The Geneva Council strongly condemns the incommunicado detention of thousands of workers from Gaza by Israeli authorities following the October 7 attacks. Human Rights Watch has reported instances of inhumane and degrading treatment during the detention period.
Israeli authorities detained workers in Israel and the West Bank, with some subjected to interrogations regarding their alleged links to the October 7 attacks. Despite the release of over 3,000 workers on November 3, the total number of detainees and their current status remains undisclosed, and there is no information on whether any workers have been charged with a crime.
Human Rights Watch has documented disturbing cases of mistreatment, including beatings, humiliation, and threats, during the weeks of incommunicado detention. The organization sought comments from Israeli authorities in December on its findings but received no response.
The October 7 attacks, allegedly led by Hamas, resulted in approximately 1,200 deaths, mainly civilians, according to Israeli authorities. Gaza authorities report over 21,600 Palestinians killed, including more than 8,500 children, during hostilities.
Approximately 18,500 Gaza workers had permits to work in Israel on October 7, having undergone stringent security evaluations for permit issuance.
The Geneva Council expresses deep concern over the reported mistreatment of detained workers, including instances of physical and psychological abuse. It is particularly distressing that two Gaza workers, one with cancer and one with diabetes, died in Israeli custody, according to the Israeli military.
Israeli human rights groups, Gisha and HaMoked, have reported families in Gaza unable to contact relatives with work permits in Israel. Efforts to visit detainees have been unsuccessful.
Six human rights organizations in Israel filed an urgent petition on October 23, seeking information on detainee locations, applicable laws, and detention durations. Another petition on November 2 highlighted detainees’ lack of access to legal representation and alleged mistreatment.
On November 2, the Israeli cabinet voted to return Gaza workers to Gaza, resulting in the release of over 3,000 workers on November 3. The court rejected the petition on November 13.
Released workers reported abuses, including electric shocks, dog attacks, and deprivation of food and water. On November 9, the Israeli government issued an emergency regulation allowing detention until removal for workers without legal basis due to canceled permits.
The situation of workers who fled or were released to the West Bank remains unclear, with reports suggesting some face arrest by Israeli Defense Forces.
The Geneva Council calls on Israeli authorities to disclose information on detained workers, investigate reports of abuse, and ensure the humane treatment of all detainees. The organization urges the international community to closely monitor the situation and advocate for the protection of the rights of these workers.