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Israel: High Court gives green light for army to block release of Palestinian bodies 

A Palestinian woman prays at the grave of a relative in a cemetery in Gaza on 15 October 2013 [Emad Nassar/Apaimages]
A Palestinian woman prays at the grave of a relative in a cemetery in Gaza on 15 October 2013 [Emad Nassar/Apaimages]

The Israeli High Court gave the Israeli army the green light on Monday to block the release of the bodies of Palestinians killed by occupation forces, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (JLAC) has revealed. The corpses will be used as bargaining chips in any future negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

JLAC said that an expanded High Court hearing of seven judges ruled 4 to 3 in favour of giving the Israeli army the power to withhold the bodies of dead Palestinians in order to use them for such purposes.

According to Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the court said that Israeli emergency regulations permit the army to order the interim burial of bodies designated as deceased enemies. “This burial is based on considerations that take into account state security, civil order and the need to negotiate for the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers,” it pointed out.

The new ruling overturns an earlier decision by a regular High Court which said that the military regime which basically governs the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank does not have the power to keep the bodies of the dead Palestinians.

READ: Israel to keep body of Palestinian boy to use for prisoner swap

“This is the first time in history that a court – anywhere in the world – has authorised state authorities to hold the bodies of subjects under its control, to which international laws governing occupation apply, and to use them as bargaining chips,” noted Adalah. “This is one of the most extreme Supreme Court rulings since 1948, as it undermines the most basic principles of universal humanity. The court ruling violates Israeli and international laws, most notably the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

Israel is withholding bodies of 304 Palestinians and Arabs killed since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in what is known as the “numbers cemetery”. It is also holding the bodies of 52 Palestinians killed by its security forces since 2015.

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