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
2012 brought many significant achievements for the “National Campaign for the Retrieval of Arab & Palestinian War Victims’ Bodies and the Disclosure of the Fate of those missing”. The year witnessed the release of 91 bodies in May, amounting the total number of bodies released to 93 bodies (equivalent to 26.5% of the total number of documented cases). This achievement had been made possible due to the Campaign’s
perseverance and continuity, as well as the political and diplomatic efforts made by the Palestinian leadership, whom capitalized on the timing and favorable circumstances created by the Campaign (through political, diplomatic and media efforts made on regional and international levels).
In parallel, JLAC’s legal department submitted petitions for the release of another 4 bodies, while continuing vigorous efforts to uncover the truth behind the fate of Anis Doleh’s remains. Dowleh, a Palestinian detainee held by Israeli occupation forces between 1968-1980, died in Ashkelon prison due to deliberate medical negligence. His body is believed to have been dissected later on at the Israeli Institute of Forensic Medicine in Jerusalem (Abu Kabir) by medical students. Israeli authorities have denied any knowledge in regards to Doleh’s fate after that point. JLAC’s legal department is likewise following-up its initial petition before the Israeli High Court demanding that the Israel government establish a DNA bank in order to facilitate the DNA testing of family members towards the identification and eventual release of their loved ones’ remains. The Center aims, through this petition, to prevent the reoccurrence of the tragic situation resulting during the release of the remains of 91 victims in May of 2012, during which 9 other unidentified victims’ remains were included. Such occurred despite the Campaign’s leadership having refused an Israeli offer to release 70 unidentified persons’ remains, in order to avoid the transfer of the remains from the Israeli cemetery of numbers to a Palestinian cemetery of numbers. This became the fate of the 9 unidentified bodies however, with the leadership of the Campaign and the concerned parties in the Palestinian National Authority temporarily housing the remains in a cemetery in Ramallah until favorable conditions allow for their identification and return to their families.
139 new cases were documented, bringing the total documented cases of withheld bodies and persons missing to 442 (including 64 missing persons), broken down into classification as follows;
• The majority of victims, approximately 261 persons or 68.9%, are youth between the ages of 18-25, with 6.8% under the age of eighteen, 18.7% between the ages of 26-35, and 6.4 % above the age of 35.
• The majority of the victims, approximately 63.7%, are from the time period of the second uprising Intifada, 1995-2006, 62 (or 16.4%) are from the period between 1972- 1994, and 77 (or 20.4%) of the victims are from the time period between 1967-1971.
• Preparations are underway to publish the second edition of the Campaign book entitled: “We Have Names & We Have a Homeland”, which represents the first Palestinian document addressing the file of the dead and missing whose bodies are withheld in Israeli custody. This edition is scheduled to be published by June of 2013.
• The emergence of concrete outputs towards Arabizing and globalizing the cause, as reflected in activities undertaken by the Palestinian ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, in cooperation and coordination with the leadership of the Campaign. Additionally, political and diplomatic interventions were undertaken by a number of international unions, political and parliamentary organizations, whom took it upon themselves to pressure Israel to immediately release withheld remains and to disclose the fate of the missing.
• Local campaign committees strengthened their membership and organized well-executed popular and media events and activities. Such was positively reflected in the overall performance of the National Campaign, with regular and periodic meetings held and successes achieved in the Campaign’s work.
The achievements in the Campaign thus far, have pushed those involved (forces, institutions and cadres) to make even greater efforts towards closing this tragic file, and bringing this ugly violation of the human dignity of the dead and collective punishment of their families to an end. Such will be achieved, through: 1) Ensuring a united Palestinian national position, in the face of the attempts made by the government of Israel to close this file by returning victims in an unidentified manner (i.e. by name, dates, and locations of death), to not replace the Israeli cemeteries of numbers with Palestinian ones and, in turn, continuing to violate the sanctity of the dead. 2) Considering the cause of withheld victims’ remains a matter of national priority like the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. This would mean demanding the release of withheld bodies in conjunction with the demand of freeing prisoners. 3) Reviving and activating the resolutions of the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States and the decisions of the relevant ministerial councils, (i.e. decision Council of Arab Ministers of Justice as stated during a legal symposium held on May 19, 2011) particularly those related to presenting the cause before judicial, legal and human rights forums and demanding holding Israeli officials accountable for these crimes, which amount to war crimes. 4) Following-up on established relations with international organizations and UN agencies, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross, towards intensifying their efforts to demand the immediate release of the Palestinian and Arab war victims’ remains (in an identifiable manner, i.e. by their real names and the dates and places of death). Until such is achieved, the following matters are of urgent concern;
• Identification of the amount and names of victim remains held, as well as the locations
• Visitation by victims’ families of gravesites and practice of religious rites and traditions,
under the organization and supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
• Follow-up of JLAC’s legal efforts to establish a DNA bank, in order to take DNA samples from victims’ families towards identifying victims’ identities and returning remains to their families.
• Continuing legal and diplomatic efforts to free more victims’ remains, especially those
withheld for many years and whose first-degree relatives now suffer from life threatening conditions.