'Israel must release Palestinian corpses', rights group urge UN

'Israel must release Palestinian corpses', rights group urge UN
The National Campaign for Retrieval of the Bodies of Palestinian and Arab War Victims has called on the UN to pressure Israel to release corpses.
2 min read
06 September, 2019
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 [Getty]
A Palestinian group that campaigns on the behalf of corpses held by Israel has written to the United Nations Secretary General, urging him to pressure Israel to release corpses of Palestinians.

The National Campaign for Retrieval of the Bodies of Palestinian and Arab War Victims sent a letter to Antonio Guterres, calling on him to take urgent action to release Palestinian corpses.

"Since 1967, Israel has applied an inconsistent policy of refusing to deliver the mortal remains of hundreds of Palestinian combatants to their families," the letter said.

"Israel's ongoing refusal to undertake the necessary process to identify those buried in the cemeteries of numbers violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 2474, which requires member states to prevent individuals from going missing as a result of armed conflict in territories under their jurisdiction," the group added.

"Member states are required, inter alia, to produce and provide 'proper means of identification, including for members of armed forces, the establishment of national information bureaus upon the outbreak of an armed conflict, grave registration services and registers of deaths and ensuring accountability as appropriate in cases of missing persons'".

According to figures compiled by the Jerusalem Legal Aid Center (JLAC), Israel is holding the remains of 253 Arab and Palestinian war victims in what they refer to as "cemeteries for enemy combatants", while also refusing to acknowledge the fate of a further 68 who are missing.

The dead are buried and labelled with nameless place cards – a number is used instead.

Making it "legal" to confiscate Palestinian corpses

Last March, Israeli lawmakers passed a controversial bill allowing police to hold the corpses of alleged Palestinian assailants indefinitely.

The act was passed by 48 votes to 10, a Knesset statement said, hours after another measure permitting the interior minister to strip Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem of their permanent residency permits "if they are involved in terrorism."

The government announced in 2016 that it would not release for burial the bodies of Palestinian assailants killed during attacks unless Palestinians in Gaza released the remains of two Israeli soldiers believed to have been killed in a 2014 war in Gaza.

Palestinians denounce Israel's tactic of holding corpses as inhumane, saying it is a form of psychological warfare and collective punishment.

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