HaMoked filed suit for damages on behalf of two owners of flocks from the village of Budrus: The suit was filed following the seizure of the plaintiffs’ flocks, which were subsequently taken into Israel, slaughtered, and sold. The defendants – representatives of official authorities – trampled on the law, made a false representation to the court and misled it, and violated the rules of administrative law המוקד להגנת הפרט
07.06.2007
HaMoked filed suit for damages on behalf of two owners of flocks from the village of Budrus: The suit was filed following the seizure of the plaintiffs’ flocks, which were subsequently taken into Israel, slaughtered, and sold. The defendants – representatives of official authorities – trampled on the law, made a false representation to the court and misled it, and violated the rules of administrative law
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On the morning of 3 November 2002, a minor and a youth from the village of Budrus went to graze their families’ flocks close to their homes at the edge of the village. Shortly after, Israeli vehicles appeared in the area. The young shepherds fled, and the goats scattered in all directions. An official from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Flora and Fauna Inspection Unit, assisted by personnel from the Nature and Parks Authority and the Border Police, seized the shepherds and their flocks. Although no boundaries are marked in the area, they accused the shepherds of entering an area where grazing is prohibited. The shepherds were handcuffed and taken to Modi’in police station; only the older youth was questioned. They were later released, given a telephone number, and told that their fathers (the owners of the flocks) should contact the interrogator. The youths were not asked to give their parents any information regarding their legal rights. The inspectors captured the flocks and led them on foot into Israeli territory. They were held in a building and later taken to an abattoir in Israel. 

The next day, 4 November 2002, the goats were slaughtered. On the same day the defendants came to the Jerusalem magistrate’s court and applied for an order to confiscate the proceeds from the sale of the meat. The court (which, prima facie, did not hold a due hearing on the matter), authorized the order “as requested.” Only on 5 November 2002, when nothing remained of the flocks, were their owners summonsed for interrogation under warning. Replying to the interrogator’s questions regarding the health of the flocks, they noted that all the goats had been inoculated by the Palestinian Authority, and identified by a slit on the ear, as is customary in the region. When the owners asked for their flocks to be returned, the interrogator replied that a veterinary surgeon would inspect the goats and, if they were found to be healthy, they would be returned. He gave this reply in full knowledge that all the goats had been slaughtered and their meat sold. 

The defendants’ failings and manipulations are apparent throughout this incident. The documents they completed by hand testify to their improper actions, and are marred by negligence, deviation from authority, action without authority, and violation of the principles of natural justice and the rules of administrative law:

ŸNegligence and unreasonable actions: The documentation prepared by the defendants relating to all the actions involved in the seizure of the flocks reflects, prima facie, the negligence on the part of those who prepared the documents. The date and the number of animals in the flocks vary from one document to the next; documents that have nothing to do with the flock owners were included in the interrogation file as “evidence” that they had already been caught and interrogated in the past; the interrogees were made to sign a testimony written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand, and so forth.

ŸDeviation from authority: In accordance with Section 26(A) of the Prevention of Spread of Diseases in Animals Ordinance, and in accordance with the administrative guidelines issued by the Field Veterinary Services Administration, one of the defendants in this suit, the inspector who seized the flocks should have sent them back to their point of origin. The reason for this is that the danger inherent in moving the flocks by foot through the military base and inside Israel, and then on to the abattoir for slaughter is greater than the danger inherent in their original incursion into Israel by a few hundred meters. Moreover, a condition for bringing livestock into Israel is a judicial order for that purpose. The defendants should have notified the court that the flocks had entered Israel as promptly as possible, and certainly prior to their slaughter; they failed to do so. The fact that livestock enter Israel, or even enter a firing zone, does not empower the government veterinary surgeon to exterminate the livestock. A blanket policy of exterminating livestock merely because they originate in the Palestinian Authority is contrary to the Ordinance and lacks authority. 

Violation of the rules of administrative fairness and the obligation of good faith: in the application for the confiscation of the proceeds from the sale of the meat, the defendants made a factual and legal presentation to the court that was untrue, distorted, and misleading, leading the court to issue a judicial decision that is inconsonant with Israeli custom law. The defendants recorded as “facts” in the statement of application details that are incompatible with the details recorded in the documents on the day the flocks were seized. The identity of the flock owners was concealed from the court and they did not appear as respondents in the application. The two flocks were presented as one single flock. Even when the defendants referred the court to the relevant sections in the ordinance, they did so in a disorderly manner. They deliberately referred to certain parts of the ordinance, while ignoring and concealing from the court parts that emphasize their own improper behavior. This misled the court regarding the authority of the sitting judge and prevented vital judicial review of their defective behavior. 

ŸPrima facie, the court itself also acted in a manner inconsonant with its authority. From what appears to be the transcript of the hearing, it seems, prima facie, that the judge failed to clarify the identity of the owners and issued an order for the confiscation of the proceeds from the sale of the meat in the presence of the applicants alone. In so doing, she deviated from the explicit prohibition in the ordinance against confiscating livestock otherwise than in the presence of their owners, insofar as their identity is known and they may be located.    

Some three weeks after the flocks were seized, notifications of fines in the sum of NIS 48,000 were sent to each of the owners. The owners appealed against the fine through HaMoked. The committee that discussed the appeal against the fine heard the plaintiffs’ complaints relating to the seizure and slaughter of the livestock for the first time and, unsurprisingly, nullified the fines. 

On 3 May 2007, HaMoked filed a suit for damages on behalf of the flock owners against the State of Israel and three employees of the Ministry of Agriculture involved in seizing and destroying the livestock on account of these events. The defendants are asked to compensate the flock owners in the total sum of NIS 293,523 – NIS 193,523 on account of substantive damage, NIS 50,000 for mental anguish, and the same amount for the violation of obligations under administrative law. In view of the grave systemic failure and serious moral failing committed by the authorities of state, as claimed by the plaintiffs, they are further asking the court to impose punitive compensation on the defendants in such amount as the court shall see fit at its discretion.

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