Saturday, August 15, 2020

Israel continues to retain bodies of deceased Palestinians despite Supreme Court ruling

By Martin Leeper - February 15, 2018
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Israeli Justice System] [high court] [funeral]

The bodies of two Palestinians killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the first week of February are still being held by the Israeli Defense Ministry. This, however, is a violation of current Israeli law, according to the Israeli Supreme Court.
Along with the bodies of recently killed Hamzeh Zamaareh, 19 years old, and Ahmad Nasser Jarrar, 22, Israel is currently in possession of 265 Palestinian deceased, dating from 1967 to April 2006. In 2006 Israel officially ended the policy of retaining the Palestinian deceased, only to reinstate the practice in October 2015. 
In 2015, Israeli forces held 33 Palestinians, eventually returning them to their families in a frozen state and under heavy conditions. The bodies were given back as ice blocks, and the families were forced to bury them within two hours. They were not allowed to take them to a hospital or perform an autopsy. They had to agree to bury them late at night, with only a limited number of family members present, and, crucially, without cell phones or cameras.
This is particularly distressing for Muslims, who have very specific religious guidelines for burying their dead. The first, being they should be buried as soon as possible and generally this means within 24 hours after death.
From 2016, a further 19 Palestinians bodies have been held.
Issam Aruri is the Director of Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), an organization providing legal assistance to the families of Palestinian dead, still in the hands of Israel. Aruri believes the motivation for these stipulations are to “cover up evidence” of their deaths even though Israel claimed they didn’t “want those youth to be glorified.”
Since April 2016, however, no Palestinian has been released. Israel has made it clear that they want to put pressure on Hamas, who is currently in possession of two dead Israeli soldiers. Now, Aruri said, “they are keeping [the bodies] for bargaining.”
In December 2017, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled Israel cannot hold Palestinians for negotiations because there is “no explicit law that allows them to do so.” The current court ruling only regards bodies held since 2015. However, the ruling provides a six month grace period for the Israeli government to enact legislation providing explicit legal authority for the policy.
The “Israeli supreme court has very clear messaging, that keeping the bodies is illegal,” Aruri said. “Unfortunately, they will give the Israel government six months to legalize it.” In January, the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) took advantage of this clause, voting to move forward on legislation aimed at overriding the High Court’s decision.
JLAC, along with two other NGOs concerned with the Human Rights of Palestinians, have appealed to the High Court of Justice to rescind its decision to allow for this legislative process. They are, however, still awaiting a response.


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