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HaMoked in a petition to the HCJ seeking the return of the bodies of Palestinians to their families for proper burial: the handling of the return of bodies was suspended in the summer of 2006, following the capture of three Israeli soldiers

For many years now, HaMoked has been handling the return of bodies of Palestinians held by Israel to their families, to allow their proper burial according to religion and custom.

During 2004-2005, HaMoked appealed to the military legal advisor for the West Bank on behalf of about 80 families, requesting that the bodies of their loved-ones be returned to them. According to the response, the military commander had no objection in principle to returning the bodies, provided that they would be scientifically identified.

In the summer of 2006, following the capture of three Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip and on the Border with Lebanon, the policy was changed, and the handling of the bodies' return was immediately suspended. Later, Israel declared that as long as efforts continued for the release of the soldier Gilad Shalit, there was no cause to hand over the bodies of Palestinians in its possession.

In October 2011, following the release of the Gilad Shalit, HaMoked appealed to the military legal advisor for the West Bank on behalf of the families, requesting speedy action be taken for the return of their loved-ones' bodies. Since then and up to the time of writing, no substantive response has been arrived from the military.

On February 12, 2013, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ), to compel Israel to return to a son's body to his Palestinian family, whose body Israel has been holding for the past 11 years. The son had disappeared in October 2002, whereupon the family contacted HaMoked to help locate him. Attempts to trace him having failed, HaMoked petitioned the HCJ for writ of habeas corpus. Thereupon, the state notified that on October 13, 2002, his body had apparently been taken to the Forensic Institute, after he was killed in clash with the police. In March 2005, HaMoked contacted the military to request that the son's body be returned to his family. In its response, concerning several bodies among them that of the petitioners' son, the military agreed to return the body, subject to its scientific identification. But, as stated, in the summer of 2006, the handling of the return of Palestinians' bodies was suspended, before the process for his body's return was finalized.

In the current petition, HaMoked stresses that for 11 years, the deceased's parents and other members of family have been waiting to bring the son to burial, according to their religion and beliefs. In an affidavit attached to the petition, the mother stated: "when we'll receive the body, we will hold a funeral [...] we'll start experiencing our son's death tangibly. [...] I'm a mother whose son was killed. All I want is to see his body, to know that he really is dead and to bury him. Until then, I do not have nor will have any peace".

In the past, the HCJ has decreed that respect for the dead forms part of the constitutional right to human dignity, and accepted the provisions of international law on the obligation to guard the dignity of the protected population, inter alia, maintaining the dignity of both the dead and the living.

In the petition, HaMoked concludes: "The deceased did whatever he did. But revenge should not be inflicted on the body of the dead".

HaMoked requests that the body of the petitioners' son be handed to his family, putting an end to the excruciating eleven year long wait for his burial.

This is the first of a series of petitions to the HCJ which will be filed in the coming weeks on behalf of families who wish to receive the bodies of their loved-ones and bring them to burial. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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