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London Protest Demands ICRC Restore Family Visits For Palestinian Prisoners And Freedom For Hunger Striker Bilal Kayed


inminds
6 August 2016

On Friday 5th August 2016 Inminds human rights group protested outside the UK Mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross in London to demand it restore the twice-monthly family visits for Palestinian political prisoners which were cut last month to just once monthly.














Inminds chair Abbas Ali said "These cuts by the International Committee of the Red Cross steal the valuable few minutes Palestinian families have with their imprisoned loved ones and are tantamount to collaboration with the Israeli occupation in denying Palestinian political prisoners the right to family visits that is enshrined in international law as part of the Fourth Geneva Convention which the ICRC is mandated to uphold. The ICRC should be ashamed of themselves acting as an arm of the occupation."

Many members of the Red Cross came out of the building to show their support for our protest, shaking our hands to thank us. Others didn't know of this shameful decision and were shocked to learn that ICRC cuts were targeting the most vulnerable.
We were invited inside to meet with Mona Sadek, the deputy head of mission for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the UK. We handed her a letter from Neimeh Shamlawi, the mother of a Palestinian child prisoner Ali Shamlawi, who is being denied the right to visit her son by the ICRC.

Three years ago her son Ali, 16 years old at the time, was falsely accused of throwing stones. He was tortured and then sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. She explains how her daughter who has not been able to see her brother for 7 months has finally been given permission by the Israeli occupation to visit her brother this month but due to ICRC cuts she will miss the visit because the dates stipulated in the visitation permit falls outside the new once a month ICRC visit schedule. If the ICRC had maintained their twice-monthly visits then she would have been able to visit her brother but now she may have to wait another 6 months for a permit from the Israeli occupation to visit her brother.

Mona Sadek said that having seen our alert for the protest she had already contacted ICRC offices in Palestine with a view to resolving the "special case" of Ali Shamlawi so that his sister could visit him. We welcomed her intercession but explained that it was not a "special case" but just one of thousands of families that will suffer due to ICRC's decision.

Unfortunately whilst she empathised with their plight she could not offer a solution, saying that cuts were needed as the ICRC was over-stretched due to other factors in the region (Syria) and their figures showed that uptake on the second monthly visit was not great. We pointed out that it was unfair as their figures measured the results of the success of Israeli occupation policy of depriving prisoners of family visits by placing insurmountable barriers to prevent families from visiting, starting by placing the prisons outside the West Bank across a border in Israel, in breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, so that families after having waited months for permits still cannot visit without being escorted by the ICRC across the border; then the 12-14 hour round trip journey elderly parents have to endure in the heat for a 45 minute visit; and the humiliation they suffer at the hands of the occupation at each step of the journey from the soldiers at the checkpoints to the prison guards who often demand strip searches before they can see their loved ones. The ICRC action was rewarding the occupation on the success of this policy rather than providing support for the victims. The right to have two family visits per month was something Palestinian prisoners fought hard to achieve through many sacrifices, including enduring hunger strikes. Now the ICRC had taken that right away from them and delivered the Israeli occupation a victory in helping it fulfil its illegal policy of denying family visits to Palestinian political prisoners.

Prof. Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Ambassador for the UK, joined the protest to show his solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners which he said were treated "like animals" by the Israeli occupation. He was disappointed by the ICRC decision, saying he was there to show "our dissatisfaction, our indignation against the Red Cross.. [The Red Cross] if not controlled, is pressured by the Israelis.. they are becoming helpless.. they should be more aggressive in trying to expose the naked truth of the Israeli jailers.."



Prof. Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Ambassador for the UK, joined the protest to show his solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners




BILAL KAYED - 52 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE

The protest also demanded freedom for the Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed who has been without food for 52 days.

Bilal Kayed was imprisoned by the military occupation in 2001. He completed his 14.5 years sentence on 13th June 2016. But instead of being released as scheduled, to meet his waiting family at the military checkpoint, he was re-arrested without charge or trial and ordered to indefinitely-renewable 6 months administrative detention.

To demand his freedom Bilal Kayed went on hunger strike. The protest marked day 52 of his hunger strike. Health experts have said Kayed could die any moment as he is imminently vulnerable to cerebral haemorrhage, heart attack or stroke due to the physical strain on his body. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have joined Kayed in open hunger strike.

