Red Cross: Shalit case top priority

By Jessica Elgot, December 22, 2010
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The head of international law at the British Red Cross, Michael Meyer, has said kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has received more media attention than any other prisoner during his 28 years at the organisation.

Mr Meyer suggested that visiting the 24-year-old soldier, who has been held by Hamas terrorists for more than four years, was complicated by the fact he was not being held by a sovereign state.

He said the right to visit prisoners of war held as a result of international conflict could only occur if Hamas permitted it. But the conflict could not be considered international, as Hamas is not a state.

Mr Meyer made his comments during a meeting organised by the Zionist Federation. He was given a letter from the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, expressing their unhappiness with perceived inaction from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been prevented from visiting Mr Shalit by Hamas.

The letter said ensuring Mr Shalit's "right to life" was the "actualisation of the raison d'etre of your organisation, and our moral imperative as members of the human race."

Four delegates discussed the work of the ICRC in relation to Mr Shalit with Mr Meyer. Adrian Korsner from the ZF and Jamie Slavin represented the Board of Deputies, and two lawyers, Jonathan Lux and Dennis Levy QC also attended.

Mr Korsner said Mr Meyer had listened attentively to their concerns but stressed that the ICRC had a remit to remain impartial and could not alienate itself from one side of the conflict. But he did agree to raise the matter with the ICRC in Geneva.

The ZF's assistant director, Gary Sakol, said it would maintain pressure on NGOs, which could help bring Mr Shalit home.

He added: "We were pleased that the British Red Cross accepted this meeting, and asked them to pass on our message to the ICRC that anything and everything must be done to ensure Gilad Shalit's safety and safe release."

    Last updated: 1:44pm, December 22 2010