The Israeli Supreme Court on Monday voted by a 4-3 majority that Israel has the right to withhold the bodies of 13 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in its custody and be used as bargaining chips.
The ruling states that emergency regulations allow the Israeli military to order the temporary burial of the bodies of Palestinians classified as enemies “based on considerations that take into account state security, civil order, and the need to negotiate for the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers”, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) said in a statement Monday
For decades, Israel has been following a policy of not releasing the bodies of Palestinians killed by its military to their families.
Adalah said the lawyers of families of the deceased Palestinians made the argument that holding the bodies violates both International law and Israeli law, which does not permit the military to keep bodies and use them as leverage.
“This is one of the most extreme Supreme Court rulings since 1948, as it undermines the most basic principles of universal humanity,” it said.
More than 250 bodies are currently being held at Israeli burial sites and morgues known by Palestinians as “cemeteries of numbers”, named after the numbering system that replaces names on graves.
According to court documents and lawyers, at least 45 Palestinians are missing from those cemeteries – many held since the aftermath of Israel’s 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinians say the practice deprives families the right to mourn their dead. Israel defends it as a deterrent to violence.
“This is collective punishment. The families will consider appealing to international courts in an effort to do everything possible to recover the bodies of their loved ones,” Muhammad Alyan, one of the petitioners, said in a statement issued on behalf of the Palestinian families.
Israel is the only country in the world currently implementing a policy of confiscation of remains, according to Jerusalem Legal Aid Center (JLAC) and Adalah. The Jewish state relies on regulations dating back to 1945, during the British Mandate, to give grounds for its policy.
( Source: Middle East Eye)