There are around 750 Palestinians being held indefinitely without charge or trial, with no way to defend themselves, under Israel's illegal use of administrative detention. 127 administrative detention orders were issued just last month in July 2016.

A letter written by Bilal Kayed in prison on day 48 of his hunger strike was read out at the protest.

Inminds chair Abbas Ali said "The caging of Bilal Kayed without charge or trial after he has already served his 14.5 year sentence sets a very dangerous precedent for all Palestinian political prisoners and must be vigorously challenged by human rights activists around the world. His imprisonment today represents the imprisonment of all Palestinians tomorrow. We demand his immediate freedom!".

 


VIDEO - London Protest Demands ICRC Restore Family Visits For Palestinian Prisoners And Freedom For Hunger Striker Bilal Kayed













SPEECH - ICRC RESTORE FAMILY VISITS FOR PALESTINIAN PRISONERS


The mandate of the ICRC is to provide humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and to promote international humanitarian law as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions. With such honourable objectives its with a very heavy heart that we are here today outside the UK Mission of the ICRC to protest at their recent actions in Palestine.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has reduced family visits for Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons from two to just one per month beginning in July 2016. We condemn this shameful decision that has had a catastrophic impact on the lives of Palestinian families.

Most families in Palestine have loved ones abducted and caged by the illegal Israeli occupation. We spoke to one mother whose son has been imprisoned by the occupation for 3 years to find out how this callous decision by the ICRC has impacted her family.

Neimah Shamlawi's son Ali, 16 years old at the time, was one of 19 children who were abducted from their homes by Israeli soldiers in March 2013 and taken to the infamous children's dungeon at Al-Jalame in Israel where they were violently tortured and locked up in solitary confinement for 2 weeks in windowless 1m by 2m cells, three floors below the surface, with no mattress. To coerce confessions from the boys, sexual threats were made against the female members of their families. After extracting confessions under torture of "stone throwing" five of the boys including Ali - the Hares Boys - were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

In clear violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that “persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein,” Palestinian prisoners are imprisoned inside the territory of the occupying power. Thus, rather than prisoners being directly accessible to family members, Palestinian prisoners’ family members must seek special permits in order to be able to visit their imprisoned loved one.



Neimah is only permitted to visit her son twice a month for 45 minutes, To get to the prison she must join a coach organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and endure a 6-7 hour journey through the maze of Israel checkpoints from the West Bank where she lives to the prison in Israel. Even after that she is not guaranteed to see her son, sometimes Israeli prison officers order the visiting mothers, sisters or daughters to enter a room and ask them to remove their clothes if they want to continue their visit. The women always reject the strip search, and so have to leave without seeing their loved ones.

The International Committee of the Red Cross should be working to bring an end to the Israeli obstructions of family visits, and the Israeli violations of the Geneva Conventions. But instead the ICRC has shockingly announced that from July 2016 it is reducing family visits by 50% for adult male prisoners, from two visits a month to just one visit a month.

The right to two visits per month was something Palestinian prisoners fought hard for through many sacrifices including enduring hunger strikes before the Israeli occupation relented to agreeing to two visits a month. Now the ICRC is denying the prisoners this right. They are acting as an arm of the occupation and are complicit in Israel's denial of family visits to Palestinian political prisoners.

Neimeh Shamlawi has sent us a message regarding the ICRC decision to cut family visits. Neimeh's letter reads:


NEIMEH SHAMLAWI'S LETTER

"I am Neimeh Shamlawi, mother of Ali Shamlawi who is now in Al-Naqab prison. My son has spent more that 3 years in prison and I used to visit him twice monthly, but from July the Red Cross decided to reduce the visits to 50%. The Israeli government deprived me from my son, and it was a chance to see my son twice a month, but now the Red Cross wants to prevent even this chance. The Red Cross must help us, not help the Israeli occupation in its crimes against us. Without the help of the Red Cross, we will suffer and face many difficulties in trying to visit our children in Israeli prisons.

Apart from the exorbitant cost of around $250 to arrange a visit, we also have to contend with the impossibility of negotiating with the Israeli military to achieve such a feat. The decision to cut family visits to once a month will have terrible repercussions.

