The International Human Rights Clinic, part of the Clinical Legal Education Center at the Law Faculty of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on behalf of The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, urgently calls upon the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in Geneva to issue an immediate demand to the Hamas for the disclosure and clarification of the fate and whereabouts of every individual they are holding or has gone missing.
The State of Israel is currently engaged in a challenging and intense battle against the Hamas, a ruthless terrorist organization comparable to ISIS, responsible for heinous crimes against thousands of innocent citizens that include women, children, and elderly citizens. The Hostages and Missing Families Forum calls upon the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in Geneva to issue an urgent appeal to Hamas and other relevant organizations in Gaza. This appeal should demand that they reveal and clarify the fate and whereabouts of every person taken by them or held by them. The majority of these victims are Israeli citizens, and their families are desperately seeking information about their fate and whereabouts.
On October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a devastating attack on southern and central Israel, which resulted in the intentional killing and injury of thousands of Israeli civilians. This act of aggression has led to the confirmed deaths of 1,200 Israeli victims, with at least 2,400 others wounded. Alongside these tragic events, an estimated 150 individuals, including women, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities, were forcibly removed and abducted by armed militants to Gaza. These individuals now find themselves in a perilous situation, placed outside the protection of the law, and their families are desperately seeking answers.
Hamas Leader Salah Al-Arouri and Abu Obeida, spokesperson of the Al-Qassam Brigades, have confirmed the capture and detention of a significant number of enemy elements, explicitly noting that these abductees are being held as hostages. Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhala also acknowledged the abduction of at least 30 individuals.
Hamas currently exercises de facto control over Gaza, a territory recognised by UN organs and specialised agencies as part of Palestine, a non-member observer state in the UN. Therefore, Hamas is accountable for the provision of information about, and communication with, individuals held within Gaza, including those forcibly disappeared.
Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority, as a non-member observer state, carries international responsibility for human rights violations occurring within its territory. This responsibility extends to the obligation to suppress the crimes and human rights abuses committed by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza.
The enforced or involuntary disappearance of individuals, followed by a refusal to disclose their fate or whereabouts, clearly falls within the definition of enforced disappearance, a serious human rights abuse well within the Working Group’s mandate.
The lives of the abducted individuals are in imminent danger, as they face the risk of torture, violence, and being handed over to other organizations. The ongoing armed hostilities in Gaza only add to the peril. Time is of the essence, and the urgency and gravity of the situation cannot be overstated.
Dr. Shiran Reichenberg, Executive Director of the Clinical Legal Education Center Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, emphasises the urgency of the situation and the need to act promptly. “We cannot stand by as a significant number of children, women, and the elderly are held against their will in Gaza. We will continue our work to obtain information about their condition and location as required by international law, with the aim of their immediate release and quick return to their families.”
The Hostages and Missing Families Forum calls on the Working Group to take swift and decisive action to assist the families of the abductees and to address this critical human rights issue.
For further information, contact:
Dr. Shiran Reichenberg, Adv., Executive Director, Clinical Legal Education Center, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, +972-53-8806142, firstname.lastname@example.org
Adv. Michal Goren, Clinical Director, International Human Rights Clinic, Clinical Legal Education Center, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, +972-50-4667684, email@example.com
The Hostage and Missing Families Forum swiftly emerged within 24 hours following the horrific event on October 7th, where thousands of innocent civilians were ruthlessly murdered and taken captive by Hamas. This dedicated volunteer-driven forum has a singular mission: reuniting the hostages with their families. The forum provides comprehensive support to affected families, combining both emotional and professional assistance to aid them in their unwavering quest to bring their loved ones back home. With a formidable presence comprising thousands of volunteers and supporters, the forum comprises not only friends and family members but also prominent figures from the realms of security, law, media, and diplomacy.