AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9 FEBRUARY 2005
Al-Haq is gravely concerned by Israels lack of effective action regarding settler violence against the Palestinian civilian population in the old city of Hebron. In September 2003, Al-Haq submitted a petition on behalf of 12 individuals arguing that Israeli law enforcement and military authorities permit acts of violence against the Palestinian residents to continue unhindered, despite Israeli obligations under international law to protect the Palestinian civilian population under its control. Submitted against the Israeli Prime Minister and the Ministers of Internal Security and Defence, the petition also highlights the Israeli authorities consistent failure to initiate thorough, impartial and effective official investigations into allegations of illegal conduct by Israeli settlers. Palestinians in the old city have been subjected to such actions as attacks on their person, acts of vandalism and destruction of their private property.
Under international law, Israeli authorities must respect the principles of proper public administration and law enforcement regulations such as reasonableness, non-discrimination, fairness, and effective action. Nevertheless, these requirements are rarely upheld. Although the Israeli High Court of Justice called on 12 October 2004 for two Palestinian petitioners, Amneh al-Bakri and Shahinaz Yousef al-Sharabati, to be returned within 45 days to their homes in the old city from which they were driven by settler violence over a year ago, Israeli security forces have yet to implement this decision. More recently, the Legal Advisor of the Israeli Army sent a letter to the State Prosecutor on 13 January 2005 stating that al-Bakri must coordinate with the Israeli occupying forces every time she wishes to leave or come home - a decision that is neither just nor practicable.
In addition to ordering the return of two petitioners to their homes, on 12 October the High Court gave the respondents 60 days to complete their investigations into the incidents complained of by the ten remaining petitioners. To date, only one of these cases is under consideration, and another one was transferred from the Hebron police to the West Bank police headquarters. The remaining case files have been closed on the grounds that the perpetrators have allegedly not been found, and that some petitioners have not filed official complaints with the Israeli police.
The closure of eight of the twelve case files confirms a systematic failure on behalf of Israeli authorities to conduct genuine investigations into allegations by Palestinians regarding illegal conduct of Israeli settlers, and to take effective action to protect Palestinians. This perpetuates a culture of impunity in which settlers can violate Palestinian rights guaranteed under international law without fear of legal action. Prior to the High Courts decision to close the case files, the petitioners complaints were not answered with an effective investigation or any official action for over a year.
In mid-January 2005, in response to the High Court inquiry whether the petitioners wanted to submit an appeal, the petitioners‘ legal counsel rejected all of the findings and requested that a special hearing be held. Furthermore, counsel stated that the al-Sharabati family has not been contacted to return to their home, and that it is unrealistic to expect al-Bakri to coordinate with the Israeli military authorities every time they wish to leave or come back to their homes.
As the Occupying Power, Israel is bound by international humanitarian law to provide Palestinian civilians with both legal protection and due process before the law. Similarly, Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obliges state parties to ensure any persons whose rights are violated an effective remedy determined by a competent state authority. Al-Haq calls on the Israeli authorities to uphold their obligations under this provision to "enforce such remedies when granted" for these Hebron families. It is the Occupying Power‘s international legal obligation to provide protection for civilians, including from violations by settlers whose presence in the occupied territory is itself prohibited under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Al-Haq demands that Israeli authorities implement the High Court‘s decision fairly and without unnecessary delay, in order to ensure the Palestinian civilian population and their property the protection that is their right under international law.
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