In an address to the United Nations, former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler called for the return of the remains of two Israeli soldiers who were killed in action during Israel’s 2014 conflict with Hamas.
Speaking at a special session of the UN Security Council on international humanitarian law on Dec. 22, Cotler said that Hadar Goldin, 23, and Oron Shaul, 20, were slain by Hamas on Aug. 1, 2014, in violation of a UN-mandated humanitarian ceasefire brokered hours before. The terrorist group took their bodies and has refused repeated demands from Israel and their families for their return.
Cotler deplored Hamas’ “abiding disrespect and denunciation of the UN itself, its values, institutions and norms,” as well as of international humanitarian law, which stipulates that the bodies of soldiers killed in action must be returned to their next of kin.
Ten countries – the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Senegal, Uruguay and Canada – all expressed their solidarity with Cotler’s plea.
After leaving politics in 2015, Cotler founded and heads the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
The session was co-hosted by the United States and Ukraine.
“We are pleased by the significant number of delegations from around the world at the meeting, who highlighted that the refusal to repatriate the remains of murdered soldiers is an egregious violation of the most fundamental principles of human rights and human dignity that underpin humanitarian law,” said Cotler.
“The next step is for this group to work with the secretary general and international organizations to secure the return of the remains, lest the international community itself indulge a culture of impunity, in defiance of UN norms.”
Hadar Goldin’s mother, Leah Goldin, who joined Cotler at the UN, said, “I am extremely grateful that this world body and these world leaders gave us their time to listen to my appeal. We believe the UN can compel Hamas to return my son and Oron Shaul’s remains to their home for a proper burial.”
Hadar Goldin was a humanitarian and artist, and “an inspiration to all who knew him,” she said.
The family claims that Hamas has been using the remains as a bargaining chip with Israel and is “taunting and tormenting” them.