Rights group criticizes Hamas treatment of Israeli
Human Rights Watch charged Friday that Hamas militants are violating the rules of war by prohibiting a captive Israeli soldier from having contact with his family and the Red Cross.
The treatment of the 23-year-old soldier, captured exactly four years ago by Hamas, is "cruel and inhuman" and matches a U.N. definition of torture because he is denied any outside contact, the U.S.-based rights group said in a statement.
Hamas-affiliated militants captured tank crewman Sgt. Gilad Schalit inside Israel in 2006 and have been holding him since then in Gaza, the coastal Palestinian territory controlled by the militant Islamic organization.
Negotiations over a deal that would see Israel win Schalit's release by freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including militants convicted of deadly attacks against civilians, have stalled.
Hamas released a video of Schalit in October 2009 to prove the soldier was alive. His current condition is unknown.
The statement from Human Rights Watch notes Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including limitations on visitation rights for some Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but says violations by one side "do not justify violations by the other."
Schalit has dual French-Israeli citizenship and on Friday French President Nicolas Sarkozy released a letter he had addressed to the abducted soldier's parents.
"Like all French people, I'm indignant that a man could be deprived of freedom in such a way," Sarkozy wrote. "Such treatment, which totally lacks humanity, ignores universally recognized principles when it comes to prisoners, firstly the visiting rights of the International Committee of the Red Cross."