HaMoked to the Court: Instruct the military to allow a Palestinian woman to visit her husband who is incarcerated in an Israeli prison המוקד להגנת הפרט
HaMoked to the Court: Instruct the military to allow a Palestinian woman to visit her husband who is incarcerated in an Israeli prison
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The constitutional right to family life is one of the central, most important rights in Israeli and international law and it survives a person’s incarceration. Israeli jurisprudence and international law set forth that the right to family visits in incarceration facilities constitutes a fundamental right which stems from the perception of human beings as social creatures who live within a family and a community. The right to family visits is not just the right of the prisoner, it is also a recognized right of his family members whose contacts with him were severed as a result of the incarceration.

Between 2000 and 2003, Israel prevented all West Bank residents from visiting relatives jailed in Israeli prisons. It was only following a petition filed to the High Court of Justice by HaMoked that Israel began gradually allowing Palestinian prisoners to receive regular family visits, and this too, under severe restrictions. Visitors were required to obtain a military-issued permit to enter Israel for the purpose of prison visits. They had to travel to the prisons in shuttles organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), operated in coordination with the military and escorted by Israeli security forces. In October 2004, close to a year after the preliminary arrangements pertaining to prison visits were made, Israel pledged it would also allow West Bank Palestinians defined by the military as “precluded from entering Israel” to visit prisons in Israel by way of single-entry permits.

In December 2003, the military arrested a Palestinian who was later sentenced to nine life terms and thirty more years in prison to be served in an Israeli jail. Israel prevented his wife from visiting him for the first seven years of his prison term, based on objections from security officials. The wife had never been arrested or interrogated. In May 2010, she received her first single-entry permit to visit her husband. In the following two years, the military allowed the woman to visit her husband twice more, with the last visit taking place in September 2011. In early 2012, when HaMoked filed a new application on her behalf, the military again refused it “in light of the position of security officials”. No further, or pertinent, reason was given.

On July 31, 2012, HaMoked filed a petition with the District Court, requesting it to instruct the military to allow the woman to visit her husband. HaMoked argued that the military should consider alternatives to denying the visit altogether and asked whether the strict security arrangements during the ICRC shuttles and in the incarceration facility itself did not sufficiently neutralize any danger, if such existed, that might be posed by the meeting of the husband and wife. HaMoked added that violating a fundamental right, even if done for security reasons, is permissible only if proper consideration is given to the importance of the fundamental right that is being injured and only if the standards of reasonableness and proportionality are met.

In September 2012, following the petition, the army issued the wife a single-entry permit to visit her husband.
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