Only following HaMoked’s intervention: the military retracted its arbitrary demand that people submit applications in person for “seam zone” entry permits המוקד להגנת הפרט
Only following HaMoked’s intervention: the military retracted its arbitrary demand that people submit applications in person for “seam zone” entry permits
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Since 2003, the Israeli military has been implementing a permit regime in the West Bank areas trapped between the separation barrier and the Green Line, areas dubbed the “seam zone”. Every Palestinian living in these areas or interested in going there requires a special permit. This permit regime applies to Palestinians only – Israelis and tourists need no permit to enter or stay in “seam zone” areas.

HaMoked has argued that the entire Seam Zone permit regime is illegal. In addition, for as long as this regime is in place, HaMoked has been advocating to remove needless bureaucratic burdens imposed on Palestinians who live or have farmland in the "seam zone" and must navigate an obstacle course to obtain a permit to enter. Recently HaMoked encountered a new superfluous demand of the military that applicants arrive in person at the District Coordination Office (DCO), to submit their application for reconsideration of their permit application – a procedure dubbed “review by Head of DCO” – instead of allowing HaMoked as their legal representative to submit it by fax on their behalf, as had been customary for years. This, despite it being a simple technical act and despite the needless imposition of traveling to the DCO, entailing, among other things, absence from work.

In a response of July 24, 2017 to HaMoked’s complaint on the matter, the Civil Administration Deputy Head stated this was “just a procedure of factual examination [with] no room for needing legal representation”. He added that past applications which had been emailed or faxed rather than submitted directly at the DCO, had been received and handled "beyond any legal requirement”.

Therefore, on July 30, 2017, HaMoked sent the Military and Security Committee of the Israel Bar Association a complaint about the demand for personal attendance, which denies the right to counsel. HaMoked stressed that this was not a “factual review”, but a technical act, which did not necessitate the applicant’s presence. Moreover, there was no basis for making a distinction between the different stages of the process, given that applicants had the right to legal counsel throughout the process.

As a solution was still pending, one of the applicants on whose behalf HaMoked had filed the complaint, went to the DCO on August 20, 2017, to submit his application for such a review. However the soldier at the reception window refused to receive his application, telling him the DCO was on vacation for the next two weeks.

Therefore, on October 3, 2017, HaMoked filed a public interest petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on the matter. In its petition HaMoked asked that applications for this type of review could be submitted via the applicants’ attorneys, and sent by fax or email. HaMoked stressed that the demand to submit the application in person was pointless and purely cumbersome. HaMoked added that this was an infringement of the right to counsel – especially as it concerned the possibility of residents of the OPT to defend themselves against the violations of their rights to property and livelihood caused by the permit regime implemented by Israel in the “seam zone”.

On October 23, 2017, Before a court hearing was held on this petition, the state sent to HaMoked the military’s response to the bar association, dated October 19, 2017, which stated that “following the appeal, and as part of the constant effort to improve the service provided by the Civil Administration to the residents of the Judea and Samaria Area, a re-examination was conducted on the issue, following which the Civil Administration has decided to allow submission of applications for a review by the Head of the DCO by email, independently or via an attorney…”.

Therefore, on November 7, 2017, the petition was deleted at the parties’ request. HaMoked was subsequently awarded trial costs in the sum of ILS 4,000.
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