HaMoked to the HCJ: demolition orders for homes in refugee camps, built with UNRWA sponsorship and not privately owned, are serious breaches of international law
On February 28, 2016, HaMoked petitioned
the HCJ against demolition orders issued for two homes in Qalandiya Refugee Camp, where lived two young men who perpetrated an attack near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on December 23, 2015.
On March 21, 2016, the HCJ heard the petitions
as if an order nisi had been issued compelling the state to explain its decision. HaMoked argued that the targeted homes are located in a refugee camp set up by UNRWA and are not owned by the refugee families living there. HaMoked said harming refugees' homes was a serious breach of international law. The justices ordered the state to submit a supplementary response detailing its position on this matter. They also recommended the state consider sealing one of the apartments where the assailant had lived on his own, given that this was not a family home and so the logic of “deterring the family” did not apply. In view of the dispute on the land ownership issue, which was added to these considerations, Justice Melcer recommended reducing the damage to the apartment, seeing as “When the time comes when peace breaks out and the problem of the refugees and the UNRWA camps is solved, the sealing could be removed”.
On April 5, 2016, the state submitted a supplementary notice
, in which it referred to the land ownership issue. The state argued, based on an UNRWA position paper
, that the lands on which the refugee camps were set up in the OPT was not owned by UNRWA, but were made available to them by the host authorities (in this case, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan).
Responding to the recommendation of the justices to reduce the amount of damage to one of the apartments, the state argued the apartment was not, in fact, in Qalandiya RC, but in a-Ram, a village bordering on the camp.
In the notice
filed by the petitioners on April 12, 2016, HaMoked noted that the land, like the homes built on it in the refugee camp, are not privately owned by the families. Palestinian refugees who were housed in the camp by UNRWA received temporary user rights in the land. Moreover, though Israel accepts UNRWA’s mandate to manage the refugee camps and despite the fact that it is a member of the UN, Israel does not respect the status of the refugee camp and enters it for the purpose of committing a serious violation of international law and of the human rights of the refugees to whom UNRWA gave shelter. HaMoked added that the same UNRWA position paper cited by the state in its response contains a sharp condemnation of the wrongful practice of punitive house demolitions: “in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, punitive demolition or sealing of houses and shelters inhabited by family members of alleged perpetrators of attacks is illegal under international humanitarian and human rights law, inhumane, counterproductive and unacceptable”.