St. Yves Challenges the Amendment of the Administrative Courts Law Which Constitutes A Direct Step Towards Annexation
- Date: 2018-10-22
The Society of St. Yves - Catholic Center for Human Rights filed a preliminary petition against the Amendment of the Administrative Courts Law (amendment), which transfers the jurisdiction to rule in cases in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) from Israel’s High Court to the Administrative Affairs Court in Jerusalem. This is considered a serious development and a leap towards annexation of the oPt, as Israel’s legislative body has enacted laws and legislations extraterritorially, and beyond its jurisdiction, thus dropping the internationally accepted status of the West Bank under international law as occupied territory and treating it as part of Israel.
St. Yves stated in its petition that the amendment, which effectively extends the application of a purely Israeli law to the oPt, is of precedential and catastrophic character, due to the Knesset’s clear intention for it to be directly implemented inside the oPt and on Palestinians, in a flagrant violation to international norms and law, which strictly prohibit annexation.
The amendment grants authority to the Administrative Court in four main instances: freedom of information, freedom of movement, planning and zoning, and restraining orders. The issues of freedom of movement as well as planning and zoning are among the key issues affecting the basic rights of the Palestinians in the occupied territory. Jurisdiction in freedom of movement includes adjudicating Palestinian entry to Israel, including occupied East Jerusalem, the settlements or the isolated areas behind annexation Wall, the travel of Palestinians abroad, as well as entry of foreigners into the occupied territory.
In planning and zoning, the amendment includes adjudicating petitions filed by Palestinians against demolition orders issued against their property and structures on the grounds of building without a permit. Israel claims that this amendment comes in response to the need to reduce the case load of the High Court, thus constitutes a part of a gradual process of transferring powers from the High Court to the Administrative Court. Moreover, Israel claims that the amendment is to provide a new course of appeal for the Palestinians, who will go to the Court of Administrative Affairs first, and can appeal to the High Court later, instead of going only to the High Court, as is the case today.
Contrary to the Israeli claims, St. Yves appealed in its petition against the far-reaching objectives of this amendment, namely, to impede the Palestinians' access to justice to a greater extent than the already dire present situation, which by no means constitutes an easy access to justice. Under this new amendment, chances of appeals for Palestinians are effectively void, due to the substantial financial burden of appealing to the High Court (which would cost on average tens of thousands of shekels), exceeding the financial capacity of an average Palestinian. The composition of the Administrative Court and the nature of its decisions constitute an additional obstacle, as it is mostly a formalist court which bases its decisions on classified (hidden) evidence, and rules according to the procedures of Israeli law proper, where arguments of international law are not accepted. This would render chances of appeal abstract and useless.