Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Gilad Shalit a prisoner of war?

By Ali Abunimah

"....Following the outrage over Israel's killing of activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters on May 31, the intensified focus on Shalit is Israel's bid to deflect criticism of its unrelenting imprisonment of more than 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip, half of whom are children who, unlike Shalit, remain anonymous to world media and leaders.

But does Israel have a point? Is Hamas violating Shalit's most basic rights by denying the ICRC direct access to him, by refusing family contact, and even by keeping him captive in the first place?.....

Under Article 125 of this convention, the ICRC's ability to visit a POW is not unconditional but, "subject to the measures which the detaining powers may consider essential to ensure their security or to meet any other reasonable need ...."

As the ICRC's Mégevand-Roggo points out, Hamas, the detaining power in this case, "has said publicly that security considerations prevented it from allowing the ICRC to visit Shalit".

From Hamas' perspective, the risk of allowing a visit is obvious: revealing the location of the POW would run the risk of an Israeli military attack either to attempt to rescue him, or to harm Hamas' military structures and personnel.....

Hamas, conceivably, could be in violation of its obligations if it revealed Shalit's location to facilitate an ICRC visit and thus knowingly exposed him to the danger of an armed Israeli attack.

The only situation in which it might be safe for Hamas to consider allowing a visit to Shalit is if Israel gave an unambiguous public undertaking that it would never attempt a military rescue.

Since that is unlikely, and could probably not be trusted anyway, an ICRC visit should not be expected any time soon.....

The tragedy of the Shalit case is not just that Israel is using it to divert attention from the collective punishment of Palestinians, but that Shalit could already have been home long ago if Israel's leaders had not reneged on the German-brokered deal.

It seems that for the Israeli government Shalit is more useful for his propaganda value as a captive...."

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