Thursday, November 26, 2020

Israel‘s illegal retention of corpses of martyrs sparks protests in West Bank

By Lili Martinez - June 27, 2016
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Occupation] [Jerusalem] [Israeli Justice System] [Geneva Conventions] [negotiations]

Twenty-two year old Bahaa Alayan’s body has been locked in an Israeli freezer since October 13 of last year, when he and another young man from East Jerusalem allegedly shot and stabbed several people on a public bus.

Despite pleas from his family, lawsuits and repeated appeals by human rights organizations, Bahaa’s body, and those of seven other young men, have yet to be returned to their families.

Families and supporters of Bahaa and others took to the streets Wednesday in central Ramallah to protest the Israeli army’s refusal to release the bodies into the custody of their families, so they can be buried according to Islamic tradition. This requires a burial as soon after death as possible.

According to Ramallah-based human rights organization al-Haq, Israel’s policy of retaining the bodies of Palestinians killed directly violates its obligations under international law. Per Article Four of the Geneva Convention, parties to armed conflict must respect the dead and are required to return remains of the deceased to their families expediently after they are killed. Under the provisions of the convention, the deceased must be “honourably buried, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged.”

Mustafa Barghouti, founder of Palestinian Medical Relief Society, attended the protest. He told Palestine Monitor that the Israeli retention of dead bodies is another form of collective punishment on the Palestinian people. “It is a violation of human dignity and basic human rights,” he explained. “Even if they consider that their kids are guilty of anything, you cannot punish their families just because they are related.”

At Wednesday’s protest, Bahaa’s father, Muhammad Alayan, spoke over a loudspeaker, condemning the Israeli authorities for refusing to return his son’s body, and rallied others with calls to action. The crowd chanted, “rest, martyr, rest” and began to march from the square into the streets. Muhammad told Palestine Monitor he hopes to inspire action around the West Bank for all the families that have been affected by the illegal retention of corpses. “We have gone to all legal lengths to get [the bodies] released, but until now we have not been successful,” he said. “So I have called for this group action on their behalf. This protest is the first in the West Bank and there will be more in other cities.”

Majd Abu Ghosh, a poet and writer who works at the Yasser Arafat Foundation, told Palestine Monitor he was attending the protest in solidarity with the families of the slain young men whose bodies are still held by Israel. “It’s a shame on us Palestinians, as human rights organizations, or organizations or associations, to remain silent in the face of this action by the occupation - holding the bodies of martyrs,” he said. “And it isn’t a coincidence that these bodies held in the freezer until now are those taken from Jerusalem. It’s a clear message from the occupation to punish [Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem], since it was the first place where the Intifada began.”

Itís a shame on us Palestinians, as human rights organizations, or organizations or associations, to remain silent in the face of this action by the occupation - holding the bodies of martyr.

As the march continued down Rukab Street in downtown Ramallah, shopkeepers and passersby stopped to watch or join in the chanting. Then the marchers looped back to Yasser Arafat square and finished their march where they began, with announcements for the next protest, in Bethlehem the following day.

Palestine Monitor spoke to the mothers of several young men killed by Israel since October 2015. One, who referred to herself as Umm Shahid Muhammad [mother of the martyred Mohammed], said she had also come to express solidarity with the protestors, as her own son’s body had been returned the previous month. “Bahaa the martyr is my son as well,” she said. “Bahaa is Mohammed and Mohammed is Bahaa. They are all our children.”

An Israeli court recently ordered the return of all bodies to their families, but the government stopped the returns after only a few bodies had been restituted, saying bodies could not be returned during the month of Ramadan. The next court date to schedule the release of martyrs’ bodies to their families is set for the day after Ramadan.

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