Proposed legislation seeks to prevent Palestinians from suing the State for damages caused by the Israeli military. Bill will be discussed by the Knesset’s Constitution Committee tomorrow, despite having been rejected by the Supreme Court in 2006. Human rights organizations call on committee members to oppose the bill.
Tomorrow (9 July 2012) the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee will discuss the proposed bill Civil Damages (State Liability) (Amendment No. 8) 2008 – that seeks to sweepingly exempt security forces from liability for damages caused to Palestinian residents in the Occupied Territories, whether they be physical damages or damages to property. The Israeli Supreme Court already overturned an almost identical law in 2006, and since then the government has been attempting to legislate it anew. Ahead of tomorrow’s discussion, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual called upon committee members to oppose the bill.
In 2005, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Civil Damages Law, whose purpose was to deprive Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories from the right to receive compensation for damages caused by Israel’s security forces, even if this happened outside the scope of active warfare. In December 2006, following a petition filed by Adalah, ACRI, HaMoked, and others, the Supreme Court struck down the amendment because it was unconstitutional. Six months later, the government prepared a bill to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision and to reenact the overturned amendment.
The bill passed its first reading in the 17th Knesset, extended by the Continuity Law into the 18th Knesset, and is now being discussed by the Constitution Committee in preparation for its second-third reading.
Explanation of the Bill:
Even under existing law (since 2002), the State is exempt from liability for activities undertaken during warfare – defined very expansively and including “every act of war against terrorism, hostilities, or insurrection, as well as any act to prevent terrorism, hostilities, or insurrection, which was undertaken under circumstances of threat to life or limb.”
The present bill seeks to grant the State with sweeping immunity from tort suits even when the actions undertaken did not involve risk of any kind to soldiers or other security force personnel – so long as it took place in the West Bank or Gaza. The result is that the State will be immune from damages caused by almost any action taken by military forces in the Occupied Territories.
The practical result of the bill might be that orphans, widows, maimed persons, or persons left destitute after the destruction of their property – will all be left without remedy.
In their letter to members of the Constitution Committee, the organizations noted that: “This is a severe and problematic bill, which invalidates a Supreme Court ruling. The bill grants the executive branch and security forces an extra-legal status and exempts them from judicial review in Israel and from liability for their actions. The bill solidifies an antagonistic attitude towards the Supreme Court and challenges its authority. And above all, the bill prevents judicial review in tort for the government’s violations of human rights.”
For the full text of the proposed bill (Hebrew):
To download the complete letter sent by ACRI, Adalah, and HaMoked (Hebrew):