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CAIRO – 15 August 2017: In another grave violation of human rights, the Israeli occupation is stealing Palestinian martyrs’ organs and is carrying out medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners, according to a report published on Monday by the Palestine and Arab Occupied Territories Sector at the Arab League.
The Arab League strongly condemned all human rights crimes that have been committed for decades by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people, including all racist practices that violate international humanitarian law.
The Arab League said that Israel is continuously and deliberately violating the law by passing more than 120 racist laws against Palestinian prisoners.
The report submitted refers to crimes related to harvesting Palestinian martyrs’ organs, especially those of children. Since 2014, the occupied territories have witnessed a rise in shoot-to-kill incidents and in the arresting of Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces.
The report refers to two main crimes against the Palestinian people:
1. Harvesting martyrs’ organs:
The report highlights that the Israeli occupation systematically holds the bodies of Palestinian martyrs as part of mass punitive measures. The report also refers to keeping Palestinian martyrs’ bodies in morgue refrigerators or in military cemeteries called “cemeteries of numbers”, in which the Israeli occupation buries the body of the martyr at a depth of less than 50 cm below the surface and gives each grave a number with no name. All relevant information is kept in a special file with the responsible security body.
The Israeli occupation authorities prevent access to human rights institutions and martyrs’ families to these cemeteries.
In April 2017, the Israeli occupation admitted losing the bodies of Palestinian martyrs buried in the cemeteries of numbers. According to Israeli news outlet Haaretz, “The Israeli authorities entrusted Israeli companies to bury the bodies of Palestinian martyrs in the 90s. However, the only thing that was found is their burial places,” adding that “the documents related to the issue were torn.”
The occupation authorities said that they found only two bodies, belonging to Diaa Al-Dumiati and Dergham Zakarneh, who were killed in 2002. They claimed that a private company was assigned to the burial and that the company has since then been shut down and that all documents related to the case were torn. This was the response provided by the Public Prosecution’s to the petition filed by families of Palestinian martyrs to the High Court to retrieve the bodies of their children, according to Haaretz.
Palestinians formed a national committee to follow up on the issue and to implement advocacy campaigns aiming to spotlight this grave violation of human rights.
The report also referred to findings from a Palestinian human rights report published on July 31, 2017, which stated that the Israeli occupation has been holding 249 Palestinian martyrs’ bodies since the 60s, of which 123 were held since the 90s. The report further stated that the occupation refuses to hand over the martyrs’ bodies to their families and refrains from giving them necessary death certificates. In addition, the occupation refuses to announce the names of the martyrs whose bodies it holds, the place at which they are being held, and the reason for holding the bodies.
These acts represent a clear violation of Article 17 of the First Geneva Convention of 1949, which states that “Parties to the conflict shall ensure that burial or cremation of the dead, carried out individually as far as circumstances permit, is preceded by a careful examination, if possible by a medical examination, of the bodies, with a view to confirming death, establishing identity and enabling a report to be made.
One half of the double identity disc, or the identity disc itself if it is a single disc, should remain on the body. They shall further ensure that the dead are honorably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged, that their graves are respected, grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased, properly maintained and marked so that they may always be found. For this purpose, they shall organize at the commencement of hostilities an Official Graves Registration Service, to allow subsequent exhumations and to ensure the identification of bodies, whatever the site of the graves, and the possible transportation to the home country.”
This is not the first time for Israel to be accused of stealing Palestinians’ organs and of organ trafficking. In October 2015, amid tensions escalating in the occupied territories, Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi posted on Facebook a photo of a boy with stitches across his torso, along with the message: "When Israelis arrest Palestinian CHILDREN, what is the purpose? To STEAL THEIR ORGANS. The same #Zionists doing this control the #media." Later, Tamimi was sponsored by Amnesty International to tour the United States to highlight Israeli violations against Palestinians.
Israel accused Tamimi of being anti-Semitic and described his post as both "outrageous and incendiary." The occupation also called on Amnesty International to condemn the Palestinian activist’s “hateful anti-Semitism” and to remove their endorsement.
Later, in November 2015, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Riyad Mansour sent a letter to then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in which he accused Israel of harvesting the organs of Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied territories.
