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26.5.2010

HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual together with 15 other Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, filed a joint petition to the HCJ: Israel must immediately stop the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip based on their incorrect registration in a Gaza Strip address.

Thousands of Palestinians currently face the imminent threat of expulsion from their homes. These are residents of the Occupied Territories who relocated many years ago from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, where they have established their homes and families, provided for their families and lived their lives. Some were born in the West Bank and spent their entire lives there, yet they are registered with a Gaza address due to their parents' original registration.

The interim agreement signed by Israel and the PLO (the Oslo Accord), stipulated that the Palestinian Authority shall administer the population registry of the Occupied Territories and retroactively notify the Israeli side in order to update its copy of the registry. It must be noted, that the Oslo Accord regards the "residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank" as one, in accordance to the basic principle set forth in the agreement, by which the Gaza Strip and the West bank form a single territorial unit. Since the Oslo Accord, Israel has held a copy of the registry which it must update to according to updates by the Palestinian Authority's. However, as of 2000, Israel has halted updating Palestinian addresses in its copy of the registry and instructed the military to rely only on the available (and non-updated) records. Initially, the Palestinian side continued updating the original registry it administrates, as stipulated in the Oslo Accord, notifying the Israeli side, and indicating the correct address in identification cards it issued – the Israeli side, however, laid the updates aside and intentionally maintained its copy of the registry  unchanged, "frozen".

In result, many people encountered various problems: being detained at military checkpoints because the addresses in identification cards do not match the records the soldiers possess; problems while attempting to leave for Jordan through the Allenby Bridge border crossing; the inability to obtain services from the regional District Coordination Office (that serves those registered in its region); obstacles in obtaining services from local authorities, etc. These difficulties, posed by Israel, led the Palestinian Authority to all but discontinue updating its original population registry.
At a certain point Israel exacerbated its policy targeting individuals whose address remained unaltered in the copy of the registry, and suddenly they were labeled "illegal aliens" in their homes. Over the years HaMoked handled many such cases: residents of the West Bank who were suddenly expelled to the Gaza Strip, visitors to Gaza who were not allowed to return home to the West Bank, prisoners and detainees from the West Bank who were released directly to Gaza rather than to their homes in the West Bank due to wrong registration, and so forth. In most cases in which HaMoked appealed to the High Court of Justice (HCJ), Israel opted to allow the petitioners to return home, and thus the issue of principle was not reviewed by the court.

In a hearing in one of HaMoked's petitions, the court addressed, inter alia, issues of principle and opined that the Israeli policy was wrongful. The petition addressed the matter of four children born and raised in the West Bank, who were registered under a Gaza Strip address in the Israeli copy of the Palestinian population registry. The court dismissed the state's claim that it should receive a "detailed request" for the address change from Gaza to the West Bank, and stipulated that receipt of an update notice was sufficient, and that the state must update the petitioners' address from Gaza to the West Bank, in accordance with the notice. The HCJ severely criticized the state in another hearing, in a petition by a Palestinian against whom an expulsion order was issued on the claim that he is an illegal alien in the West Bank, as he is registered with a Gaza address. This despite the fact that he moved to the West bank via the "safe passage", and has been living there for some ten years. In its decision, the court ruled that in view of the complexity of the legal issue, and the free passage that existed between Gaza and the West Bank at the time of the petitioner's relocation, the state should reconsider the expulsion order, even if it is a measure designed to addresses a security issue. The court's critique spurred the state to alter its course of action in the case, revoke the expulsion order and place the man in administrative detention.
In the petition of May 25, 2010, the human rights organizations demand to compel Israel to update its copy of the Palestinian population registry, since its refusal to so do constitutes a violation of the interim agreement and of the military order that embedded it within military legislation and other legislation related to the population registry. 
The organizations further demand Israel halt the forcible transfer of residents of the West Bank to the Gaza Strip based on their address in the Israeli copy of the registry, since it is not empowered to do so, either under international law or under military legislation. This practice constitutes a gross violation of a resident's right to choose his place of residence within his country, years after he established his home there, and it is contrary to both Israeli and International law.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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