Captured soldier Gilad Schalit’s parents urged the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday to pressure Hamas to free their son from captivity in Gaza.
“Insist that Hamas releases our son,” Noam Schalit said, in a prepared statement in English that he read to the council.
His wife Aviva sat quietly by his side. They had flown to Geneva to participate in a council debate that dealt largely with Israel’s failure to comply with the recommendations of the council’s fact-finding mission, led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, which had probed Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
In addition to its the various allegations against Israel, the Goldstone Report called on Hamas to immediately free Gilad. Until he is released, the report said, he should be treated as a prisoner of war, which meant that he must be allowed visits by the International Red Cross and be able to communicate with his family.
“Justice Goldstone was clear with respect to Gilad and his recommendations are of immediate effect. He called for Gilad to receive visits from the Red Cross. He called for Gilad to be allowed to communicate with us – his parents. He called for Gilad’s release,” Noam told the council.
“Hamas has done none of these things, despite telling this Human Rights Council that they hold Gilad in accordance with the Third Geneva Convention,” said Noam.
His son, he said, was kidnapped on June 25, 2006 from Israel’s southern border, in an area which is considered by the international community to legally belong to the State of Israel.
“Wounded, he was forced at gunpoint into Gaza. Today, almost 4 years later, he remains the prize captive of Hamas – a bargaining chip for the release of prisoners,” said Noam.
“No one knows if he is healthy. No one knows where he is being held. He is denied the light of day. He is denied his basic human rights,” said Noam.
He explained that he and his wife were not politicians or representatives of the Israeli government. But he said they had the support of the European Union and the UN secretary-general.
“We speak with the support of civilized nations, which condemn kidnapping and extortion,” said Noam. “We call on all of you who endorse the Goldstone Report to prove your sincerity.
“Insist that Hamas be true to its word. Insist – for if you do not – you fail not just us. You fail yourselves,” said Noam.
He then met with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Later in the afternoon PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim
Khraishi said he objected to the terminology used by council president
Alex Van Meeuwen, who thanked Schalit for his testimony.
“Here in the council we are not listening to testimonies. In that case
then, all the UN forums in Geneva will not be sufficient to receive the
testimonies of Palestinian families in Israeli jails,” said Khraishi.
He invited Van Meeuwen and any members of his office to conduct a field trip in the Palestinian territories.