Detainees in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories must be treated humanely

Amnesty International has made a renewed call for the humane treatment of all detainees in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, following reports that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may be released in a prisoner exchange.

Several armed groups were involved in Shalit’s capture although it is thought that Hamas is now exclusively holding him. In exchange for his release, Hamas is reported to be demanding the release of a number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Amnesty International has called on Hamas to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law. The organization said that Gilad Shalit must be treated humanely, granted access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and allowed to communicate regularly with his family.

Corporal Gilad Shalit was 19 when he was captured on 25 June 2006 by Palestinian armed groups during an attack on an army base in southern Israel in which two other soldiers were killed and a third was injured.

Since then his exact location has not been revealed and the ICRC has been denied access to him.

With the permission of Gilad Shalit’s family, Israeli television broadcast a Hamas video in October that showed Shalit reading a statement and holding a copy of a newspaper dated 14 September 2009. Negotiations are ongoing.

Amnesty International has campaigned on behalf of Gilad Shalit since 2006. Its members have written letters to Hamas officials calling for his humane treatment and sent letters of solidarity to the Shalit family.

Gilad Shalit’s parents Noam and Aviva Shalit have been extremely active in campaigning for his release.

Amnesty International has also raised the issue of the conditions of Gilad Shalit’s detention and demanded that he be given access to the ICRC in meetings with the Hamas de facto authority in Gaza.

In the weeks following the attack in which Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner, the Israeli authorities launched a prolonged military offensive against the Gaza Strip, in which over 100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, including dozens of children and many other unarmed civilians.

During the military operation, which involved air bombardment and artillery shelling, Israeli forces also attacked and destroyed or damaged civilian infrastructure including bridges, roads, and the electricity network.

The Israeli army arrested scores of Palestinian officials, among them government ministers and other members of the Palestinian parliament. Some of these detainees have subsequently been released. Amnesty International has urged both Israeli and Palestinian parties not to use detention as a political tactic and detainees as bargaining tools.

The organization has also criticized the Israeli authorities’ use of administrative detention whereby Palestinians are held, sometimes for years, without charge or trial. As of September 2009, some 335 Palestinians were being held in administrative detention in Israeli jails.

Amnesty International members have campaigned on behalf of such Palestinian administrative detainees, including 17-year-old student Hamdi al-Ta’mari and university lecturer Dr Ghassan Khaled.