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Rights group denounces ICRC reduction in family visits as prisoners continue hunger strike

July 28, 2016 5:40 P.M. (Updated: July 28, 2016 6:39 P.M.)
ٌRAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody have been going on hunger strike to protest a decision by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to reduce family visits to prisoners from two to one visit each month, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement on Thursday.

PPS called ICRC’s decision a continuation of suppressive procedures imposed on prisoners by Israeli authorities, saying that the NGO did not consult with Palestinian officials or prisoners’ families before implementing the change.

The group said the reduction in family visits constituted a move against a right obtained by prisoners after a 35-year long struggle, adding that it increased the suffering of families of prisoners.

PPS identified four prisoners who began hunger strikes on July 18 to specifically address this issue as Ahmad al-Barghouthi, Mahmoud Sarahneh, Ziad al-Bazzar, and Amin Kamil, all held at the Hadarim prison.

In May, ICRC announced that it would be reducing family visits to male Palestinian prisoners as a cost-cutting measure, claiming that there wasn’t a great enough demand for second monthly visits.

In June, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) slammed ICRC’s decision, saying that the international NGO was “increasing the burden upon (prisoners) with policies and procedures...which represent a clear decline of its role in accordance and even collusion with the systematic policy of the occupation.”

Scores of Palestinian prisoners have also been carrying out hunger strikes in past weeks to denounce Israel’s widely used policy of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges.

One such prisoner, Bilal Kayid, has been on hunger strike for some 45 days after being sentenced to six months of administrative detention the day he was set to be released upon serving 14 and a half years in prison.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of May, 715 of whom in administrative detention.

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