The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has sent a letter to the IDF Military Advocate- General (MAG) protesting the “closed military zone” orders that the IDF personally served to activists this week in their homes.

According to a Tuesday night press release from ACRI, the orders suppress Palestinians’ and Israelis’ right to protest, and violate their fundamental freedom of expression.

The press release said that on Sunday, police officers from the Judea and Samaria District had delivered the orders, which were signed by the GOC Central Command and which declared the villages of Bil’in, Ni’lin, Nabi Salih and Kafr Kaddum closed military zones on Fridays until March 2013 – thereby prohibiting anyone aside from residents from entering or approaching them during those times.

All of the listed villages are sites where weekly demonstrations have taken place – and been violently dispersed by security forces – regularly on Fridays for the past several years.

The letter urged MAG Maj.- Gen. Danny Efroni to cancel the orders. It also called on him to clarify the scope and basis of regulations and procedures of closed military zone orders, since such orders could have the effect of suppressing nonviolent protests in the West Bank.

The letter contends that the disproportionate use of these orders contravenes the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – to which Israel is a party – as well as decisions of the Supreme Court, and the military’s own internal guidelines.

Under each of these sources of law, ACRI said Israel was obligated to balance the needs of security and preservation of public order against freedom of expression, and argued that these orders violated that balance.

In response, the IDF released a statement that the protests in question regularly led to violations of public order and violence.

The statement said the closed security zone orders were designed to preserve public order and security in the West Bank. It noted that the orders only applied to specific times during the week – namely part of the day Friday – and did not limit the right to protest at all times.

According to the army, the decision to serve the orders personally to some of the “regular leaders” of the protests was meant as a step to put them on clearer notice that their actions were leading to illegal situations.

The army emphasized that the orders applied to the entire public and were not putting any special prohibition on the persons to whom they were being served.

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