Dec. 6, 2019
Hamas’ Use of Israeli Civilians and Remains of IDF Soldiers as Bargaining Chips Is a Clear Violation of Humanitarian Law – Amb. Alan Baker
For the last five years, the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, have been illegally held by Hamas, together with two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. Contrary to internationally accepted humanitarian norms, the repatriation of the soldiers’ remains, as well as the return of the civilians to their families in Israel, has been placed on the bargaining table.
All parties engaged in any aspect of settling a dispute are equally obligated to accept, comply with and implement the basic humanitarian obligations to unconditionally recover missing soldiers and civilians.
The obligation to handle human remains with dignity and to return them to their families is a basic, humanitarian, customary international norm and obligation that applies to all, in all circumstances. This obligation cannot and should not be used as a bargaining chip, and their repatriation cannot be conditioned on any prisoner-exchange deal.
On June 11, 2019, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2474, calling upon parties to armed conflict to take all appropriate measures to actively search for persons reported missing, to enable the return of their remains and to account for persons reported missing. The resolution reaffirms the “importance of allowing families to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives, consistent with applicable international humanitarian law, which is of crucial humanitarian importance.”
The use of missing soldiers and civilians as bargaining chips is a clear violation of accepted and obligatory norms of humanitarian law. It should not be conditioned or linked to negotiating issues with Hamas. All other issues may be negotiated and inter-linked, but not the return of our missing soldiers and civilians.
The writer, former legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Israeli ambassador to Canada, is director of the international law program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)