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17.5.2017

Morbidly running in circles: the state refuses to provide Palestinian families with information on how it handled their dead sons’ bodies; following a petition to the HCJ, the state announced it would provide the information but then recanted

Given Israel's outrageous conduct in handling the bodies of Palestinians in its possession and the repeated failures in tracing them, HaMoked petitioned the court on several occasions for the return of the bodies to the families for proper burial. In the framework of HaMoked’s petitions on behalf of three families whose sons’ bodies had been held by Israel since the second intifada, the state announced in November 2014, that “the possibilities of tracing [the three missing bodies] have been exhausted, and therefore, it is impossible in practice to return them to the families”.

On August 10, 2016, HaMoked petitioned the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs to instruct the national forensic institute to provide information under the Freedom of Information Law regarding the three bodies. The petition was filed after the institute ignored HaMoked’s request to receive the documents for many months, although in previous correspondence it was reported that the documents were kept at the institute.

In the court hearing held on December 1, 2016, the state agreed following the justices’ comments to give HaMoked the requested documents, subject to prior approval of security officials. Some six weeks later, the state announced it would allow the delivery of the forensic institute’s documents, except for any mention of the burial location, due to the Israel Police’s objection to disclosure of this information.

But two months later, in February 2017 – contrary to the state’s announcement that it would provide the documents in the forensic institute files – only the post mortem reports were delivered to HaMoked. In its notice of May 4, 2017, the state said that only at that point in time had the State Attorney’s Office received “the Forensic Institute’s files on each of the terrorists’ bodies that were received and autopsied on at the institute”– this more than a year after the forensic institute’s February 2016 announcement that it had found the files. And so the state again avoided giving the information, this time on the pretext that most of the relevant material was secret and could not be handed to HaMoked without approval of the competent authorities.

In its response of May 16, 2017, HaMoked protested against the state’s outrageous conduct, the fact that it repeatedly promised to give the families the information as required by law, but kept going round in circles to avoid carrying out its duty, citing some pretext or other, giving misleading information and endlessly dragging its feet. HaMoked asked the court to order the state to submit its statement of response by June 18, 2017, if by then not all the information sought in the petition was delivered to HaMoked. HaMoked also requested that the state reconsider disclosing the details on the three bodies’ location of burial. HaMoked asserted that given the fact that the state had already declared that the bodies could not be traced, there was no reason not to provide this information, which could shed some light on the where the bodies were placed in the beginning, and help the families in their efforts to discover the possible sites of burial.
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