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The HCJ's decisions over the planned punitive demolitions of four homes in East Jerusalem and in the general petition against this punitive policy: the general petition was rejected; three of the homes may be demolished and the state must justify again the planned demolition of the fourth home

On November 26, 2014 HaMoked filed two urgent petitions with the High Court of Justice (HCJ) against the intended punitive demolitions of the homes of the families of the suspected shooter of right wing activist Yehuda Glick and of the assailant who executed the vehicle attack in the Shimon HaTzadik Jerusalem Light Rail station.

On November 27, 2014 HaMoked petitioned against the intended punitive demolitions of the family homes of the two assailants in the fatal attack at the Har Nof synagogue. HaMoked reasserted that punitive house demolition – or sealing – was nothing but an improper and prohibited collective punishment, contrary to international law and the basic principle of Israeli jurisprudence, whereby a person should not be punished for the deeds of others. The individuals who suffer the most from this cruel policy are the occupants of the demolished houses, rather than the alleged perpetrators, who, in most cases, have already been either incarcerated or killed.

At the same time, HaMoked, heading a group of human rights organizations, filed a general petition against Israel's use of punitive demolitions.

In its responses to the individual petitions, the state argued that house demolition was necessary for deterrence of potential assailants. The state also claimed that as the court had already rejected HaMoked's arguments in the past, that house demolition constituted collective punishment and was in critical violation of the rights of the innocent, there was no cause or justification for the court's reconsideration.

In the evening of December 31, 2014, the HCJ published its decision in the general petition, as it announced earlier that day. At the same time, the court also issued – without prior notice to the petitioners and counsel – its judgments in the individual petitions. The court denied the petition in the matter of the vehicle-attack assailant and approved the planned demolition of his family's home. The court noted that the attack was extremely severe and so there was no reason to intervene in the demolition of the house – inhabited by innocent and unsuspected family members. The court added regarding the concern HaMoked raised in the petition, that the state should minimize the anticipated damage to adjacent apartments and use for this purpose the engineer opinion submitted by HaMoked.

With respect to the Yehuda Glick shooting, the court stated that the case was less severe. The court noted that the fact that Glick survived and his medical condition was improving was important in determining the legality of the demolition. In this case, the court also gave weight to the fact that it had not been argued that family members had been involved in the attack or had prior knowledge. Hence, the court issued an order nisi directing the state to justify why it would not refrain from this demolition. The court hinted that a partial sealing of the house would be more proportionate. The court also recalled that the state eventually intended to partly demolish and partly seal the apartment, but not due to the case's lesser severity, rather in view of the possible damage to adjacent apartments should the apartment be wholly demolished.

The court also denied the petitions in the case of the assailants in the Har Nof synagogue attack and held that their actions were very severe and that as had been ruled in similar previous cases, there was nothing to preclude the demolitions of their homes. The court added that the general arguments against punitive demolition were already considered in the general petition also denied that same day.

It should also be noted that the judgments in the specific petitions neglected to address HaMoked's request to delay the demolitions by at least 48 hours, to allow the families to remove their belongings from their homes. After a few hours of telephone negotiations with the Home Front Command, the military agreed to a 24 hour extension, during which the military would not demolish the homes, to enable the families to save their belongings. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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