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  • ACRI

Repeal the Ban on Red Cross Visits to Palestinian Prisoners

On February 22, 2024, ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights, HaMoked and Gisha petitioned the High Court of Justice (Hebrew) demanding that Red Cross representatives be allowed to visit Palestinian prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank held in the custody of the army and the Israel Prison Service, and to provide the Red Cross with details regarding all Palestinian prisoners.


The petition was filed after the October 7 massacre and the outbreak of the war, visits by the Red Cross to all Palestinian prisoners were halted along with the transfer of information about the Palestinian detainees. The petition argued that according to international law, even if one of the parties to the conflict violates its obligations under the laws of war, this does not exempt the other party from these obligations. Therefore, despite the fact that Hamas holds 134 Israeli abductees in terrible conditions, does not provide details about them, and refuses to allow visits by the Red Cross to them, Israel is still obligated to allow such visits to Palestinian prisoners in its custody. Israel is a state of law and must act as such, and its obligations towards those it holds do not change because of Hamas' war crimes and crimes against humanity.


The petition notes that the IPS currently holds about 9,000 Palestinian prisoners and security detainees, and it is estimated that more than 1,000 additional detainees from Gaza are being held by the military. This is in addition to about 1,500 Palestinian prisoners and criminal detainees in the IPS. Security detainees are held in harsh conditions in both military and IPS facilities, and according to testimonies, experience severe violence and humiliation. At least two detainees reportedly died while in military custody and another six in IPS custody, at least two of whom showed signs of severe violence on their bodies. The petition noted that Palestinian detainees and prisoners are entitled to visits by the Red Cross under international law and Israeli law, and that the obligation to allow the Red Cross to visit Palestinian prisoners and provide them with information about those held by Israel becomes even greater during war, when the fear of infringement of the rights of detainees belonging to an enemy population increases.


On June 19, 2024, the state notified the court that it intends to establish an alternative mechanism for the Red Cross. According to the announcement, "the mechanism being formulated is expected to fulfill the purpose that the Red Cross has fulfilled so far, namely, the designation of an external entity to the state authorities, who will be entitled to visit detention facilities, receive complaints from relevant detainees and transmit information about them." ACRI believes this means that the Israeli government made a conscious decision to violate international law and invent a baseless mechanism in order to replace the previously accepted arrangement.

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