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Following HaMoked’s freedom-of-information petition: the state reveals some of the procedures relating to the handling and burial of Palestinian bodies, but refuses for now to allow access to the documents collected by the Arditi inquiry commission of 1999

In view of Israel’s outrageous conduct in handling the unreturned bodies of Palestinian dead and the many failures in tracing them later on, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice on several occasions for the retrieval of such bodies to their families, to enable them to finally bring them to proper burial. One of HaMoked’s persistent assertions was that the military was responsible for the handling and return of bodies, even if the temporary burial had been carried out by a private contractor.

Following the petitions, HaMoked sent the military an application under the Freedom of Information Law on August 20, 2015, asking to receive the procedures regulating the burial of Palestinian bodies held by Israel, as well as an update on the implementation of the recommendations of the official inquiry commission (headed by Brig. Gen. Dani Arditi) that was appointed by the chief of the general staff to review the treatment of enemy casualties in 1999. HaMoked asked to receive the relevant orders and regulations the commission had traced, as well as all of the existing orders and regulations relating to the handling of Palestinians' bodies. HaMoked also asked how many Palestinians' bodies were currently being held by Israel and what sites were used for their burial.

Given the state’s undertaking that the military would establish a genetic database, where the genetic profile of Palestinian dead and their families would be kept, HaMoked asked for information about the process of establishing the laboratory, the type of data preserved there and the work methods regulating its operation.

Four and a half months later, as no response arrived despite the statutory 30-day response deadline for such applications, HaMoked petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court on January 19, 2016, to instruct the state to respond and provide the information sought.

On February 23, 2017, more than six months after HaMoked’s initial letter, the state provided a partial response to the application, including a (censured) order on “The Handling of Bodies of Terrorists and Infiltrators” – the identification of Palestinian attackers’ bodies, their transfer for burial and so on. The military said that no committee had been appointed for establishing a genetic lab, and that the genetic material collected thus far from Palestinian bodies was being kept by the Military Rabbinate. The requested information on the number of Palestinian bodies held by Israel, or the location of designated cemeteries was not given, nor were any documents of the Arditi Commission. HaMoked sent a new application for that information.

On May 18, 2016, the state said that there were two cemeteries for “enemy dead” – one near Adam Bridge (Damia Bridge) over the Jordan River and one in Amiad military base in northern Israel. As to the documents contained in the findings of the Arditi Commission, the state claimed that they were unavailable and advised contacting the military archive (the IDFA).

On February 6, 2017, the military archive informed HaMoked that its request to view the orders, procedures and instructions concerning the handling of attackers’ bodies, which were part of the Arditi Commission, was not approved for the time being given that “this is classified material with security sensitivity”. It was further stated that the committee for approving examination of archive material decided that there was need for the opinion of “other entities”, given that “these are up-to-date and relevant material, of the last two decades and their impact… is still significant”.

After the petition was deleted on the parties consent on June 9, 2017, HaMoked contacted the military archive again to ask for permission to see the Arditi Commission documents. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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