Arab League: ICC should probe Palestinian detainees’ status

Palestine’s Prisoners – Worldwide Event | Pictures | Topic | Category

Maan News Agency | October 14, 2011

CAIRO (Reuters) — The Arab League on Thursday called on the United Nations General Assembly to request a probe into the legal status of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

The UN General Assembly is expected to pass the request to the Hague International Criminal Court.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe told a news conference in Cairo that he hoped the court would issue an advisory opinion on the legal status of both Palestinians and other Arabs held in Israeli prisons.

Qaraqe met with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi in the Egyptian capital to discuss the hunger strike staged by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

While Hamas and Israel agreed an exchange deal for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, detainees entered the third week of a hunger strike against worsening conditions.

Prisoners say bans on family visits, solitary confinement and shackling have increased since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a toughening of conditions to pressure Hamas to release Shalit in June.

Rights group Addameer called on Thursday for the international community to relaunch efforts to end what it called “collective punishment” of prisoners, as Shalit was set to be freed.

The body said it was concerned that hunger strikers in Israeli prisons, closed until Sunday during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, would not have access to international monitors while in “dismal health” after more than two weeks without food.

In Cairo, Qaraqe said the move to petition the International Criminal Court in the Hague was a “strategic approach.”

The request will ask the court to “issue an advisory opinion on the legal status of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in the occupier’s prisons as well as (their status) in International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva conventions,” he said.

Al-Arabi told reporters that under the Geneva convention, countries have a responsibility to support the probe.

“The first clause of all of these conventions combined states that all countries and parties in the world must respect and guarantee respect for other countries, therefore there is a combined responsibility of all countries around the world to take part in this matter.

“And we, as Arab countries, must remind the world of its responsibilities. Because these are countries that pay lip service to human rights, and therefore (we) must prove this,” he said.

Al-Arabi continued by requesting the UN General Assembly to send a fact-finding committee to investigate Israeli prisons.

He called for “assigning the Arab Group in New York the task of requesting the United Nations to send an international committee to investigate and find facts over the situation in Israeli prisons.”

While some 450 prisoners are slated for release in coming days, as Shalit is returned from captivity, a second group will be released in around two months, Palestinian officials said.

According to latest figures from the Palestinian Authority, around 6,000 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israel.

Ma’an staff contributed to this report



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