On undisclosed security pretexts, the military attempts to worsen its policy concerning the entry into Israel of Palestinian children aged 16 and under for the purpose of visiting their imprisoned relatives. The District Court refrains from holding hearings on HaMoked’s petitions on the matter
The incarceration of Palestinians from the oPt in prison facilities inside Israel, in violation of international law
, results in the severe infringement of the right to family life of both the inmates and their families. This, due to the restrictions imposed on prison visits by families from the oPt and the difficulties involved in traveling to the prisons. The infringement is often exacerbated by the fact that many Palestinian inmates are classified as “security” inmates and as such are not allowed telephone contact with their families.
In order to visit an incarcerated relative – an option available only to immediate relatives – a prospective visitor who is over the age of 16 must apply to the military for a permit to enter Israel for this purpose, through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Once a permit is issued, visiting is possible only via the ICRC centralized shuttle service to the prisons, according to a timetable of shuttles from the various parts of the West Bank. Subject to these limitations, the entry of Palestinian children up to the age of 16 does not require any permit or coordination, and so the ICRC has no mechanism for accepting permit requests on their behalf. This has been the accepted practice regarding children for dozens of years.
But since 2016, HaMoked has been receiving complaints concerning West Bank children, even a six-year-old
and a seven-year-old, who were banned by the military on “security grounds” from entering Israel in order to visit their incarcerated father or brother. These arbitrary bans remained in effect for long periods of time without the military making any effort to come up with a solution that would put an end to the complete separation between the children and their loved ones – contrary to the military’s obligations towards the occupied population, especially when children are concerned.
These cases were resolved only following HaMoked’s petitions
to the Jerusalem District Court and admissions by the military in this framework that the bans were “apparently [logged] in error”. But the phenomenon has since resurfaced, and now it seems that the military is seeking to formulate a restrictive policy to hamper visits by young minors to their incarcerated relatives.
In November 2018, HaMoked filed a petition
on behalf of a minor who, for two years
, from the age of eleven, had been banned from entering Israel in order to visit his incarcerated brother based on “security grounds”. HaMoked petitioned the court after the military went on to demand that a request for a prison-visit entry-permit
be filed for the child.
In its much delayed response to the petition, the military withdrew this demand, and on February 4, 2019, announced that “As of this time, a comment has been entered in the data system of the civil administration that the [minor] will be allowed to go through whenever he arrives at the crossing in the company of an adult supervisor [sic] in order to enter Israel for the purpose of visiting his incarcerated brother… the comment logged in the system applies to all visits from now on and until the
] turns 16
, and there is no need to coordinate each and every visit” (emphasis added). The brothers were then finally able to meet after their long separation.
In a similar case, following HaMoked’s petition concerning two sisters, aged 13 and 15, who had not met their imprisoned father for more than a year due to a “security ban”, the military clarified that it was planning to require permits also from children aged 16 and under: “Following this petition and similar recent cases, an examination is currently underway for the purpose of formulating a regulated framework for the submission of requests to review minors
[aged 16 and under!] against whom a security ban is entered, and to allow the coordination of
] passage for the purpose of the visit, if a visit is approved despite the ban
… We note that in light of the complexity of the issue… this is a process which necessitates administrative work and will therefore take a long time
” (emphases added). It should be noted that in March 2017, the military had stated that it was conducting administrative work on the matter that was to end “within a short time”.
As to the sisters themselves, the military gradually retracted its demand. Initially the military stated that the sisters’ entry would be approved “despite the security ban”, in an irregular procedure, i.e., subject to “coordination via an email request to a liaison officer of the civil administration
… [to be] sent two weeks before the date of the requested visit”. Later the military withdrew this demand as well, declaring that the sisters would not be required to coordinate their entry in advance – but without committing to allow their passage until they turn 16.
In a third recent case, in the framework of HaMoked’s petition regarding a 13-year-old banned from visiting his brother for about a year, the military announced that “in cases such as this
… it has been arranged that coordination of the visit to the incarcerated prisoner be done by way of an emailed request to the civil administration liaison officer
”. Later on, once it retracted its demand for an emailed request, the military notified that the entry of the minor to visit his brother was approved, but only for one year, and provided that “no further security information is received about
]” (emphases added).
Thus the military continues to push for a stricter policy, without ever explaining the reasons for imposing a “security ban” on young minors
, and without the District Court reviewing the overall issue and the military’s conduct in the individual cases. In each of the cases, once the military approved the entry of the minor, the court deleted the petitions without granting HaMoked's motion to conduct a hearing in the case. Thus the court condones the military’s unacceptable conduct, as a result of which minors are prevented from meeting their loved ones for months, if not years, and a petition to the courts is needed in order to enable the longed-for meeting.