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'Court-sanctioned vengeance': Israel ban on family visits for Hamas prisoners from Gaza upheld

Palestinians hold a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza City, Gaza on 31 July, 2017 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians hold a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza City, Gaza on 31 July, 2017 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Israel's top court has given its approval to a punitive ban on family visits for Hamas prisoners from the Gaza Strip, a decision slammed by human rights activists as "court-sanctioned vengeance".

In July 2017, Israel banned family visits to Hamas prisoners from Gaza, in an apparent bid to pressure the organisation over its ongoing detention of two Israelis and the remains of two soldiers.

Following the ban, four Hamas-affiliated prisoners brought a petition to the Supreme Court, which was finally rejected last month.

Some 300 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are in Israeli jails, roughly a third of whom are Hamas-affiliated. Even for non-Hamas prisoners, Israel imposes draconian restrictions on family visits.

READ: Hamas will not prove captured soldiers are alive

In its ruling, the court acknowledged that family visits are being denied as a way of pressuring Hamas rather than based on "concrete concern over abuse of the visits by any of the prisoners".

However, this was seen as a denial of a privilege rather than a punishment, and a measure justified in the name of "national security".

B'Tselem noted that Israeli minister Gilad Erdan has justified the ban on the basis that it ends "the absurd asymmetry between the conditions in which Israelis are held captive without trial by Hamas and the conditions terrorists receive here in Israel".

According to the human rights group, "this is the entire story in a nutshell: not 'general security conditions', not 'proportionality tests', not a balance between 'privileges' and weighty considerations", but rather "sheer vengeance".

B'Tselem also criticised the court for once again providing "a legal stamp of approval for the violation of Palestinians' rights".

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