A panel of three Israeli Supreme Court justices rejected three petitions Sunday demanding that the Israeli army be barred from moving out the bodies of dead Palestinians from the Jenin refugee camp.
However, according to Sunday’s court ruling, the Israeli army must hand over to the Palestinians bodies of those killed in the northern West Bank refugee camp. This ruling stymies Israeli schemes to bury the bodies of Palestinians in unmarked mass graves.
Under the decision by the Israeli Supreme Court, Red Cross representatives would accompany Israeli military teams searching for bodies in the debris of the Jenin refugee camp.
If the local army commander agrees, representatives of the Palestinian Red Crescent also could participate, the decision said.
Mohamed Barakeh, one of the Arab Israeli lawmakers who petitioned the court, described the decision as "positive."
According to Haaretz, the High Court issued an interim order Friday blocking the removal of the bodies, after petitions were filed by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, LAW (The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment).
MKs Barakeh and Dr. Ahmed Tibi also filed similar petitions following Friday's report by Haaretz that the Israeli army plans to only hand over the bodies of civilians, while those identified as “terrorists,” or armed Palestinians, will be buried in a special cemetery in the Jordan Valley.
The petitioners claimed the army's decision violated international law as the Jordan Valley cemetery would, they claimed, be basically a mass grave, thus damaging the honor of the dead.
In light of the court's decision, issued by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, the Israeli army had stopped clearing the bodies from the camp Friday. Some of the bodies had already been removed from the camp Thursday and moved to a site near Jenin, but had not been buried. Others had been buried by Palestinians while the fighting still raged at the camp, in a mass grave near the hospital on the outskirts of the camp.
The exact number of Palestinian dead at the camp is still not known. The Palestinians claim as many as 500 people died. The Israeli army places the toll between 100 and 200. "The Israeli army's refusal to bring the dead to a speedy and respectful burial ... is an outrageous act, based on a revengeful attitude devoid of any human emotion, and without any defense justification," said Adalah Staff Attorney Jamil Dakwar.
As of Saturday afternoon, at least 23 bodies had been located in the camp, though not removed, with their current location marked on maps. Among the dead were the bodies of two women and a child.
Meanwhile, Justin Huggler from the British Independent, wrote Sunday “A terrible crime has been committed by Israel in Jenin refugee camp, and the world is turning a blind eye.” According the reporter, “the Israeli army sealed off the entire area around Jenin yesterday, arresting journalists who ventured into it. That is because they have something to hide in Jenin: the bodies.”
Huggler reported that “the wounded were left to die. The Israeli army refused to allow ambulances in to treat them, which is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. The Red Cross has publicly said people have died because Israel blocked the ambulances.”
“Slobodan Milosevic is on trial in the Hague for breaking the Geneva Conventions, while Ariel Sharon shakes Colin Powell's hand for the television cameras. The Geneva Conventions are in tatters in Israel,” added Huggler.
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )