LONDON: Officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross will hold talks with the UK Foreign Office over concerns about British plans to visit Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron has reportedly negotiated a deal with Israel’s government to allow two British legal observers and an Israeli judge to visit some prisoners being held in Israeli prisons amid reports of “inhumane treatment,” The Guardian reported on Thursday.

In an interview with the BBC at the weekend, Cameron said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the issue.

“It’s not all bleak … I said it (the lack of access to detainees) was not good enough, that we needed to have a proper independent system for inspecting and regulating, and the Israelis have announced they are now doing that,” he said.

Netanyahu’s government has blocked ICRC staff from having any access to Palestinian detainees since the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7. It has said the block will remain until Hamas allows access to Israeli hostages taken during the attack.

Critics say this stance could constitute a breach of the Geneva Conventions, with the ICRC having made repeated requests to both sides in the conflict to allow access to all those detained, as set out in the conventions.

Observers have also raised concerns that the UK plan will “weaken the rule of law” and could set a “dangerous precedent” for how detainees are treated in other conflict zones, The Guardian report added.

The ICRC’s director for the Middle East region, Fabrizio Carboni, is in London to hold talks with Foreign Office officials.

In a statement to The Guardian, the aid organization said Palestinian detainees must be treated as protected persons with access to the ICRC, as proscribed under the Geneva rules.

The statement added: “We have seen the reports of a government of Israel decision to allow observers to visit some places of detention. The ICRC remains hopeful that suitable steps are taken that could protect the health and welfare of detainees, which remains paramount. We reiterate our readiness to resume our mandated detention activities.”

Arab News columnist and director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, Chris Doyle, said the Foreign Office plan risked establishing a system that bypassed the ICRC and internationally accepted regulations.

“There is no transparency about Cameron’s alternative … I very much doubt that two Foreign Office-appointed lawyers in the company of a judge from the occupying power are going to have the expertise of the ICRC, but will instead be taken around sanitised prisons,” he said.

“What has happened to the thousands of Palestinians taken from Gaza to Israel is a huge issue. (Neither) we nor their families know where they are, whether they are combatants or children, or why in some cases they are being stripped to their underpants. We have heard nothing from the UK government about this,” he added.

During a week-long truce between Hamas and Israeli forces in November, the ICRC played an active role in facilitating the swap of 105 Israeli hostages held by Hamas and 240 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

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