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Gaza: Allow Access to Gilad Shalit

Israeli Soldier's Incommunicado Detention Is Cruel and Inhuman


Hamas authorities in Gaza should immediately end the cruel and
inhuman treatment of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit of Israel and allow him to
communicate with his family and receive visits from the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Human Rights Watch said today. June
25, 2010 is the fourth anniversary of his captivity.
Hamas authorities are violating the laws of war by refusing to
allow Shalit to correspond with his family, Human Rights Watch said, and
have refused to allow either his family or the ICRC to visit him since
his capture on June 25, 2006. Hamas has passed on only three letters
from him, a voice recording, and a short video. Hamas's prolonged
incommunicado detention of Shalit is cruel and inhuman and may amount to
torture, Human Rights Watch said.
"Hamas's cruel treatment of Shalit causes him and his family
needless suffering," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at
Human Rights Watch. "Regardless of Hamas's grievances against Israel,
there are no grounds to cut Shalit off completely from his family."
On June 11, the Hamas politburo deputy, Mousa Abu Marzouk,
released a statement rejecting any outside access to Shalit. Doing so,
the statement said, could reveal his location to Israel, which it
contended would bomb the area if it could not secure his release. The
previous month, Hamas officials gave the same rationale for denying a
Human Rights Watch request to visit Shalit.

Hamas officials say that they will release Shalit only in return for
Israel's release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including persons
whom Israeli courts have convicted of deadly attacks on civilians.
Repeated efforts at negotiating prisoner exchanges between Hamas and
Israel, including through foreign negotiators, have so far failed. On
April 25, in an apparent attempt to increase pressure on Israel, Hamas's
armed wing released a computer-generated video depicting Shalit's
father's efforts to secure his release. In one sequence, Shalit's father
watches a coffin, supposedly his son's, as it leaves Gaza, before the
video ends with the words, "There is still hope."

On June 25, 2006, Palestinian militants based in the Gaza Strip
raided an Israel Defense Forces post inside Israel, near the Kerem
Shalom crossing, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing Shalit, who
then held the rank of corporal. Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza,
has held him captive ever since. According to news reports, Shalit
received medical treatment for a shoulder injury and a broken hand
sustained during the attack.
The laws of war prohibit cruel and inhuman treatment of persons
in custody. They also require a party to a conflict to permit persons
deprived of their liberty to correspond with their families and not to
refuse arbitrarily a request by the ICRC to visit detainees.
Incommunicado detention arises when detainees are denied access
to anyone outside the place of detention. In 2003, the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights resolved that "prolonged incommunicado
detention ... can in itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or even torture." The UN Human Rights Committee, a
body of independent experts, ruled in the case of El-Megreisi v. Libya
that prolonged incommunicado detention of more than three years amounted
to torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.
Israel for its part has prevented Palestinian detainees from Gaza
from having family visits. In June 2007, Israel suspended an ICRC-run
program allowing family visits, as required by the Geneva Conventions,
for 900 Palestinians from Gaza who are detained in Israeli prisons. The
families are allowed to exchange letters. Israel imposed the
prison-visit ban after Hamas's takeover of the territory on June 15,
2007, when it also tightened the blockade of Gaza, a form of unlawful
collective punishment against Gaza's civilians. Violations of the laws
of war by one party to a conflict do not justify violations by the

Israeli authorities have repeatedly detained Hamas members, including
elected members of parliament, without charge in the West Bank in
apparent retaliation for Shalit's

In May, Israeli authorities announced plans to deport from East
Jerusalem to Gaza four Hamas lawmakers who were arrested four days
after Shalit's capture, convicted by a military court of membership in a
banned organization and sentenced to different terms of between two and
four years in prison. The residency permits for the men - Mohammed Abu
Tair, Ahmed 'Atwan, Mohammed Toutah, and Khaled Abu 'Arafa - were
revoked in 2006. The Associated Press reported that Israel could begin
to deport the men as early as June 25.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.