The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a statement on Thursday called calls upon the Israeli authorities to shoulder their full responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) with regard to family contacts between Palestinians detained in Israel and their families residing in the occupied territories.
“Family contact must be improved, not further restricted,” said de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, referring to the systematic suspension by Israeli authorities of family visits for detainees on hunger strike, and of the permits for their families. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Palestinians are entitled to these visits, which can only be limited for security reasons, on a case by case basis, but never for strictly punitive or disciplinary purposes.
“The families are paying the price for this situation,” said Mr de Maio. More generally, Palestinians are detained in Israel, rather than within the occupied territory as required by the law of occupation. As a consequence, family members have less access to their detained relatives. They need special permits and have to undertake long trips to see their loved ones, with checks and waiting times when crossing terminals or at the prison.
“Since 1968, the ICRC has been facilitating family visits to detainees held in Israel. Let us be very clear however that this is first and foremost the responsibility of the state of Israel as occupying power,” said Mr de Maio.
ICRC delegates visit Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, including those on hunger strike. They ensure critical family contacts through Red Cross messages, oral greetings, and the ICRC family visit programme, coordinated with Israeli authorities. Since 1968, there have been 3.5 million family visits. Last year alone, the ICRC ensured 114,000 family visits in total to detainees held in Israeli detention facilities.