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Following HaMoked’s petitions for returning the bodies of dead Palestinians to their families: the state claims – and not for the first time – that it cannot locate the bodies

In May and June 2015, HaMoked filed a series of High Court petitions for the return of the bodies of Palestinian dead, withheld by Israel since the second intifada, to their families. HaMoked stressed that the responsibility for the bodies’ handling and return to their families lies with the military. HaMoked further asserted that the violation of the dignity of the dead and the dignity of their families was severe and excessive, and that no opposing security considerations had been raised by the state.

In its response to two of the seven petitions filed, the state announced on September 3, 2015, that the bodies were not kept in a military cemetery, but were buried by a private contractor, and that the efforts to trace them failed. The state noted that military officials had opened specific graves in which it was estimated the bodies would be found – but none of the bodies tested matched the DNA imprint of the relatives concerned. The military on its part considered that the efforts to trace the bodies “have been exhausted“.

It should be noted that, in the context of HaMoked’s earlier series of petitions on the matter, filed back in 2013, the state also claimed that it had failed to trace three of the bodies then in question. Thus, now, the count of “missing” bodies has risen to five. Previously, as a result of HaMoked’s intervention, the Chief of General Staff at the time appointed a special committee of inquiry into the identification and burial of enemy dead. Although the committee elaborated on the failures in the treatment of bodies, it seems that the security establishment has not reached the appropriate conclusions. HaMoked emphasizes that even if the remains of Palestinian fatalities were buried by a private contractor in a civilian cemetery, the overall responsibility for the burial is with the military. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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