HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice in a number of cases in which the army failed to handle the requests of Palestinian children aged 5-16 to enter the West Bank from abroad so they can register in the Palestinian registry of residents.
According to the law applying in the Occupied Territories (the Interim Agreement and the military orders applying it to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), the Palestinian Authority is empowered to register every child born to a Palestinian father or mother who is registered in the registry, without requiring Israel’s prior approval, provided that the child has not yet attained sixteen years of age.
The State recognizes this power of the Palestinian Authority, but requires that the children be physically present in the West Bank at the time of registration. This condition, which has no legal basis, has not in the past prevented the registration of children who spent their childhood outside the West Bank. These children would enter the West Bank by virtue of a visitor's permit and register in the registry.
Since the outbreak of the present Intifada, Israel has indiscriminately prevented all “foreigners” from entering the West Bank, including Palestinian children who live abroad and have not yet been recorded in the registry (except for children under five years old, who do not require a visitor’s permit). As a result, many children, such as the petitioners in these cases, find themselves in a situation in which the years pass without them being able to be recorded in the registry.
HaMoked filed its petitions with the High Court of Justice after warning the State for many months that the children were approaching sixteen, and that, according to present law, they would not be permitted to register in the population registry afterwards. Despite these warnings, and although the solution to the problem – granting visitor’s permits to the children – is simple, the army procrastinated in responding to the requests. This peculiar handling of the matter raises the concern that demographics is the cause. It appears that the army is using delaying tactics in the hope that the months will pass by and the children will turn sixteen. Preventing the registration of the petitioners and other children in these families has far-reaching significance for the parents, for it is clear that it would be very hard for them to return to the West Bank without their children. The military’s refusal is comparable to wrongful deportation and breaches international law.
The petitions emphasize the breach of the right to nationality of these Palestinian children, who are not able to register in the population registry. Nationality is an essential key to gain a feeling of identity and belonging, as well as to receive substantial and fundamental rights, such as the right to vote. Also, the refusal ignores the principle of the best interest of the child, a principle that applies in every administrative decision affecting children.
Following the filing of the petitions, the petitioner children were given visitor’s permits for the West Bank. HaMoked is continuing its efforts to achieve an overall solution to the problem, realizing that a solution in individual cases, in which a permit is obtained only by persons who receive legal assistance, creates an intolerable situation of inequality.