“A medical examination conducted on bodies of Palestinians returned after they were killed by the occupying power found that they were missing organs,” Mansour wrote in the letter.
In August 2014, The New York Times conducted an analysis of major organ trafficking cases since 2000. The New York Times reported that Israelis have played a “disproportionate role” in organ trafficking and that transplant brokers in Israel have pocketed enormous sums of money.
Earlier in 2009, Sweden’s most highly circulated daily newspaper, Aftonbladet, published a report exposing some Israeli troops selling organs of Palestinians who died in their custody. Israel responded to these accusations by saying, “with the credibility of the story in tatters, one might have expected the outrageous accusations to have a limited shelf life or to disappear altogether. However, the Swedish blood libel is a textbook case study of how what starts as an article published in a language read by few from a country of limited international influence can turn into a poison that spreads much wider.”
Israel demanded that Sweden condemns the Aftonbladet article, calling it an anti-Semitic "blood libel". Stockholm refused, saying that to do so would violate freedom of speech in the country. The foreign minister then canceled a visit to Israel, just as Sweden was taking over the EU's rotating presidency.
The Arab world’s reaction to the report included the Palestinian prisoners affairs minister’s statement that legal action must be taken against Israel, a Palestinian columnist’s statement of Israel using Palestinians' organs because Jewish law forbids the removal of organs from the bodies of Jews, the Egyptian and Jordanian Doctors' Unions condemnation of Israel, and a Saudi daily newspaper’s article of how the Swedish government is worthy of praise and emulation.
Following the Swedish report, an interview with Israeli pathologist Yehuda Hiss, the former head of the Israeli Forensic Institute, in 2000 was circulated. In the interview with Israeli Channel 2, Hiss admitted harvesting organs from dead Palestinians, including skin, corneas, heart valves and bones, without the consent of their families.
Following Hiss’s interview, Ahmd Al-Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, requested to interrogate the Israeli health minister.
During August, Israeli occupation forces released the bodies of five Palestinian martyrs who had been killed by Israeli soldiers. The bodies were delivered to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society where the martyrs’ families came to receive their children’s bodies.
2. Violations against Palestinian prisoners:
These violations include carrying out medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners, including injecting them with toxins and drugs for tests. If the prisoner dies, they will be buried in the cemeteries of numbers. The report also refers to testimonies by an Israeli parliament member from the left-winged Meretz party, where she says that the Israeli Ministry of Health allowed medical experiments to be undertaken on Palestinian prisoners. She also said that Israeli doctors abused the Palestinian prisoners in inhumane ways.
The Arab League elaborated that the occupation authorities built 28 prisons, detention centers and investigation centers. It added that Israel also established secret prisons where all human rights and international laws are violated without any trace.
Furthermore, the report refers to an Israeli secret prison called Facility 1391. The prison is located inside an army intelligence base in northern Israel. The building was designed by a British engineer, Sir Charles Taggart, during the 30s as one of a series of garrison forts designed to contain growing unrest in Palestine. The report states that whoever is sent to this prison is made to disappear.
In 2003, The Guardian reported that Facility 1391 has held Lebanese fighters taken by the Israeli army as hostages. It also said that the prison is unlike any other Israeli prison and that the International Red Cross, lawyers and members of the Israeli parliament have been refused access.
One leftwing MP, Zahava Gal-On, describes Facility 1391 as "one of the signs of totalitarian regimes and of the third world." The Israeli government declines to discuss the secret prison other than to issue a standard response: "Facility 1391 is situated on a secret military base. The base is used by the security services for various classified activities and thus its location is kept confidential."
According to The Guardian, Ami Ayalon, the former head of Israel's intelligence service, the Shin Bet, said, "I knew there was a facility not under the responsibility of the Shin Bet, but under the responsibility of the military. I didn't think then, and I don't think today, that such an institution should exist in a democracy."
The Guardian also reported that prisoners in this secret prison faced physical and psychological torture, including rape. Israel claimed that it has stopped using the Facility 1391 and that only a few prisoners are still detained there. The occupation authorities refuse to give any information about the remaining prisoners there.