In a rare occurrence, the Jerusalem District Court awarded HaMoked legal costs in a petition to allow a mother to visit her son who is incarcerated in Israel: the military repeatedly breaks its commitment to the HCJ, to answer applications for prison visits within the prescribed time limit המוקד להגנת הפרט
20.02.2011
In a rare occurrence, the Jerusalem District Court awarded HaMoked legal costs in a petition to allow a mother to visit her son who is incarcerated in Israel: the military repeatedly breaks its commitment to the HCJ, to answer applications for prison visits within the prescribed time limit
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Since late 2003, following petitions to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) by HaMoked, Palestinians who live in the West Bank and are barred from entry into Israel on security grounds, are allowed to visit their relatives who are incarcerated in Israel. In February 2008, as part of its response in the Fataftah HCJ petition, the military announced an 8 to 10 weeks' processing period for applications by Palestinians who are barred from entering Israel and seek to visit their incarcerated relatives. However, reality is different: most applicants cannot exercise their right more than twice a year and most just once. In HaMoked's experience, less than five percent of all applications it has handled annually since the HCJ commitment were answered within the allotted time. Overall, two thirds are answered after more than 18 weeks.

In July 2010, HaMoked petitioned the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of a Bethlehem resident whose son was arrested in July 2009, and held in the Eshel prison in Beer-Sheva. The mother did not see her son for the entire year since his arrest. In September 2009, she applied for a permit to enter Israel in order to visit her son. The military replied that she was precluded from entering Israel (although she had never been arrested), and therefore her application was sent for consideration under the procedure for individuals who are precluded from entry. The application remained unanswered for many months. Needless to elaborate on the mother's desperation, as she eagerly waited –in vain - for the delayed permits. She therefore appealed to HaMoked, which then applied on her behalf to the Civil Administration. As it also received no reply, HaMoked was obliged to petition the court. Two months later, the military notified that the petitioner's request was approved. HaMoked deleted the petition and filed a motion for costs. 

The District Attorney's Office opposed the motion, arguing that delays complained about in the petition are not the general rule and constitute a small fraction when compared to the number of applications approved by the military on schedule and by procedure. HaMoked argues that the military justifies its problematic processing of prison visit applications by using the pretext that such applications are filed in large quantities.

Concurrently with the above petition, HaMoked filed a similar petition to allow a visit to the same prisoner by his father. Following the petition, the military informed that the visit was approved. While in the father's case, the court dismissed the motion for costs, in the mother's case the court ordered the military to pay the legal costs, on the grounds that, indeed, it was the petition which brought about, after months of waiting, the delivery of the sought relief and that the military declarations regarding its exertions to improve the handling of applications were an inadequate response to the difficulty of the individual , who had to resort to the court to have his application processed.
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