Terror Victims Can Appeal on Body Transfers to PA
Almagor: Previous policy tantamount to adopting Palestinian view that terrorists were legitimate fighters.
The Jerusalem Post
In a hearing before the High Court of Justice on Wednesday, the state agreed that the Defense Ministry would be an official address for appeals by victims of terror to block the handover of terrorists’ bodies to the Palestinian Authority.
The state’s agreement to give the victims an official address was accepted by the Almagor Terror Victims Association as a compromise resolution of its petition it.
Almagor had filed a petition asking that the state be obligated to give terrorism victims 48 hours notice prior to transferring terrorists’ bodies to the PA.
The general basis of the petition was that a 1990s law obligated the state to give 48 hours notice to victims before transferring certain living terrorists to the PA.
The idea is that objectors should have enough time to both publicly and legally try to oppose the transfer.
According to Almagor’s attorney, in a number of cases the notice allowed Almagor to make its case strong enough to change the government’s mind on certain prisoner transfers.
Almagor said that the sensitivity and anguish to terror victims’ families of transferring terrorists’ bodies was equal, and so the law of giving notice should be the same.
The victims’ rights group attacked the state for distinguishing between live and dead terrorists in its sensitivity toward victims’ feelings by saying that live terrorists were a bigger issue because they could still present a danger.
Almagor argued that the chief problem with the transfers in question was that it gave the PA and other Palestinian groups opportunities to celebrate the return of “martyrs” and their terrorist acts.
It said that this phenomenon is just as big or bigger with celebrating the return of terrorists’ bodies, as with transferring live terrorists.
It slammed the state for wanting to treat terrorists’ bodies “with respect,” saying this was giving in to the terrorists and their tactics by equating terrorists with legitimate fighters.
Almagor said that it understood that in military conflicts both sides customarily give honors and respect to bodies of an enemy, but that terrorists who intentionally attack civilians on buses and in malls, and disregard the rules of war, should not be given the same honors.
“For these people, there can be no respect,” Almagor’s attorney said.
He also added that when the state says it honors the bodies of terrorists despite “their crimes against humanity,” it “disgraces the victims and [the state’s] civilians.”
Almagor noted that “the US threw bin Laden away” in the sea.
Pressed by the court that these decisions are national security decisions better left to the executive branch and which courts should stay out of, Almagor responded that it believed its argument was “not just a moral one,” but also had “legal standing.”
Almagor said that if the court ordered the state to give notice to victims to allow opposition to transferring the terrorists’ bodies, it would be giving legal voice to a law prohibiting identifying with terrorist acts.
In Almagor’s interpretation, transferring terrorists’ bodies which the state know will lead to their being praised and celebrated effectively makes the state a party to identifying or advancing identification with terrorist acts, in violation of the law.
The state said it agreed that some terrorists had committed crimes against humanity, but that was not the relevant legal question in dispute.
It noted that terrorist bodies which remain in Israel’s hands get buried, and no one is appealing against this practice.
The state said that it continues to try to negotiate with the PA to receive guarantees that returned bodies will not be the subject of celebration, but has never obtained an agreement.
It also argued that Almagor misinterpreted the law giving 48 hours notice to terror victims regarding the return of live terrorists to the PA.
Rather, the state attorney said that there is no right to veto the transfer, only a right to register protest to the transfer.
Ultimately, the state agreed to a compromise: It would not give advance notice of transferring terrorists’ bodies, but it agreed that terror victims could appeal on the issue to the Defense Ministry at any time.
Almagor head Meir Indor said that the courts’ failure to compel the state to give notice showed “the bankruptcy of the courts.”
He also expressed dismay that the state was accepting “terrorists’ argument that they have a political agenda,” and the idea that courts cannot intervene as they can in dealing with lesser criminals.