High Court: State must defend African migrant law
Law to Prevent Infiltration allows state to detain migrants without trial for minimum of three years; UN intervenes in case.
High Court of Justice Photo: yonah jeremy bob
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday issued a conditional order against the
state regarding the Law to Prevent Infiltration, demanding that it respond to
the claim that the law violates the fundamental rights of African
The law authorizes the administrative detention of migrants
without a trial for a term of three years. An amendment on the issue of African
migrants was passed by Knesset in January 2012, and put into implementation on
The order did not temporarily freeze the law’s implementation, as
is sometimes done, but both the order and criticism from the court put the state
on the defensive. Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis presided over the
hearing, along with Justices Edna Arbel and Miriam Naor.
that led to the order were filed by six migrants’ rights organizations,
including the Association of Civil Rights for Israel (ACRI) on their own behalf
and on behalf of five Eritrean asylum seekers, including a child, being held
indefinitely in detention camps.
In an unusual development, the UN, which
has repeatedly been publicly critical of the law, filed a amicus brief on the
According to ACRI, most of the people being held under the law
are citizens of Sudan and Eritrea, countries to which “the Israeli government
itself recognizes that it cannot deport people because of their expected fate
upon their return.” The petition argued that Israeli and international law
prohibit the detention of migrants in cases where they cannot be
The petitioners also claimed that the law violates the Basic
Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which would require the High Court to strike
down the law. They also claimed that around 2,000 migrants are being held in
what are essentially prison conditions and that only 20 have been released
despite their imprisonment being against Israel’s international law
The petitioners noted that a 1954 High Court precedent
demanded that any person who is being temporarily detained in order to deport
them must be released to house arrest or some other severe alternative rather
than allowing their detention to go on for an extended period.
responded that the law still had not been significantly implemented, making the
entire petition premature, and added that those migrants whose requests to be
freed from detention had been fully processed and, when justified, had already
been released. It claimed that, before resorting to a High Court petition, the
correct path to deal with the issue was the appeals process to the government
The court, however, rebuked the argument about the premature
nature of the order.
The order gave the state until April 30 to state its
full response to the constitutional objections to the law.
The court said
that the final hearing would be before a broader panel, which would also decide
whether to hear the submission filed by the UN.