Sunday, October 25, 2020

Bahaa Alayan: Israelis return body of slain Palestinian after 325 days

By Matt Matthews - September 01, 2016
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [Jerusalem municipality] [Israeli Supreme Court]

The body of Palestinian Bahaa Alayan has been returned to his family by the Israeli authorities, 325 days after his death at the hands of the Israeli Forces.

Bahaa, 22, became a posthumous focal point of a campaign demanding the release of slain Palestinians to their families. His family have lead the months-long struggle for burial rights, taking a legal challenge to the Israeli Supreme Court and organising demonstrations from Al-Aqsa Mosque to Ramallah.

The family were finally able to inter Bahaa at the al-Mujahidin cemetery near Jerusalem’s Old City at dawn on September 1. However, Israeli police retained close control over the proceedings, with only 25 mourners allowed to attend the ceremony. Moreover, as “insurance” to prevent disorder, the family was required to make a 12,000 shekel payment to Israeli authorities.

Bahaa was shot dead on October 13 last year after boarding a bus with a male companion and killing three Israelis in a knife and gun attack. Palestinians accused of terrorist offences may only be buried in certain cemeteries selected by the police, meaning Bahaa’s final resting place is outside of his home neighbourhood, Jabal al-Mukabbir.

By delaying the return of Bahaa’s body on the grounds it could cause “incitement” against the state, Israel violated the Geneva Conventions, which require states to: “facilitate the return of the remains of the deceased and of personal effects to the home country upon its request, or unless that country objects, upon the request of the next of kin.”

The right to a religious and culturally appropriate burial is also enshrined in international convention, but Bahaa’s body has spent the last ten months atrophied and decaying in a freezer, his father Muhammad Alayan told reporters.

Speaking following his son’s belated funeral, the lawyer and activist added: “One of the most difficult moments in life is for parents to bury their children. Israel holds the bodies of martyrs as a policy to punish parents and pressure them.”

In May, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the release of dead Palestinians to their families, but this move was soon blocked by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, forcing Bahaa’s family to take to the streets.

Mr. Alayan spoke to the Palestine Monitor at an initial demonstration in Ramallah on Wednesday June 22, saying: “We have gone to all legal lengths to get [the bodies] released, but until now we have not been successful.

“So I have called for this group action on behalf [of other affected families]. This protest is the first in the West Bank, and there will be more in other cities.”

In June, Mr. Alayan was detained for several days for leading these protests, which followed the destruction of his family home in January. But as he collected his son’s body at dawn, he made the V for Victory hand sign.

The bodies of twelve dead Palestinians are still in Israeli hands, stored in what the United Nations condemns as “poor and inhumane” conditions, often “disfigured… beyond recognition”.  

One of the most difficult moments in life is for parents to bury their children. Israel holds the bodies of martyrs as a policy to punish parents and pressure them.

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