Israeli authorities refused to release the body of a Palestinian man shot by police at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, in violation of international humanitarian law, as a new probe into his case found that he posed no threat to security forces when he was killed and was offered no medical aid.
The family of Ahmed Erekat, 27, nephew of the late Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, urged the international community to help secure the release of his remains, held in Israel for the last eight months, so they could give him a proper burial.
Erekat’s father Mustafa told The Independent the family was being collectively punished as eight months on they are unable to bury and properly mourn him.
“I cannot describe the feeling. No human being can imagine what it is like not to be able to bury a loved one unless they have been through it themselves,” Mustafa said, speaking from his home in Abu Dis in the West Bank.
“The Israeli minister [in charge]says he won’t give us back Ahmed’s body. I call on the UK to intervene, I just want to bury my son. I do not want anything else,” he added.
Erekat was killed by Israeli forces on 23 June after he crashed his car into an Israeli checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, lightly injuring an Israeli soldier.
Security camera footage released by the Israelis at the time showed his car approaching the “container” checkpoint and swerving to the right, hitting the group.
The family maintains he was helping with preparations for his sister’s wedding that was due to take place later that day and lost control of the car.
An Israeli investigation into the incident found that it was a “pre-planned and deliberate ramming attack against Israeli police forces”.
But rights groups say the killing was likely unlawful as Erekat no longer appeared to pose an imminent threat to life at the moment he was shot.
Now a new investigation by Forensic Architecture, a research group based at Goldsmiths, University of London, has raised further questions about the authorities’ version of events.
Based on video analysis and 3D modelling, the investigators say that Erekat did not accelerate towards the police but showed signs of braking before impact. They found that he emerged from his car and was walking backwards with his hands in the air when he was shot six times, and did not receive medical care despite showing signs of being alive in footage taken from the scene.
The final part of the report concludes that after the shooting, his body lay naked on the ground surrounded by Israeli police and military personnel, which its authors say could amount to deliberate mistreatment of a body, again in violation of international humanitarian law.
The Israeli authorities have vehemently denied the accusations and maintain the incident was a deliberate attack on the checkpoint.
The Israeli embassy in London said in a statement that Erekat was examined at the scene of the incident by medics a few minutes following the attack and was found to have no pulse or breathing, therefore no resuscitation procedures were performed on the spot.
“During the entire incident there was no degrading treatment or infringement of the dignity of the deceased,” the statement read.
The embassy would not comment on the fact that Israel continues to withhold his body, as there is an on-going Supreme Court case in the matter.
Erekat’s body is among dozens of bodies of Palestinians, killed in alleged security incidents that Israel has refused to give back to their families. Israeli rights group B’Tselem told The Independent they know of 71 corpses currently being held, eight of them bodies of minors. (Source: The Independent)