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  • ACRI

The Red Cross Visitations of Hostages and Prisoners – Questions and Answers

Since October 7, questions and claims have been raised in the public discourse about the role of the Red Cross in relation to Israeli abductees held captive by Hamas. Among other things, it was claimed that the Red Cross "does not carry out its duties" because it does not visit the abductees, and that Israeli human rights organizations "do not care" about the abductees because they do not appeal to the Red Cross to do so. At the same time, there is also public support for Israel not allowing the Red Cross access to Palestinian prisoners held by them until visits are made possible to the abductees held by Hamas. We have prepared questions and answers that clarify the legal situation on the subject.

What is the International Committee of the Red Cross and what is its function?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a neutral and independent international organization operating under the Geneva Conventions for the protection and assistance of victims of armed conflict. The Geneva Conventions stipulate, among other things, that in times of armed conflict, each of the warring parties must humanely treat the combatants and imprisoned civilians of the other side and guarantee them minimal medical care and conditions of detention. As part of this, the warring parties must allow the ICRC to visit the detainees so that it could provide them with basic necessities and minimal medical care, allow them contact with the outside world, and monitor the conditions of their imprisonment. This obligation stems from the international community's understanding that precisely in times of war, detainees and prisoners identified with the enemy are at increased risk of violation of their rights, violence, and humiliation.

In addition, the ICRC assists in carrying out prisoner exchange transactions (but does not take part in negotiations).

Why don't ACRI/human rights organizations demand that the ICRC fulfill its role and visit Israeli hostages held by Hamas?

Is Israel obligated to allow the ICRC to visit Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israel and hand over their details?

Is Israel currently fulfilling its duty and allowing the ICRC to visit Palestinian prisoners?

Why can't Israel prevent the ICRC visits to Palestinian prisoners as long as Hamas prevents the Red Cross from visiting the hostages?

For further information: The obligation to allow visits by the ICRC in international law and Israeli law


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