Israeli government commits before Supreme Court to release withheld Palestinian bodies in the near future

Adalah and Addameer: Positive announcement comes despite Israel’s repeated stalling and evasion of obligations to date.

On 5 May 2016, representatives of the Israeli government announced Israel’s intention to release the dead bodies of Palestinians that it has been withholding “within a short space of time”. The announcement came during an Israeli Supreme Court hearing held on petitions submitted by Adalah and Addameer to demand that Israel immediately release the bodies of dead Palestinians from East Jerusalem that have been detained, often for months, by the Israeli police. Adalah Attorneys Suhad Bishara and Nadeem Shehadeh and Addameer Attorney Muhammad Mahmoud represent the bereaved families.


During the hearing and following the human rights organizations’ request, the state attorneys and the judges noted that the approach of the holy month of Ramadan would be taken into consideration and stated that attempts would be made to release the bodies beforehand.


The bodies have not yet been released to the families, despite previous agreements signed by the state and the families. The Supreme Court urged the state to release the bodies to the families with whom it has agreements, however, it did not impose a timetable for releasing the bodies on the state. 


Commenting on the commitment made by the state, the petitioners described it as, “a positive announcement that we hope will be put into effect within the shortest possible timeframe. At the same time, however, our experience thus far has shown that Israel has repeatedly stalled and evaded its obligations and responsibilities. Therefore, the legal team will closely follow the steps taken by the Israeli authorities over the coming days and weeks, and the option of reverting to the court remains open to us.”


In their petition, Adalah and Addameer argued that the detention of the bodies was a purely political move with no basis in law, and involved a blatant violation of the constitutional rights of the deceased and their families. “All human beings have the right to a prompt, decent, and dignified burial as an integral part of the right to human dignity, which also applies after death.” The petitioners stressed that, “No law authorizes the police to hold bodies in circumstances such as these. It is no coincidence that the police made no mention in their response to the court of any legislation empowering them to detain the bodies.”


Case citation: HCJ 2882/16, Ewisat v. The Israel Police et al.