An official Palestinian report has accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of failing to protect Palestinian prisoners “who are exposed to massive violations of their rights and dignity in Israel’s prisons and interrogation centres”. The report was issued on Monday 20th February. In it, the Ministry of Prisoners and Freed Detainees in Ramallah said, “Since the beginning of the [Israeli] occupation, the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been able to commit the Israelis to apply international humanitarian laws to Palestinian prisoners. Thus, Israel has succeeded in limiting the organisation’s role.”
The report added that the ICRC “is facing a dilemma over how to fulfil its aims and objectives… as its negotiations with the occupation authorities determine the extent of its work”. The success or otherwise of the Red Cross in the occupied Palestinian Territories is, therefore, dependent almost entirely on what Israel allows it to do. The unlawful and degrading treatment applied to Palestinian prisoners by the Israelis provides ample evidence of the failure of the ICRC to influence or persuade the Israeli occupation authorities to abide by basic humanitarian law.
Calling on the Red Cross “to play a more assertive role and create an atmosphere of compatibility between humanitarian action on the one hand, and political and legal action on the other”, the authors of the report also demanded “humanitarian work which will help in the enforcement of the law while serving political objectives”.
Many of Israel’s violations of humanitarian law take place with the full knowledge of the International Red Cross, claimed a ministry spokesman. The ICRC, he said, only reacts by submitting secret reports to officials in Geneva which have little or no impact on Palestinian prisoners and their treatment by the Israelis.
Not surprisingly, the ministry report makes mention of Khader Adnan, who has been on hunger strike for more than two months in response to Israel’s decision to hold him under so-called administrative detention. “Despite the determined efforts of the Red Cross to continue to visit Mr Adnan and follow up his case with the occupation authorities, the issue has left the organisation facing a real crisis,” claims the report. “Its neutrality and desire not to interfere in the judicial aspects of the case have resulted in it looking on helplessly as the prisoner’s health deteriorates.”