Today, 12 December 2006, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision invalidating amended article 5c of the Civil Wrongs (Liability of the State) Law that releases the State of Israel from all liability for compensation for any damages caused to Palestinians by Israeli Occupation Forces in areas designated as “conflict zones” in theOccupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
The decision came in response to a petition submitted in September 2005 by nine human rights organizations in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: Adalah; HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Al-Haq; the Palestinian Center for Human Rights; B’Tselem; Physicians for Human Rights - Israel; the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; and Rabbis for Human Rights. However, the Supreme Court also decided not to strike down another provision (5b) of the law, which provides that Israel does not have to pay compensation for damages caused in military operations since September 2000, for “a citizen of an Enemy State” and “an activist or member of a Terrorist Organization.” The Court claimed that the petitioners did not bring enough factual material before the Court concerning the applicability of this provision.
The petitioners challenged the amendments to the Civil Wrongs Law, which deny residents of the 1967 OPT since 29 September 2000 and other outstanding cases before Israeli courts. The law violates rights disproportionately - the rights to life, dignity, and property of Palestinians in the OPT - and is therefore unconstitutional. The petitioners further emphasized that the law grossly violates the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, which apply in the OPT. The petitioners further argued that the Law sends out a dangerous and extreme message that the lives and rights of those injured in the OPT have no value, as the courts will not come to their aid, and those who caused their injuries will face no punishment.
PCHR stresses that the amendments to the Civil Wrongs Law, which were passed by the Israeli Knesset at the end of July 2005, deny residents of the 1967 OPT, citizens of “Enemy States” and activists or members of a “Terrorist Organization” the right to compensation for damages caused to them by IOF, even those damages caused to them outside of the context of a military operation. The amended law grants the Israeli Minister of Defense the authority to proclaim any area outside of the State of Israel a “Conflict Zone,” even if no war-related activity has taken place there.
PCHR draws the attention to the court ruling concerning the amended Civil Wrongs Law bring Palestinians back to the situation that preceded the approval of the amendments, which included legal and procedural hindrances that obstructed access of hundreds of Palestinians to justice in Israeli courts. Palestinians did not have access to Israeli courts in dozens of cases for various reasons, including the limited prescription period and the high court fees.
This recent Israeli Supreme Court has come as an outcome of coordinated efforts made by local and international human rights organizations, including PCHR, to prosecute Israeli war criminals before international courts, which have been recently intensified.
PCHR will follow up developments to check possible access to justice for Palestinian victims, through pursuing cases of Palestinians who sustained damages caused by IOF as a result of the excessive use of force or during Israeli military activities conducted during military operations.
PCHR recalls the Israeli Supreme Court ruling on 6 September 1999, which prevented Israeli interrogators from using physical pressure against Palestinian detainees, emphasizing that despite this ruling torture of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has not stopped. PCHR asserts that there is strong evidence that Israeli interrogators have continued to use methods of torture prohibited by the Court ruling.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. PCHR is a recipient of the 1996 French Republic Award for Human Rights.