impossible to verify the conditions of his captivity.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Hamas authorities not to treat Gilad Shalit as a hostage and a bargaining chip, in violation of their obligations under international humanitarian law.
It has also consistently raised concerns with the Israeli authorities about the prison conditions of Palestinian detainees, and the fact that Israel continues to imprison Palestinians from the OPT inside Israel, in violation of its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Over 5,200 Palestinians from the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and the Gaza Strip, which together comprise the OPT, are currently detained in facilities run by the Israel Prison Service. The vast majority are detained inside Israel.
“International human rights standards and international humanitarian law guarantee every person deprived of liberty the right to humane and dignified conditions of detention, adequate medical care, and regular family visits,” said Malcolm Smart.
“Israel, the Hamas de facto administration, and the Palestinian Authority must ensure that all detainees receive fair and prompt trials meeting international standards, and that judicial rulings on the release of detainees are implemented”.
For more on this story, visit: Israel-Hamas prisoner swap casts harsh light on detention practices of all sides | Amnesty International.