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27.11.2014

HaMoked heads group of human rights organizations in HCJ petition: Instruct the state to cease the illegal practice of punitive house demolitions in the OPT, including East Jerusalem.

Israel has demolished homes as part of its punitive policy in the OPT since 1967. Relying for this purpose on Regulation 119 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations, which allows a very broad scope of action, the military imposes this extreme and irreversible punishment through an administrative process, without trial and without any sort of legal proceeding.

The security establishment maintains that punitive house demolitions are meant to harm relatives of individuals suspected of offenses against national security as a means of deterring other potential attackers. However, in 2005, a military committee determined that the policy was missing its mark, achieving the opposite of deterrence. The Minister of Defense consequently declared Regulation 119 would no longer be used, and with the exception of two cases of sealing and demolition, Israel has refrained from using house demolitions as a punitive measure against attackers until 2014.

In June 2014, the Government of Israel announced its intention to employ several sanctions, including house demolitions, against the Palestinian population of the West Bank, in response to the abduction of three Israeli youths. The apartment of a suspect in a shooting attack was selected for the revival of the wrongful policy. At the same time, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the military was preparing for the demolition of dozens more homes in the West Bank.

Following these reports, on July 8, 2014, HaMoked wrote to the Minister of Defense, the Attorney General and the West Bank Military Commander, asserting that the punitive house demolition policy must not be resumed.

On August 19, 2014, some 24 hours after the military demolished the homes of the three suspects in the abduction of the youths, HaMoked received the response of the State Attorney’s Office, stating that “The security establishment is well aware of the ramifications of the exercise of the power granted under Regulation 119 to demolish the homes of terrorists, and therefore said power is exercised very prudently”. The State Attorney’s Office emphasized that the two attacks that prompted the decision to exercise the power were “extremely severe”, adding that “any additional cases will be examined according to their specific circumstances”.

Given this response, on November 27, 2014, HaMoked headed a group of human rights organizations in a High Court petition demanding a complete ban on the use of the power to demolish residential homes under Regulation 119, including in cases defined by the security establishment as “extremely severe”.

In the petition, HaMoked argued that the legal arguments made against the use of Regulation 119 must be revisited as they had not been considered on their merits since the 1980’s, when the first judgments on house demolitions were issued. HaMoked added that over the years there have been significant developments in international law, including international criminal law, but the Supreme Court of Israel has not addressed these developments in its expansive jurisprudence on house demolitions and should do so now.

The petition is backed by a legal expert opinion authored by some of Israel’s top jurists working in the field of international, constitutional and military law. The expert opinion includes the assertion that the punitive house demolition policy constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law, the international laws of occupation and international human rights law, and that it contradicts the fundamental tenet in Israeli law whereby people cannot be punished for actions other than their own. The opinion stresses that the house demolition policy could amount to a war crime in certain circumstances and that it may put all those involved in its implementation at risk.

HaMoked believes that a situation in which the judiciary and the relevant academic community are so divided on such a pivotal, fundamental legal issue, at the very least calls for renewed deliberations on the issues of principle.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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