Gilad Shalit's release

The release of Galid Shalit is one of those stories that are easy enough to understand in theory, but almost impossible to comprehend in reality.

If I had been taken prisoner at the age of 19 and only released five years and four months later – how would I feel? It's virtually unimaginable. Only people like Terry Waite or Brian Keenan might be able to relate to Shalit's mental state.

There are clear rules on how a military force should treat its prisoners during a conflict, and there's no question that Hamas paid these no heed whatsoever. Shalit was held in absolute secrecy and received no visits from the Red Cross at all (something that Amnesty criticised repeatedly). For long periods it was even feared he'd been killed.

In the depressing zero-sum game of warfare, Israel's own holding of Palestinian prisoners in Israel replicates some of the inhumanity of Shalit's confinement in the barring or hindering of family visits. In situations of bitter conflict, the axiom always seems to be that two wrongs do make a right.

So what does the release of Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners actually mean? On the Conservative Middle East Council site Kate Allen suggests that aside from the people actually involved the prisoner transfer may amount to very little. The same long-term human rights issues still remain to bedevil this region for years to come.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering about Gilad Shalit himself. An Israeli specialist in post-captivity trauma, Dr Miki Zeifa (£), who has spoken to The Times, says that many previously captured Israeli soldiers have struggled to adjust to their new lives afterwards. "I know some people who never leave their homes”, he says.

Their new ostensibly free lives are ones where they're actually trapped by what they've been through. Similarly, we shouldn't forget that some of the hundreds of Palestinians being released have been deprived of family visits for years. And in returning to Gaza or the West Bank (if they're not being exiled abroad), they're not exactly returning to an untroubled existence in an untroubled land.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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