Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ICRC urges Israel to allow Gaza families to visit relatives in prison

Date: 10 / 06 / 2009 Time: 18:05

Women demand the release of their relatives
from Israeli prisons at Red Cross
headquarters in Gaza [Ma'anImages]
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday that Israel must end a two-year policy of denying family visits for Palestinian prisoners from Gaza.

Parents, spouses, siblings and children of about 900 detainees have been deprived of face-to-face contact since June 2007, when the Israel decided to suspend the ICRC-run family visit program, according to the organization.

"Palestinian families must be allowed to visit their next of kin in Israeli prisons. This is a humanitarian issue of utmost importance," said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories in a statement.

The ICRC says the situation has been especially painful for the children, who have gone without precious contact with a parent.

“On several occasions detainees or relatives of detainees have died without their family members having the opportunity to say their final farewells,” the Red Cross said.

For more than four decades, the ICRC has been helping families from the occupied territories, including the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan, to maintain contact with their relatives held in Israeli prisons.

The families are still nurturing the hope that, some day, they will again be allowed to board ICRC buses taking them to those they have been longing to see for two years now.

Until then, communication between the families and the detainees is limited to written Red Cross messages and oral greetings collected when ICRC delegates visit detainees and passed on to the families in Gaza.

Since June 2007, more than 10,000 written messages and 400 oral greetings have been exchanged with the help of the ICRC.