HR groups slam gov't's 'intifada bill'

Bill would restrict number of Palestinians eligible for compensation for damages inflicted by IDF.

September 17, 2007 21:09
3 minute read.
pal stone throwers , nablus 298 ap

pal stone throwers , nab. (photo credit: AP)


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Three human rights organizations have blasted the government's proposal for a new bill aimed at drastically restricting the number of Palestinians eligible for compensation from the state for damages inflicted by IDF troops since the beginning of the second intifada. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Moked - Defense of the Individual sent a statement to the Justice Ministry on September 5 but only released it to the public on Sunday. Moked attorney Yossi Wolfson, who wrote the letter, charged that the Justice Ministry's memorandum for an amendment to the Civil Wrongs (Liability of the State) Law was a "revolting creation." The memorandum was released for distribution on September 2. Distribution of a memorandum marks the first formal step in the legislative process of any government bill. The government sends the memorandum to lawmakers and experts in the field and asks for their comments before finalizing the draft and submitting it to the Knesset for approval. According to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, the new proposal was drafted following a High Court of Justice ruling that rejected previous Knesset legislation that had the same intention as the current proposal. The previous legislation, also known as the "second intifada law," was passed by the Knesset on July 27, 2005. Soon afterward, nine human rights organizations petitioned against it, charging that it violated international law and local constitutional law. On December 12, 2006, the High Court, in a unanimous decision by a panel of nine justices, accepted the petition and nullified the law. Friedmann is now trying to resurrect it. "For what purpose is the state trying to override the High Court decision?" wrote Wolfson. "Is its aim to put the executive branch and the security forces beyond the law and free them from judicial review and responsibility for their acts? Or is it to create an oppositional approach to the courts, to provoke it and challenge its authority? The two aims go hand in hand. What they have in common is the denial of judicial review regarding human rights violations by the regime." Friedmann's proposal includes several amendments to the existing law, which is sometimes known as "the first intifada law" because of an amendment passed in 2002 aimed at preventing the courts from hearing new lawsuits against the state by Palestinians for damages sustained during the first intifada, from 1987 to 1993. The law passed in 2005 was aimed at preventing lawsuits for damages in the second intifada. So is Friedmann's new bill. The bill contains the following elements:

  • It changes the legal definition of "war operation" to include actions by soldiers that are committed in situations that do not involve threats to their life and limb.
  • It empowers the defense minister to declare any area in the West Bank, at any given time, an area in which war operations were conducted. If he does so, the burden of proof, instead of falling on the state, falls on the Palestinian who sues for damages.
  • It bars any Palestinian from the Gaza Strip from suing for damages as of September 12, 2005, the day disengagement went into effect and the last IDF troops left the area.
  • It restricts the hearing of all lawsuits by Palestinians to two courts of law, Beersheba and Jerusalem. Wolfson charged that these amendments were more draconian than those included in the previous law that was nullified by the High Court. For example, the definition of "war operation" in the current law distinguishes between damages caused by IDF troops in life-threatening situations and situations that are not life threatening. He also argued that the new bill includes provisions that were rejected by the court in the previous bill. The previous bill granted the defense minister the right to declare a "conflict zone." Palestinian civilians living in such a zone were prohibited from filing suit. According to the new bill, the defense minister is empowered to declare any given area an area where war operations occurred. Palestinians living in such an area may file suit, but the burden of proof is on them.

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