Israel must release body of murdered Palestinian held for months: HRW

Israel must release body of murdered Palestinian held for months: HRW
Israeli authorities are still holding the body of Ahmed Erekat, a young Palestinian shot and killed by Israeli border guards as he drove to his sister's wedding, the HRW said.
3 min read
15 September, 2020
Ahmed Erekat was killed by Israeli police in June [Facebook]
Israeli authorities are holding the body of Palestinian Ahmed Erekat for over ten weeks since he was unjustly killed at a checkpoint, the Human Rights Watch said on Monday, calling for his remains to be handed over to the family.

The killing of Erekat in June by Israeli forces constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law, the HRW said in a statement after reviewing footage of his killing.

Video footage shows Erekat's car crashing into a checkpoint in the West Bank and knocking over an Israeli officer. Later, Israeli forces are seen shooting him outside his car while he posed no imminent threat to life.

In a September court filing, Israeli authorities said they would not return the body to his family based on a decision to withhold the bodies of dozens of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, the HRW wrote.

While victims whose bodies are withheld are considered by Israel to have been killed in security incidents, the HRW found many were unaffiliated with any political or armed group.

Israel is reportedly holding on to the remains as leverage to secure the release of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers unlawfully held by Hamas, the Palestinian authority that controls Gaza.

"After fatally shooting Ahmed Erekat without apparent justification, Israeli authorities have unlawfully held his body hostage for more than ten weeks," Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch was quoted as saying.

"Preventing Erekat's family from burying their son in a dignified manner is cruel and without legal justification," Shakir added.

Erekat's family have urged Israel to release the body, denying claims by Israeli police who allege he attempted to ram his car into border guards.

The family say Erakat lost control of his car and was driving too slowly to carry out an intentional ramming. They have He called on the international community to pressure Israel to release the body for a fast burial - a vital tradition for Muslims.

The HRW also called out Hamas authorities alongside Israel, saying both sides should return bodies they hold to their families for burial.

"The wrongful actions of one party don't justify the wrongful actions of the other," the rights watchdog wrote.

Police violence and confiscation of corpses

Israeli forces have used unnecessary lethal force against Palestinians for decades. Before the Erekat killing, the deadly shooting of an unarmed autistic man, Eyad al-Hallaq, made headlines after he was killed on his way to a center for people with special needs in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In March 2018, Israeli lawmakers also passed a controversial bill that allowed Israeli police to hold the corpses of alleged Palestinian assailants indefinitely.

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Since then, Israel holds the bodies of 67 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, according to the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC).

According to the human rights group Adalah, the Israeli security cabinet passed a decision on September 2 not to return the body of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, regardless of their political affiliation.

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