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15.7.2015

In an HCJ hearing concerning the remains of Palestinian fatalities that the military had guaranteed to return to their families but had failed to trace: the state undertakes to form a genetic database to facilitate future identification of dead bodies it holds

In the context of HaMoked’s petitions seeking the return to the families of the remains of Palestinian fatalities long held by Israel, the state announced in November 2014 that its efforts to trace three of the bodies it had promised to return had failed. In response, HaMoked criticized the military’s negligent and disrespectful conduct, and asserted that even if the remains had been buried by private companies in civilian cemeteries, the overall responsibility for the burials was with the military.

In July 13, 2015, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) held a hearing on several petitions seeking the return of the remains of Palestinian fatalities to their families, including HaMoked’s petitions concerning the dead bodies the military had failed to locate. In the hearing, HaMoked demanded that the state retain all genetic samples it had already taken from living family members and the deceased’s exhumed bodies, and create a genetic database. Thus, if and when the state opened additional graves not yet opened, or if additional families sought the return of their loved ones’ remains, it would be possible to crosscheck the new genetic samples with the existing database, and in case of matches – return the bodies immediately. The state undertook to establish such a database, and the military even stated that it already started constructing an independent genetic lab. Therefore, HaMoked consented to the deletion of the petitions.

It should be noted that during the hearing, the state notified the court that the military took genetic samples from the 19 bodies of Gaza Palestinians it had been holding since “Operation Protective Edge”. The state also announced that in recent years, the military did not take bodies of West Bank Palestinians for burial in Israel.
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