The HCJ continues its recent hard line and rejects a petition by HaMoked and other human rights organizations to allow relatives of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit their loved ones who are incarcerated in Israel: In a short judgment, the court rules, inter alia, that the families’ right to visit their loved ones is not a basic humanitarian right and therefore, Israel is exempt from any obligation to the families
In the petition filed with the court by HaMoked
some 18 months ago, the petitioners, human rights organizations, requested the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to order the state to renew family visits to prisoners from the Gaza Strip who are incarcerated in prisons inside Israel. At the time the petition was submitted, Israel had been preventing family visits from Gaza for over a year on the claim that there were no officials on the other side with whom passage could be coordinated. This, despite the fact that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had always been the body coordinating visits with Israel.
The petitioners claimed, inter alia
, that preventing the visits was nothing more than collective punishment of the families and constituted a violation of the prisoners’ and their relatives’ right to family life. The organizations urged the court to order the immediate reinstatement of the visits, in the accepted framework of the ICRC shuttles. In its response to the petition
, the state claimed that it must be rejected out of hand due to the clearly political nature of the issue at hand. The state also claimed that the Government of Israel holds discretion on this issue as Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are “residents of a hostile entity” and Israel is under no obligation to permit the families’ entry into its territory. In a short judgment
dated December 9, 2009, the HCJ rejected HaMoked’s petition. Despite the fact that the case concerned relatives and children who had not seen their loved ones for over two and a half years, the court dryly rejected the petition finding that this was not a basic humanitarian need which Israel is obliged to protect. According to the court, since the implementation of the disengagement plan, the Gaza Strip is no longer under military occupation and therefore Israel is no longer obligated to care for the population of the Gaza Strip beyond care for its basic humanitarian needs. In addition, the court rejected the petitioners’ claims regarding excessive infringement on the prisoners’ rights. The court ruled that despite the fact that the refusal to allow family visits means infringement on the prisoners’ rights, indeed, it is an indirect infringement as the focal point of the debate was the prisoners’ relatives. As stated, the injury caused them was found to be legitimate.
The conclusion of this disturbing judgment attests to the arbitrary nature of the HCJ’s judgments. In a different judgment, from the very same day, which was handed down in a petition by Palestinian residents of Israel, former inmates, who sought to visit their incarcerated siblings but were denied by the Israel Prison Service (IPS), the HCJ rejected the petition using a reasoning which is the exact opposite of the one used in this case: while in the first judgment, the HCJ ruled that despite the fact that the the prisoner is the victim, the focal point of the debate are the visitors; in the other judgment, the court ruled that the former inmates, as visitors, are the ones injured by the prohibition imposed by the IPS, but the focal point of the debate is the prisoner and not the visitors and therefore the prisoner must himself submit a petition on the matter. To view the judgment regarding denial of family visits from Gaza dated December 9, 2009
To view the petition dated June 12, 2008
To view the judgment regarding visits by former inmates dated December 9, 2009