african migrants in tel aviv black 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Human rights groups and refugee organizations sharply criticized the Justice
Minister on Monday for signing a new regulation stipulating that litigants
cannot file civil court documents without providing an Israeli ID or a foreign
The Justice Minister, Yaakov Neeman officially signed
the regulation last week. It will come into force on September 1, and rights
groups say it will mostly affect Palestinians, refugees and migrants who are
stateless and do not hold any passport.
Attorney Sari Bashi, executive
director of Gisha, a human rights group that advocates freedom of movement for
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, slammed the regulation as
“The regulation raises concerns that the people who need
access to the courts the most are prevented from seeking judicial address,”
Bashi told The Jerusalem Post
on Monday. “This is very worrying for the Israeli
The regulation will affect tens of thousands of
Palestinians who do not have a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority or a
foreign passport, Bashi said.
Michael Alexander of the African Refugee
Development Center in Tel Aviv, said that the new regulation was
“The directive will remove the last channel of recourse to
justice for thousands of asylum seekers who are the weakest, most vulnerable
population in Israel today,” Alexander said.
“Israel cannot remain a
signatory to the International Refugee Convention while violating basic rights
of the Convention, such as the right to a fair court hearing. The right
to appeal to a court of justice is is a universal human right, not a privilege
for citizens only,” he added.
Alexander said that African migrants are
increasingly victims of hate crimes, and needed to have access to the
“Refugees are terrorized by the ‘deportation police’ who remove
people from their homes in the middle of the night, are cheated by employers who
exploit their vulnerable situation, and more,” he told the Post
. “Their last
chance to get a fair hearing against these violations are the Israeli courts –
now they are taking this away from us.”
The new regulation will only
apply to civil suits, including family law cases. It will not apply to suits
filed in the High Court of Justice, administrative affairs courts or labor
courts, meaning that Palestinians and refugees will still be able to file
proceedings in those courts.
Attorney Oded Feller from the Association
for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who wrote to Neeman on the issue, said that
the right to file legal proceedings was a basic right in the Israeli legal
system, and that this right is also anchored on the UN Convention on the Status
of Refugees and the Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons.
on Monday, the Justice Ministry sent a formal response to Feller, which said
that the amendments were purely technical in nature, and ensured that litigants
in possession of an Israeli ID number or foreign passport specified those
details on court documents so that court registrars could be certain that they
were dealing with the correct individuals.
“The regulation does not alter
therefore the current legal situation regarding the basic right to access the
courts,” wrote Dr. Peretz Segal, head of the Justice Ministry’s Legal
In response, Gisha’s Bashi said the regulation did
not appear to be a mere technicality, because under the current system the
courts still ask civil litigants to supply an ID number.
“What is new is
the determination that without an ID number – you can’t file court papers – and
that if you are Palestinian, you must get a passport in order to submit court
papers, rather than use your Israeli-issued ID number,” Bashi said.