Rights groups urge captors to care for Shalit

A group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations issued a joint statement over the weekend, calling on "all groups holding the wounded soldier Gilad Shalit to adhere to the Geneva Convention obliging them to provide medical care to sick and wounded soldiers." The statement was signed by Physicians for Human Rights, B'tselem, The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, HaMoked, the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, Addameer: Prisoners Support and Human Rights Organization, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and The Public Committee against Torture in Israel. Meanwhile, the US-based organization Human Rights Watch declared that the Palestinian groups were committing a war crime by using Shalit as a hostage to win the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. HRW also criticized Israel for destroying the Gaza Strip's sole electrical plant and "needlessly punishing the civilian population and creating the potential for a serious humanitarian crisis." As far as Shalit was concerned, Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at HRW said, "militants are using Cpl. Gilad Shalit as a hostage to bargain for the release of Palestinians in Israeli custody, and that's a war crime." In their joint statement, the Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations wrote that the groups holding Shalit must adhere to the Geneva Convention "which decrees responsibility to protect wounded and sick members of the armed forces and responsibility to provide them with appropriate medical care." It quoted the Geneva Convention article which declares that "any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited."