Hamas, the de facto administration in the Gaza Strip, released a video of 23 year old Gilad Shalit. Gilad, an Israeli soldier, was seized by armed Palestinian groups over three years ago in June 2006 in a cross ‘border’ raid. The video is significant as armed Palestinian groups have been detaining him incommunicado except for a couple of letters and an audio tape released over two years ago. Gilad has been denied communication with not only his family, but also the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which contravenes international law. Since his capture, Amnesty International has consistently called for his releaseand for the ICRC to have access to him. AI has done this using both public actions and behind the scenes dialogue.
Negotiations for Gilad Shalit’s release have intensified under the current government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahuand Gilad’s family as well as the nation has been increasingly concerned about his condition and treatment. The following video, although in Hebrew, shows a pale, but otherwise healthy looking Gilad Shalit holding a paper from September 14th.
In exchange for the video, which Israel requested as ‘proof of life’, Israel released 19 Palestinian women prisoners; another female prisoner is due to be released sometime next week. Israel holds several thousand Palestinians, including hundreds of children, in Israeli prisons against international law. Hundreds of detainees are also held without charge or trial under administrative detention orders which can be repeatedly renewed and often includes children. Currently, one child is held under administrative detention, Hamdi Al-Ta’mari. Amnesty International is working on his case. More information available at http://www.dci-pal.org/english/display.cfm?docID=1096&categoryid=16.
Others have been convicted in unfair trials in military courts. It is a major concern that prisoners are held in Israeli prisons instead of in the occupied Palestinian territories which is against international law. Since detainees are held within Israel proper, it is very difficult for families to visit minors in detention or other family members.
This video produced by B’tselem explains how the imprisonment of Palestinians inside Israel proper affects families, including the children:
This exchange, although bringing temporary relief to the Shalit family and joy to the families of the 20 detained female prisoners just highlights the concern Amnesty International outlined in the document ‘Detainees used as bargaining chips by both sides in Israel/Gaza conflict’ published in March 2009. Gilad Shalit, it is believed was taken as leverage in future negotiations with Israeli authorities and many believe Palestinians are regularly taken by Israeli forces for many reasons other than security and one of them is for leverage as well. Hostage taking, that is threatening to harm or continue to detain a detained person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing something as a condition of their release is expressly prohibited under international law. Such practice threatens the fundamental right to life, personal integrity and liberty and is expressly prohibited by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstances is the taking of hostages justifiable.
Negotiations continue with Israel wanting Gilad Shalit released immediately and the Palestinians asking for at least 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to be released and/or an end to the punishing blockade of the strip.