Arab League deems Israel retaining the bodies of 'martyrs' a racial crime

Ahmed Eleiba , Thursday 19 May 2011

Experts gathered at the Arab League to discuss the legal dimensions of Israel retaining the dead bodies of those its army kills

A seminar was held Thursday in the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on the legal dimensions of Israel retaining the bodies of Arab and Palestinian martyrs and on the fate of missing persons. Palestinian Minister of Justice Ali Khashan took part in the seminar along with Ambassador Mohamed Sabeeh, assistant secretary general for Palestine affairs.

Participants underlined the importance of exerting pressure on Israel to meet its obligations regarding the bodies of martyrs, including facilitating dignified burials in accordance with international humanitarian law, including the FIrst Additional Protocol of the Geneva Conventions which mentions the recovery of the dead and their humane treatment, a protocol Israel has not signed.

Khashan talked in detail about the national campaign on the return the remains of martyrs, reviewing Palestinian efforts on the subject since 2008, while Sabeeh called for an international conference on the legal aspects of dead and missing persons in situations of conflict.

Sabeeh also called for the forming of national committees to follow up on the subject, saying he would meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Arabi to discuss the issue.

Khashan said that a committee already following the subject was able to document 317 cases of the retention of the dead bodies of persons killed by the Israeli occupation forces, adding that the issue is not a solely political and legal, but relates to human dignity and must be addressed internationally.

Sabeeh described Israeli practice as a racial crime, and that there exists evidence that Israel intentionally tampers with the bodies, including organ theft. The ambassador called for delegations from regional and international human rights organisations and institutions to visit the occupied Palestinian territories and work towards knowing the fate of scores of missing persons.

For his part, the legal consultant to the secretary general of the Arab League, Mohamed bin Khadraa, voiced his appreciation for the Palestinian justice minister as well as a number of civil institutions in their efforts on the issue, which he considers a war crime and crime against humanity.  

Bin Khadraa said that not only did Israel kill people unjustly, but it prevents their kin from burying them according to their religion and in respect of human dignity, calling Israel to immediately stop its practices in this regard.  

Included in the seminar was a series of lectures about the legal implications of retaining dead bodies in a situation of conflict, how to legally pursue Israel on the matter, and what the role of the Arab League and other organisations can be.

The seminar ended with the screening of a documentary on the subject in the presence of a large number of legal experts.

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