The Israeli Supreme Court determined to convene on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 11:30 am, to look into the case of two appeals demanding the occupation forces to return the remains of 64 war victims (males and females) out of the 249 victims documented by the campaign. The remains are being withheld by Israeli forces without any legal or security justifications, with some remains being detained since decades. Attorney Suliman Shaheen, JLAC's lawyer appointed by the victims' families following up the file (in collaboration with “the National Campaign for the Retrieval of War Victims’ Remains” and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights), has expressed his utmost concern regarding the request by the Israeli prosecution to postpone the court session. Among the claims made by the prosecution included that there is a need to establish a separate body to work on verifying the location of the remains in question, as well as to be responsible for the search. The prosecution additionally claimed that the majority of the remains had been buried by the Israeli police, the National Insurance Institution, or by contracted private companies. They also claimed that those parties did not maintain any records documenting the process of burial or the identities of those buried. In so doing, the Israeli prosecution has recognized the chaos resulting in the loss of an unknown number of bodies.
Shaheen rejected the request of the Israeli prosecution to postpone the court session, and insisted that the court convene as scheduled. Shaheen also reiterated the commitments made by the prosecution before the presiding Israeli judge and court during the session convened on July 13, 2015, i.e. that a DNA bank will be established to facilitate the matching of remains with family sampled DNA. Two years have passed since this this commitment was made, and the Israeli army has yet to take any steps in its realization; rather, Israeli forces have returned to detaining bodies of new Palestinian victims of extra-judicial killings, as currently withheld in Israeli morgue refrigerators.
It is worth mentioning that since the beginning of October 2015 until this day, occupation forces have detain 146 bodies of male and female victims of extra-judicial killings, most of whom were released under popular pressure (i.e. protests) and diplomatic and legal means. There are currently 9 victims’ bodies still withheld in morgue refrigerators, which Israeli forces are refusing to release for burial; rather Israeli forces are demanding the bodies be transferred to the “cemeteries of numbers”. Israeli forces seek to use victims’ remains as bargaining chips in negotiations, rather than to allow their families the right to bury their loved ones in dignity.
Therefore, “the National Campaign for the Retrieval of War Victims’ Remains” will work to support the fair and humanitarian demands of the hundreds of victims’ families by being present at the Supreme Court session to be held in Jerusalem on Thursday March 16, 2017.