There are approximately 930 prisoners from the Gaza Strip currently being held in Israeli prisons. For the past year, Israel has been denying them family visits. Today, 12 June 2008, 5 prisoners, their relatives and 10 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations petitioned the Supreme Court calling for the immediate renewal of the visits.
Israel cancelled family visits for prisoners from the Gaza Strip held in Israeli prisons, claiming that "since Hamas' military coup in the Gaza Strip… [it is not] possible to coordinate passage through the border crossings, which are now under the control of terrorist organizations." This, despite the fact that the visits had always been coordinated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
The petition is not limited to the prisoners' desire to see their relatives and their demand to be able to do so. It was submitted also on behalf of their relatives: women raising their children as single parent families; children growing up and maturing without a father; parents who brought a child into the world – all longing to see the face of their loved one and know his or her fate. In view of the fact that other forms of communication are barred, the short and rare prison visits are the only chance for these relatives to share the development of their children as well family celebrations or sad occasions.
The Petitioners stress that the right to receive family visits in prison is a fundamental right, both of the prisoners and of their family members. It is a basic right which stems from the perception of humans as social creatures who form part of a family and a community, and is established in Israeli and international law. The cancellation of the visits is a violation of the right to family life. The Court has already ruled: "It is a firmly established precept, that the human rights to which a person is entitled simply by being human remain even when he is detained or imprisoned, and the fact that he is incarcerated cannot serve to deprive him of any right" (HCJ 337/84 Hokma v. The Minister of the Interior, judgment).
The petitioners clarify that with due respect to the wish to have Gilad Shalit receive visits and released soon, collectively depriving fundamental rights from the Palestinian prisoners in order to pressure others for this purpose, is tantamount to using the prisoners as bargaining chips. Using people in such a manner was unequivocally struck down by the Supreme Court.
Cancellation of the visits constitutes collective punishment which is prohibited both in international and Israel law. The organizations – HaMoked,Adameer, B'Tselem, Gisha, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Yesh Din, the Gaza Center for Mental Health, Physicians for Human Rights and DCI-Palestine – call on the Court to renew the visits immediately in the accepted framework of ICRC shuttles.