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Please Endorse Letter To ICRC For Palestinian Prisoner Day, April 17, 2004

various | 08.04.2004 10:27 | Anti-militarism | World


Dear Friends,

As you are probably aware, April 17 is International
Day in Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners. As part
of marking this event, a network of solidarity
organizations in Toronto, Canada, is organizing an
action outside the Red Cross offices in Toronto. The
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
is responsible for visiting Palestinian prisoners and
following up their conditions inside Israeli prisons.

This action is being organized in conjunction with the
Higher Council for the Follow-up of Palestinian
Prisoners and Detainee Affairs, a national Palestinian
body that brings together all Palestinian political
factions as well as Palestinian NGOs, prisoner support
groups and families of prisoners. Demonstrations
and sit-ins will occur throughout the West Bank and
Gaza Strip on April 17, outside the office of the ICRC
and within Palestinian cities.

The situation facing the 6000 Palestinian political
prisoners is very grave, almost all face some form of
torture and abuse. There is a serious lack of
clothes and other personal items. Family and lawyer
visits are heavily restricted. Palestinian
organizations report that the ICRC has not adequately
fulfilled their responsibilities towards Palestinian

We urge you to join us in highlighting this issue on
this very important day.

1) We ask your organization to endorse the letter
below to the President of the ICRC. The letter will be
delivered by Palestinian organizations to the
ICRC offices in Palestine, as well as offices of the
Red Cross around the world on April 17.

2) We ask that you organize a picket, demonstration
and leafleting outside the Red Cross offices in your
city. It is important that we begin to raise
awareness about this issue amongst the wider public as
well as Palestinian solidarity activists. As actions
will be occurring within Palestine on this
day, even actions involving a small group of people
will help to show our solidarity.

Please inform us of your endorsement of the following
letter and any action you may be planning by emailing We can also send you leaflets
and fact-sheets through this email address.

In solidarity

Al-Awda(Right of Return Coalition Toronto), Arab
Student Collective – University of Toronto,
International Solidarity Movement, Sumoud (Political
Prisoners Solidarity Group), Solidarity for
Palestinian Human Rights - York University, Up Against
the Wall, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty(OCAP)


Dear Mr. Kellenberger,

We address this letter to you as President of the
International Committee of the Red Cross on the
occasion of Palestinian Prisoner Day, April 17, 2004.

As Palestinian and international solidarity
organizations, we are extremely concerned by the
situation of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli
prisons and detention centers. Approximately 6000
Palestinians are currently being held as
political prisoners by Israel, including around 350
Palestinian children and 81 Palestinian women. Almost
all of these prisoners face some form of torture or
mistreatment during their arrest and detention. Their
conditions of detention are extremely poor, and in
some cases, life-threatening. The majority of these
detainees are being held in violation of the IV Geneva
Convention in prisons outside of the West Bank and
Gaza Strip.

As the guardians of international humanitarian law,
the ICRC is responsible “…to take cognizance of any
complaints based on alleged breaches of that
law” (Article 5.2c of the Statutes of International
Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement). In the case of
Palestinian prisoners however, this responsibility
has quite clearly not been fulfilled. It appears to us
that the ICRC has preferred to quietly accept Israel’s
considerable and increasing violations of
the rights of Palestinian prisoners without taking any
meaningful action.

Indeed, the worsening situation of Palestinian
prisoners and detainees has been widely documented by
many of the Palestinian human rights organizations
listed below as well as international and UN bodies.

Israel continues to practice torture and other forms
of mistreatment against Palestinian detainees
including severe beatings, being tied in painful
and contorted positions for long periods of time,
psychological abuse, long periods of solitary
confinement, and pressure to collaborate with the
occupying forces. These abuses are not restricted to
Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza
Strip; two Palestinians with Israeli citizenship
recently launched a hunger strike following 54 days of
detention in inhuman conditions in an Israeli
detention center.

We are particularly concerned with reports from
Facility 1391, a secret prison reportedly in the North
of Israel where prisoners report being raped and
sodomized by interrogators.

Inside Israeli prisons, Palestinian prisoners
frequently report attacks by prison guards including
the firing of tear gas inside prisoner’s cells,
beatings, denial of food and medical treatment and
long periods of solitary confinement. Women prisoners
report that they have been stripped naked
by prison guards and shackled spread-eagled to prison
beds in solitary confinement.

A large number of Palestinian prisoners are in urgent
need of medical treatment and yet receive little more
than basic pain relievers. Prisoners report
that provision of medical treatment is often used as
another form of coercion against them by the prison

We are particularly concerned about the situation of
Palestinian child prisoners. As we are sure you are
aware, in 2002 the UN Committee On the Rights
of the Child has publicly raised the treatment of
Palestinian child prisoners
by Israel.

Of particular concern is Israel’s continual treatment
of Palestinian children 16 years and over as adults in
violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child. Furthermore, there is no child-specific
treatment for Palestinian children.

Despite these grave violations of prisoner rights, the
ICRC mission in the area only carries out visits to
central Palestinian prisons every six
months. The ICRC has failed to adequately address our
very real concerns for Palestinian prisoners during
these visits, including the provision of urgently
needed clothes, shoes and other personal needs for

Furthermore, the ICRC has not adequately followed the
cases of the 19 Palestinians who have been deported
from the West Bank to Gaza Strip. As “persons deprived
of their liberty”, they are entitled to accommodation,

work, regular visits and contact with family and

While we understand that Israel places very real
structural obstacles in front of the work of the ICRC,
this situation must be urgently addressed. We
therefore call on you, in your position as President
of the ICRC, to immediately take steps to fulfill the
following measures:

*To take effective and public action to end the
practice of Israel’s incarceration of Palestinian
prisoners from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in
areas outside of the occupied territories.

*To take effective and public action against Israel’s
widespread use of torture against Palestinian

*To take effective and public action against the
practice of Israel’s deportation of Palestinian
prisoners from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.

*To fulfill the ICRC’s mandate in regards to
above-mentioned deportees, as persons deprived of
their liberty. This includes visits and following up
the situation of these people in regards to
accommodation, work and the right to see families,
friends and colleagues.

*To immediately demand that sick and injured prisoners
are provided with adequate and appropriate medical

*To take effective and public action to pressure
Israel to open the secret prison Facility 1391 to
representatives of the ICRC and Palestinian lawyers.

*To urgently increase the frequency of visits by the
ICRC to Israeli prisons.

*To insist that visits by ICRC staff to Israeli
prisons also include the provision of urgently needed
items such as clothes, underwear, shoes, sanitary
products and educational materials.

*To pressure Israel to allow unobstructed family
visits by Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza
Strip to their relatives in Israeli jails. Most
importantly, these visits should take place
unobstructed by glass or other barriers.

*To increase the visibility of the work of the ICRC to
the Palestinian public, in particular the actions you
carry out around the above measures. This should be
done in much closer coordination with Palestinian
human rights organizations.


The Higher Council for the Follow-up of Palestinian
Prisoners and Detainee Affairs (Palestine)
Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights
Association (Palestine)
Defence for Children International–Palestine
Sumoud – Political Prisoner Solidarity Group (Canada)
Arab Students Collective – University of Toronto
Al Awda – Right of Return Coalition (Toronto)
International Solidarity Movement (Toronto)
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (Canada)
Coalition Against War and Racism (Canada)
CUPE 3903 International Solidarity Working Group
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights - York
University (Canada)
Up Against the Wall (Canada)