Friday, March 05, 2021

Israel cements policy of withholding Palestinian bodies

By Yehudit Tzfat - December 05, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Human rights]

Israel’s newly appointed defence minister, Naftali Bennett, announced last week that all bodies of Palestinians, who attacked or allegedly attacked Israelis, will not be returned to their families. 

A statement from the defence minister’s office said that the policy change will now permit Israel to not release any bodies of Palestinians, regardless of their political affiliation and the kind of attack committed. 

The Security Cabinet still needs to approve the decision. The move is meant to deter terrorism and aid in negotiations to release Israel Defense Forces bodies allegedly held by Hamas. A source from the Defence Ministry told the Times of Israel more measures are being considered for counter-terrorism, such as worsening conditions for political prisoners. 

Hassan Abd Rabbo, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Prisoners Affairs Commission, told the Times of Israel that such procedures go against Geneva Conventions.

“This decision does not form a deterrent and constitutes collective punishment. It is immoral, contravenes religious rituals regarding burial and aims to cause psychological problems for families. The most basic right of a family is to bury its loved ones,” Rabbo said.

Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who represented families of individuals whose bodies are held by Israel before the Supreme Court, also condemned the decision. 

“No country in the world allows itself to hold and to use bodies as a card for negotiation and political bargaining,” Hassan Jabareen, an attorney and Adalah’s General Director, said in a press release. “These practices violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the UN Convention against Torture, which absolutely prohibits such cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

According to Muhammad Alyan, a representative of the families, 51 bodies of Palestinians have been withheld by Israel since April 2016. 

Adalah affirmed they will work to reverse this decision locally and abroad. 

"We will challenge this decision and work to rescind these instructions before Israeli courts and internationally, including through the UN human rights treaty bodies and other forums," Adalah said.

In September, the Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-3 decision that Israel can continue to hold Palestinian bodies for use as bargaining chips. This ruling reversed an earlier 2017 High Court outcome that the state could not keep bodies for negotiation purposes and must release them to their families for burial. The September ruling was in response to Israel’s request for a second hearing.

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