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23 June 2011: Five years since the abduction of the soldier Gilad Shalit - Hamas must release him immediately

This Saturday, 25 June 2011, will be the fifth anniversary of the abduction of the soldier Gilad Shalit.

Shalit was abducted in June 2006, and has since been held as a hostage in an unknown location and in unknown conditions. His captors have made it clear that he will be held hostage pending the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Neither the International Committee of the Red Cross nor any other international body has been able to visit him. With the exception of a videotape Hamas published last year showing Shalit, as far as B'Tselem knows, no information has been provided about his physical or mental health.

Shalit is considered a hostage due to the circumstances of his abduction and the manner in which he is being held. International humanitarian law absolutely forbids the taking and holding of a person by force for the purpose of pressuring the adversary to comply with certain demands, while threatening to harm the person if the demands are not met. The taking of hostages is considered a war crime, for which all those involved bear personal criminal liability.

The Hamas leadership in Gaza bears an obligation to release Shalit immediately and unconditionally. Pending his release, his captors must treat him humanely and enable representatives of the ICRC to visit him.