On February 24, 2022, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) unanimously approved the demolition of a two-room apartment, the entire ground floor of a two-story house in the village of Silat al-Harithiya in the West Bank. This is the home of a couple and their two minor children, whose other son – also a minor – is accused of involvement in the fatal shooting of an Israeli on December 16, 2021. On the building’s second floor, another son lives with his wife and two toddler children. Following the attack, one home has already been demolished in the village and another is to be demolished soon, after HaMoked’s petitions against the demolitions were rejected. The military already announced its intention to demolish a fourth home in the village, and an objection to this has already been sent.
In rejecting HaMoked’s petition, the Court refused to consider the principled argument that punitive demolitions constitute collective punishment prohibited under international law. As to the case in hand, the HCJ rejected HaMoked’s argument – raised before the minor was indicted – that without information regarding the allegations against the minor, it must be assumed that his role in the attack was marginal at most. In the judgment, the Court noted on this matter that “… exercise of the authority under Regulation 119 does not inherently depend on the filing of an indictment or a conviction”. In the judgment, the Court emphasized the fact – rare in such cases – that the mother of the family had herself been indicted, among other things, for having known about her son’s plans and even encouraged him before the fact. The Court ruled, therefore, that “In this case, the assailant being a minor does not constitute a circumstance in favor of the petitioners, but against them”.
In this case, HaMoked’s attorney did not agree to the justices examining, ex parte, the state’s classified security opinion on the alleged effectiveness of punitive demolitions as a deterrent against potential attacks. On this, the Court held in the judgment that “the established precedent is that the Respondent has the benefit of the [principle of] 'presumption of administrative regularity' in this matter, and we must presume that the professional opinion thoroughly substantiates the effectiveness of deterrence underlying use of the Regulation and the issuance of demolition and seizure orders”.