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Following High Court petitions: Palestinians whose property had been confiscated by the military will have the right to appeal to a special committee set up for this purpose

On December 25, 2013, the military commander issued an order stating Palestinian residents of the OPT whose property had been confiscated by the military would not be able to appeal to a military tribunal. To make matters worse, the order was applied retroactively to all property confiscations carried out in the OPT since they were occupied by Israel in 1967.

On March 9, 2014, HaMoked filed a High Court petition against the order, which constitutes a severe violation of Palestinians’ right to property and their right to access to justice. HaMoked demanded that Palestinians whose property had been confiscated by the military would be given the option of appealing the confiscation to a military court that is located in the West Bank and accessible to the local population. Currently, the only option available to Palestinians whose property had been confiscated is to go to the High Court of Justice which is both physically and financially mostly inaccessible to Palestinian residents of the OPT.

On January 6, 2016, the High Court of Justice held a special hearing in HaMoked’s petition, in conjunction with petitions filed on this issue by NGOs Nadi Alaseer and Yesh Din. Following this hearing, the court ordered the state to establish a tribunal to review appeals against confiscation of Palestinian property.

On May 17, 2016, in keeping with the court’s decision, the state filed notice that a professional committee would be established to review appeals by Palestinians whose property had been confiscated by the military and recommend whether it should be returned to the owners or kept by the authorities. The state also said the committee would be made up of three members holding the rank of major or higher: one from the Intelligence Corps, one from the Military Advocate General’s Corps and one from the Civil Administration. The state requested a four-month stay to update the court on how the committee would function.

In response to the request made by the state, the petitioners clarified they would consent to the stay only on condition that the state ensure the committee is an independent forum composed of military judges who would receive statutory powers to review property confiscation and that the committee review requests made by Palestinians whose property had been confiscated prior to its establishment.

On May 9, 2017, the state submitted a notice containing an order for the establishment of a non-judicial committee for “reviewing seizure of goods” and regulations governing its operations. According to these regulations, a Palestinian whose property had been confiscated by the military may file a written appeal against the confiscation within 30 days of the date of seizure, and may subsequently appear before the committee in person. The regulations stipulate that the committee will give its recommendations, arrived at by majority opinion, to the military commander, and where it recommends the restitution of the property and determines that the confiscation is unjustified, such recommendation would be binding on the military commander, “barring exceptional cases”. It is worth noting that the regulations stipulate committee discussions would remain confidential, unless otherwise ordered by the committee chair. Finally, contrary to HaMoked’s demand, the committee cannot review confiscations conducted prior to its establishment unless appeals had already been filed.

In a judgment handed down on May 10, 2017, the justices commented that the composition of the committee should be specified in the order itself and that it should be headed by a representative of the Military Judge Advocate’s Corps. The court further noted: “The commander of the Area would, presumably, accept what the committee says, except for very rare cases”. In view of the fact that the committee had been established, the court dismissed the petition without prejudice and ordered the state to pay ILS 10,000 in costs. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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