Adalah to Defense Minister: Rescind Order Declaring Ansar Al-Sajeen (The Prisoners’ Friends Association) an Illegal Organization
On 13 November 2006, Adalah submitted a pre-petition to the Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, demanding the cancellation of his order declaring Ansar Al-Sajeen (The Prisoners’ Friends Association) to be an illegal organization. Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker filed the pre-petition on behalf of Ansar Al-Sajeen.
Ansar Al-Sajeen is a non-governmental organization (NGO) legally registered in Israel. Since 1980, it has been acting on behalf of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons and detention centers. Among its goals, the organization seeks to improve the conditions of confinement of prisoners and detainees, provide them with legal representation in the military courts and in the Israeli civil judicial system, initiate and organize public activities calling for the release of political prisoners as part of peace negotiations, and assist and support prisoners’ families in maintaining contact with their loved ones in prison. The organization operated from offices in Israel and the West Bank.
On the night of 8 September 2006, Israeli security forces raided the organization’s offices in the Galilee village of Majd Al-Krum and confiscated property, including all of its computers, files, documents and furniture. The General Secretary of Ansar Al-Sajeen, Mr. Munir Mansour, was given an eviction notice from the premises. The notice included a declaration that the Defense Minister, pursuant to his authority under Regulation 84 (1) (b) of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations - 1945, had decided to declare the organization illegal on the grounds that such a measure “is necessary in order to protect state security, public welfare, and the public order.”
In the pre-petition, Adalah argued that the Defense Minister’s order is illegal as it violates the rights of Ansar Al-Sajeen’s members and of prisoners. The Defense Minister’s arbitrary use of Emergency Regulations from the era of the British Mandate grossly violates the members’ rights to freedom of speech and association, employment, assembly and property. It also violates the rights of Palestinian prisoners to proper legal representation and to maintain contact with their families. The use of the Emergency Regulations to close down the organization without providing it with the opportunity to be heard makes this action all the more severe.
In addition, Attorney Baker argued in the pre-petition that the Defense Minister’s use of the Emergency Regulations to close down an organization legally registered in Israel raises many questions and is a cause for concern, as a clear mechanism exists in the Israeli Law of Associations - 1980 for the cessation of an NGO’s activities. According to this law, the cessation of an organization’s activities is a judicial action that can only take place after the organization has had a proper opportunity to defend itself. Instead of following this proper, legal course of action, however, Defense Minister Peretz chose to employ a Mandate-era regulation that allows for the sweeping denial of rights by means of an administrative action. Such an action completely ignores the widespread public criticism voiced in opposition to the use of Emergency Regulations and which calls for their cancellation.
To date, Adalah has not received a response to the pre-petition from the Defense Minister.