Israeli occupation's policy of withholding Palestinian martyrs' bodies a violation of international law

| Occupation crimes

The Israeli occupation authorities have missed no opportunity to inflict harm upon the Palestinian people. This includes persistently refusing to release the bodies of Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation military forces. 

The detention of these bodies is part of a broader policy of collective punishment imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on the Palestinian people. 

Sheikh Bassam Hammad, a member of the Committee of the Families of Martyrs whose bodies are being held in Israeli occupation's infamous cemeteries of numbers, has called for decisive action to secure the release of these bodies.

Vowing to continue resisting the occupation until these bodies are returned for dignified burial, Hammad emphasised that addressing the issue of the detained martyrs' bodies should be a top priority for the Palestinian people. 

Dr. Omar Rahal, the director of the Human Rights and Democracy Media Center SHAMS confirmed that this measure "has transcended political and legal dimensions". 

Rahal asserted that the settler colonial occupation entity "is exerting additional pressure on the families of the martyrs as part of its collective punishment policy".

The Israeli occupation's policy of withholding the bodies of Palestinians violates international humanitarian laws and norms, particularly the United Nations Convention against Torture.

Currently, there are 390 Palestinian martyrs whose bodies remain in Israeli occupation's "cemeteries of numbers", including 14 detainees, with 132 of them being held since 2015.

The cemeteries are made up of mass graves marked with numbers rather than names, and some of the bodies have been there since the 1967 war.

This has long pained Palestinian families, who sometimes have to wait decades before receiving the remains of their loved ones.

In 2019, the Israeli occupation Supreme Court sanctioned the detention of Palestinian martyrs' bodies. The occupation employs this policy as a tactic for leverage in negotiations.

This practice is illegal under international law as the Geneva Conventions state that the parties of an armed conflict must bury the dead in an honourable way, “if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged and that their graves are respected, properly maintained, and marked in such a way that they can always be recognised”.