NGOs condemned for ignoring Schalit

B'Tselem and Amnesty, accused by NGO Monitor of being "neglectful," reject claims as smear campaign.

schalit protest 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
schalit protest 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
International human rights groups have been largely inactive and have maintained an "almost total" silence on the fate of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, a Jerusalem-based research organization said Tuesday. "In contrast to their intense condemnation of events in Gaza over the past few years, major international human rights NGOs... have released no more than a token demand for Schalit's release, and then only in the context of wider issues," NGO Monitor said in a statement. The Israeli rights group B'Tselem had been "equally neglectful," failing to highlight Schalit's fate during the recent three-week long military conflict in Gaza, NGO Monitor said. Schalit, who was kidnapped near the Gaza border in June 2006, has spent nearly 1,000 days in captivity without even one visit by the International Red Cross, in contravention of international humanitarian law. "The unwillingness of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem to campaign on his behalf is immoral," said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor's executive director. "Their shameful silence on Schalit's fate amounts to a betrayal of universal human rights." The international human rights groups rejected the criticism as unfounded. "It is very sad that the suffering of the Schalit family is cynically manipulated in order to trash human rights NGOs, and we have no intention of cooperating with this," B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said. B'Tselem has repeatedly stated that holding Gilad Schalit hostage is a war crime, and that he must be unconditionally released, she added. A spokesman for the London-based Amnesty International said that the analysis by NGO Monitor was "not borne out by the facts," noting that the Schalit case was highlighted in the group's annual report and had been taken up as a campaign by group members. The organization also planned to issue a renewed public call on the issue this week on its Web site marking Schalit's 1,000th day in captivity, said Philip Luther, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Amnesty International. "We have commented on this case on a number of occasions," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division at the New York-based Human Rights Watch. "The idea that we have commented on everything but this is ridiculous."