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15.3.2010

At the request of the petitioning organizations, the HCJ has deleted a petition of ACRI, HaMoked and PHR-Israel concerning the restrictions Israel imposes on travel abroad by persons blacklisted by the ISA. Following the petition, a procedure for prior inquiry regarding preclusions to travel abroad was formulated, and the number of "ISA precluded" persons decreased significantly

In a judgment given on February 21, 2010, the justices instructed to delete the petition, while maintaining the petitioners’ right to turn to the court in future in individual cases relating to the procedure for advance inquiry regarding preclusions on travel abroad. The decision was reached following the organizations' request to delete the petition, having concluded that in this context, it would be difficult to debate the regulations of the procedure, and the problems arising from it in detail.

The petition, submitted on October 2006, addressed the numerous restrictions imposed on individuals blacklisted by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) who intend to travel abroad: They number thousands of Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories that have been labeled "security precluded" by unknown members of the security agencies, without due process or a clear factual foundation. A blacklisted resident of the Territories is likely to come across a wide-range of restrictions on his ability to travel within and out of the Occupied Territories. Alongside the demands on issues of principle concerning the "ISA precluded", which the court refused to hear, the petition included a demand that the military enable those who wish to travel abroad to inquire whether they are under a security preclusion, prior to their arrival at the Allenby Bridge border crossing. In the absence of such procedure, residents of the Territories discover they are barred from traveling abroad only upon arrival at the border crossing, which causes anguish and unnecessary expenses.
 
In compliance with the court's instruction, the military presented a new procedure for advance inquiry regarding security preclusions on travel abroad, and the manner of objecting thereto. The procedure, composed of two phases spanning up to three months, not only left the problem intact, it added to the applicants’ bureaucratic ordeal and exacerbated their situation. Previously, while a travel preclusion was discovered only upon arrival at Allenby Bridge, a person could send a written appeal, via legal representation, to contest the preclusion. In many instances (around 70% in the years 2003-2007) the end result was a swift retraction of the preclusion. The new procedure blocked this path, forcing all those wishing to contest the travel preclusion to arrive in person to the District Coordination Office [DCO], confront a tedious and cumbersome bureaucracy, and waste time, without the aid of attorneys or human rights organizations. The organizations, in response, demanded an interim order halting the procedure and restoring the possibility of appealing to the military legal advisor for the West Bank. The court rejected the demand, and focused the hearings on the provisions of the existing procedure.

Following the arguments put forth by the organizations during the proceedings, some amendments were introduced to the procedure, inter alia unifying the previously separate processes of inquiry and contention. A person arriving at the DCO to make a preclusion inquiry would now receive a reply then and there, and if need be, submit an immediate objection. The time allotted for the procedure was reduced to eight weeks. However, if the preclusion is revoked during the appeal phase, previously lasting six weeks, the applicant must wait for another two weeks (a total of eight weeks) for a decision. This is not the only difficulty the procedure poses. Another difficulty, among others, is the decision that persons still under preclusion, will be allowed to submit a second contention only after nine months had elapsed, whereas previously and for many years a second appeal was possible after a period of only six months. Additionally, the new procedure consolidates the restriction on appeals to the military legal advisor for the West Bank to urgent cases only or when doubt exists regarding the handling of a request.  

During the proceedings the state argued that reality had changed in light of the decreased numbers of persons precluded from travel. In a statement on its behalf to the court, it is stated, verbatim, that following the appeal there has been a drastic change in the number of residents who are barred from traveling abroad. The figure was provided in the supplementary affidavit of the ISA. The exact numbers were not disclosed to the organizations.
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