Center for the Defence of the Individual - The HCJ approved the punitive demolition an apartment in a 10-story building in East Jerusalem: “Woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbor” wrote one Justice
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חזרה לעמוד הקודם

The HCJ approved the punitive demolition an apartment in a 10-story building in East Jerusalem: “Woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbor” wrote one Justice

On January 2023, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) dismissed HaMoked’s petitions on behalf of a family and its neighbors, all of them permanent residents from East Jerusalem, against the punitive demolition of an apartment on the sixth floor of a 10-story building in Shu’fat refugee camp. The apartment was the home of the man accused of committing an attack at the Shu’fat checkpoint on October 8, 2022, in which a female soldier was killed. The apartment is the only home of the alleged perpetrator’s father, mother and three siblings, including a 14-year-old child.

In the judgment, the Court rejected HaMoked’s arguments that home demolitions pursuant to Regulation 119 constitute collective punishment driven by the desire for vengeance – rather than a means for deterrence as the State claims – and that they disproportionately harm innocent people and are prohibited under international law. As to the case in hand, the Court also rejected HaMoked’s arguments that the entire apartment should not be demolished but only the assailant’s room sealed as this is the only home of the family of five; and alternatively, that the apartment should be sealed rather than demolished because the planned demolition of the exterior walls would harm the stability of the entire building, built on columns and especially vulnerable to damage in case of an earthquake.

In the judgment, Justice Kasher ruled that although “the situation where innocent people are harmed… due to an action meant to deter the multitude, raises a significant difficulty”, the home’s demolition was justified for the sake of “saving lives” – that is, for the sake of deterrence. In a majority opinion, Justices Amit and Grosskopf ruled that there was no evidence that any member of the family knew that their relative intended to commit an attack – this, contrary to the dissenting opinion of Justice Kasher. But they determined that the family’s innocence did not justify canceling or limiting the order.

As to the harm to the neighbors resulting from the destruction of part of the exterior of the building, Justice Amit quoted the Talmudic maxim that people suffer from their neighbor’s misdeeds: “woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbor”, and ruled, “not without misgivings”, that the demolition order should be approved given that this method of demolition “has already been approved by this Court in the past”.

This is the first judgment in 2023 to approve the punitive demolition of a home. In 2022, 11 homes were demolished under Regulation 119, all with the HCJ’s approval. The Court did not interfere to prevent or limit a single punitive home demolition in the past year. 

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