red cross in gaza ap 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and family visits to Hamas and Hizbullah prisoners should be halted until Israeli POWs are released or granted reciprocal visits, according to a petition to the High Court of Justice.
The petition was filed Tuesday on behalf of former Soviet refusenik Ida Nudel and the Israel Law Center by attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner. It asks the court to order Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to stop the visits.
Neither Hamas nor Hizbullah has allowed the ICRC or family members to visit Israeli soldiers they are holding. Gilad Schalit was kidnapped to the Gaza Strip by terrorists belonging to Hamas and other groups on June 25, 2006. Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were seized by Hizbullah and taken to Lebanon on July 12, 2006.
The policy of allowing the visits was "manifestly immoral," the petitioners said, because in doing so, "the state is repudiating its most basic obligations to the kidnapped soldiers and indirectly and without realizing it aiding the enemy." They also argued that the government's policy was unreasonable to the extreme and a gross violation of the principle of reciprocity.
Nudel first complained about the policy in a letter to Dichter in January 2007. Dichter replied that the arrangement allowing ICRC visits was anchored in an agreement between the Prisons Service and the ICRC and would be difficult to break. Furthermore, the Justice Ministry had determined that banning all visits would violate its obligations according to international law.
Darshan-Leitner argued that Israel had no obligations regarding Hamas and Hizbullah prisoners because they were illegal combatants who received no protection in the Geneva Accords regarding the treatment of POWs. Furthermore, according to Israel's 2002 Incarceration of Illegal Combatants Law, both the chief of General Staff and the defense minister were allowed to prohibit visits to prisoners.
Darshan-Leitner also argued that in various cases, the Prisons Service had prohibited visits to prisoners under its care, despite its arrangement with the ICRC.
The petitioners warned that the government's policy threatened national security.
"The message that is conveyed by such a policy is that Israel refrains from doing everything possible to obtain the release of its soldiers from their imprisonment," wrote Darshan-Leitner. "It does not take much to understand the severe damage contained in such a message to the morale of IDF regular and reserve soldiers and their willingness to take on the burden of the difficult and dangerous missions imposed upon them."