One example is that my daughter was finally given permission to visit her brother whom she misses terribly, the permit is for one visit and is only valid between 10th July to 23rd August. I had visited my son Ali on July 6th, with the next scheduled Red Cross visit being on August 24th. It means that my daughter will not be allowed to see her brother and the permit which was very difficult to get will be wasted. She may not get another permit for at least 6 months. If there was 2 visits in a month (like it was before the Red Cross decision) then she could have visited her brother Ali.

We hope that the Red Cross will reconsider and stop this unfair decision, , and remain the humanitarian organization it is supposed to embody."

signed Neimeh Shamlawi

 

We are here today outside the UK Mission of the ICRC to condemn the ICRC's shameful decision to penalise mothers like Neimeh Shamlawi and to demand they reinstate the two family visits per month. It is the responsibility of the ICRC to not put the burden of budget cuts on Palestinian families of prisoners, the most marginalized and vulnerable people, and those who the ICRC should be serving.

Shame on you ICRC, Shame on you ICRC!

Free Palestine!




SPEECH - FREE HUNGER STRIKER BILAL KAYED

We are also here today to demand freedom for the Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed. Today marks his 52nd day without food.

Bilal Kayed was imprisoned by the military occupation in 2001. He completed his 14.5 years sentence on 13th June 2016. But instead of being released as scheduled, to meet his waiting family at the military checkpoint, he was re-arrested without charge or trial and ordered to indefinitely-renewable 6 months administrative detention.

To demand his freedom Bilal Kayed went on hunger strike. Today is day 52 of his hunger strike. Health experts have said Kayed could die any moment as he is imminently vulnerable to cerebral haemorrhage, heart attack or stroke due to the physical strain on his body. Today hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have joined Kayed in open hunger strike.

There are around 750 Palestinians being held indefinitely without charge or trial, with no way to defend themselves, under Israel's illegal use of administrative detention. 127 administrative detention orders were issued just last month in July 2016.

We have a letter from Bilal Kayed written in prison on day 48 of his hunger strike:

LETTER FROM BILAL KAYED

To my heroic Palestinian people…
Free people of the world…

In this difficult stage that I am enduring on a personal level, in the struggle against the attempt to force my submission to the brutal occupation which made a decision to liquidate me, for nothing but the fact that I stood beside the prisoners of my people, defending my rights and their rights and the rights of their families to achieve even the minimum conditions for human dignity. It is not strange that I find myself supported by all of my people, who surround me with their shouts and cries and their support and tireless efforts to remove the injustice that has been inflicted upon me and upon the prisoners. This comes in accordance with the national understanding that I was raised with, by you, my people, and by the free people of the world, wherever they are. In the West Bank, rising up against oppression; in the occupied lands [of 1948], proud and rooted in the land and upholding their identity; my heroic people in victorious Gaza, and all of the free people of the world, of all nationalities and backgrounds.

I am here, today, finishing my first stage in my battle with this brutal occupier, and I have declared my second stage, which is one of unity with all prisoners from all backgrounds and political parties so that we can all, collectively, stand at the point of the arrow of the national struggle, inside and outside the prisons.

After receiving this decision by the military occupation courts (as I expected) [to reject his appeal against administrative detention] ignoring my freedom, life and dignity, it is necessary that I respond in order to confront this brutal decision. So starting from today, 1 August 2016, I am refusing all medical examinations presented by doctors in the hospital. I am demanding my immediate return to prison despite my deteriorating health conditions, to stand in one front and on one line in the prison cells of the occupation, side by side with all of the revolting prisoners, raising our loud voice: Your decision will not pass easily! Especially after the occupation has crossed another red line, even more dangerous, by sending me to administrative detention, which aims to liquidate all of the leaders of the prisoners’ movement and its cadres and those who raise high its banner defending the right of prisoners to freedom and dignity.

My heroic people, the hour of struggle has arrived. I am full of hope. As I have always known you, that you are the protective wall, defending our struggle. What I have received from you through your struggles, your sit-ins, your demonstrations, gives me more determination to continue forward until victory. Either freedom or martyrdom.

Victory is inevitable

Bilal Kayed
Barzilai Hospital
1 August 2016

 


We demand freedom for Bilal Kayed and freedom for all the 750 administrative detainees held without charge or trial, and we demand freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners!

Free Palestine!

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