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Military in response to Freedom of Information Application: Number of seizure orders for Palestinian property soars between 2011 and 2013

Under Regulations 84 and 120 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations - 1945, the military commander may seize property, including funds, belonging to OPT residents, in cases where said property is suspected to belong to an “unauthorized organization” or to be used for criminal activity or activity directed against security. Until recently, seizures pursuant to the Defense (Emergency) Regulations could be appealed to military courts, provided that no more than three months had passed since the owner of the property learned of the seizure. However, on December 25, 2013, the military commander issued a new order, expressly stating that decisions to seize the property of OPT residents could not be appealed to the military court and “are followed by nothing”. The order was applied retroactively to any seizure conducted since the occupation of the OPT began in 1967.

At the time of the new order’s publication, two appeals submitted by HaMoked were still pending before the military court. The appeals were filed on behalf of Palestinians from whom funds were seized as they were crossing the Allenby Bridge border from Jordan to the West Bank. Given the retroactive application of the order, the military court asked the parties to provide it with their positions on its material jurisdiction to hear the cases. Before the positions were heard, an HCJ petition challenging the order was submitted. The petition addressed the issue of the military court’s material jurisdiction. Given this development, HaMoked petitioned the High Court to repeal the new order. The hearing in the two appeals regarding the seizure of funds was postponed pending the resolution of the HCJ cases.

HaMoked also filed a freedom of information application asking the military to provide figures on the seizure of OPT residents’ property, including how many seizure orders were issued by the military commander pursuant to the Defense (Emergency) Regulations between 2011 and 2013.

The response arrived on August 20, 2014. The figures were troubling. According to the military’s response, from 2012 to 2013, the number of seizure had more than quadrupled. While the military commander issued a single seizure order in 2011, he issued 25 in 2012, and in 2013, the military commander singed no fewer than 116 seizure orders under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations. As stated, the new order has no provision for appealing the seizure, other than a High Court petition, and pulls the rug from under appeals pending before the military courts, though filed prior to the new order.

The state, for its part, is not in the least concerned. Following the petitions against the new order, it announced that it was carrying out “staff work” on this issue, and has since asked for extensions on its response to the court, as staff work “has not yet been concluded”. Under the most recent extension granted to the state, its response to the petitions is due by October 30, 2014. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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