Retrieval of War Victim Bodies
The National Campaign for the Retrieval of Palestinian
& Arab War Victims’ Bodies and the Disclosure
of the Fate of Those Missing
Similar to its prior annual achievements, the Campaign has achieved many qualitative achievements in 2014. Most notably, a decision was obtained from the Israeli High Court obligating the Israeli army command to relinquish the remains of 38 victims to their families for burial (following the completion of DNA tests in determining identities). However, the remains of only 30 victims have since been retrieved due to delays and procrastination on the part of the army command.
The Legal Unit also demanded the competent Israeli authorities to initiate all necessary procedures for the establishment of a “DNA” bank to store test results of victims’ families and facilitate the DNA matching process. In turn, the retrieval processes will likewise be facilitated. Moreover, a DNA bank will contribute to admonishing the Israeli army command’s claims of not process particular victims’ remains. In parallel with the efforts made by the Legal Unit, the Campaign’s leadership labored in obtaining authorizations from families of victims’ in facilitating and expediting their legal representation by JLAC.
Furthermore, in accordance with the “Freedom of Information Act”, JLAC’s Legal Unit directed a series of legal correspondence requesting to obtain reliable data from the competent authorities at the Israeli Ministry of Defense on the number of victims’ remains being withheld in the Israeli military cemeteries (a.k.a. cemeteries of numbers), as well as a listening of the victims’ names and vicinities they are being held at.
In response to these legal correspondences, the Israeli army command stated that only 119 victims’ remains were kept at the designated military cemeteries. In contrast, information documented by the Campaign confirmed that the number of such victims amounted to 262, in addition to another 65 missing persons. However, as stated in its response to the legal correspondence, the army command justified this variance claiming that some corpses had been buried by a private burial service (EIS) and no documentation is available on the specific cemeteries where remains were buried. Based on this variance in the number of victims’ remains as provided by the army command, JLAC will approach the Israeli Supreme Court in 2015 with the following specific demands:
- The Israeli government to establish a DNA bank.
- Immediate procedures to be initiated for the relinquishing of the 119 victims’ remains acknowledged by the military command to be present within its administered cemeteries.
- Identification of the burial locations of the remaining victims’ remains claimed to be unaccounted for by the military command, including the EIS’ burial locations.