NGOs to state: Allowing lawsuits against us is ‘grave threat’ to the public

OMETZ and more than 30 NGOs send A-G letter of protest over a civil lawsuit against the environmental group Adam Teva V’Din.

November 5, 2013 03:40
1 minute read.
Timna Valley’s Sasgon Valley

Timna Valley’s Sasgon Valley 390. (photo credit: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel)

OMETZ and over 30 nongovernmental organizations on Monday sent a letter of protest to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein over a civil lawsuit against the environmental group Adam Teva V’Din for holding up a hotel development project in the Sasgon Valley near Timna.

According to OMETZ, the Movement for Quality of Government in Israel, the Southern District-Attorney’s Office filed a third party complaint against Adam Teva V’Din-Israel Union for Environmental Defense and another NGO for their participation in litigation that held up the project.

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The NGO asked Weinstein to order the state to withdraw from the case.

OMETZ said that it was important for NGOs to feel safe defending the general public and average citizens’ rights from potential illegal actions and trampling on their rights. For example, the NGOs need to be able to support public environmental rights, without having to worry about facing civil damages claims later.

The NGO criticized the original plaintiff, developer, Yoav Igra, for suing Adam Teva V’Din on “frivolous grounds,” but said it was even more disturbed that the state had gotten involved, essentially on Igra’s side.

The place of a third-party plaintiff in a case can be complex, but in this case, OMETZ said that the state’s involvement would aid Igra and direct greater pressure on the NGO, discouraging it from defending of the public’s environmental rights.

The cases against Adam Teva V’Din arose from objections that the NGO made against building hotels in the Sasgon Valley, causing the project delays that Igra has indicated were not reasonable, by suing.

OMETZ called the lawsuit and the state’s involvement a “grave threat to the basic right of average citizens and organizations to turn to the courts on issues connected to the public good” and called on Weinstein to order the state to withdraw from the case.

An Association for Civil Rights in Israel report called “The Silencer,” published in February, alleges a phenomenon in which strategic lawsuits are used against public participation (“SLAPP suits”) and activism on local and national issues.

The report said the phenomenon has been growing steadily over the past decade, and OMETZ said the case against Adam Teva V’Din is part of that worrying phenomenon.

The Justice Ministry acknowledged receipt of the letter and said that the arguments raised by the NGOs were being reviewed.

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