ACRI demands the re-opening of Road 443 to Palestinian traffic

ACRI submitted a petition to The High Court of Justice to demand that the State re-open Road 443 to Palestinian pedestrian and vehicular movement. The road, which passes through the West Bank, is currently designated for Israelis only

ACRI submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice this morning against the Minister of Defense, the IDF Commander for Judea and Samaria, and the Commander of the Binyamin Brigade, to demand the free passage of Palestinian residents on Road 443. The petition also asks the Court to order the removal of permanent physical obstacles that were placed at the exit points of six villages that are situated in close proximity to the road. The petition was submitted by ACRI Attorney Limor Yehuda, in the name of the heads of the six villages and 18 additional residents of the area.

Road 443 is the only main road in the southern district of Ramallah, and the central artery connecting the villages in the area to the city. The road dates back to the British Mandate, and up until the outbreak of the second Intifada was the main thoroughfare for local residents, including many who reside in the petitioning villages. Since the outbreak of the second Intifada the army has prohibited both pedestrian and vehicular Palestinian travel on the road. This is a general prohibition and even applies in cases of emergency or in the events of illnesses requiring urgent treatment. Even the passage of goods that arrive from Israel or the West Bank, which are designated for Palestinian villages, are not permitted to be transported via this road anymore.

This temporary prohibition gradually became permanent and various physical blockades were placed across the smaller roads that connect the villages to the main road, such as piles of dirt, rocks, gates, and large concrete blocks. In addition to which, security personnel patrol the roads to ensure that Palestinians do not come near it. The policy of prohibiting Palestinian movement on the road has been observed for a number of years already and is devoid of any legal jurisdiction.

Prohibited Palestinian travel on the road denies the local Palestinian population the right to use the area’‘s main highway to reach the city and district of Ramallah, which had previously served them for generations. The closure of this road means that the only route open to them is an uneven back road that is long and winding, and which significantly increases the distance and travel costs. It is a particularly narrow road that has no sidewalk, security rail, lighting, sewage draining system, or appropriate road signs. Travel on this dirt road is exhausting and difficult, and entails being shaken from side to side to such an extent that it can cause nausea. An even more serious consideration is the inherent dangers of high-speed travel on the road, which is unavoidable in emergency situations. The journey time from the villages to Ramallah has been doubled or even tripled: instead of an estimated travel time of some 15 minutes on a comfortable road, the journey currently takes between 45 minutes, when conditions are good, to more than an hour or two hours when ad hoc military roadblocks are situated along its route. The costs of travel along this road have also risen in line with the changes, and have gone from 2.5NIS to 6NIS for travel in a public minibus, and from 20NIS to 70NIS for travel in a taxi. Added to this are the delays incurred as a result of the large number of serious traffic accidents that are a regular feature of this problematic back road.

The closure of the main road has resulted in a series of other severe human rights violations for the residents of the villages, including restricted access to hundreds of dunams (1 dunam = 4 acres) of land that is located on the left side of the road, which contains thousands of fruit-bearing olive trees. Access to this land has become extremely problematic, as has the transportation of its produce to Ramallah. This has caused great financial hardship for many of the residents, especially for those whose only source of income is agriculture. The blocking of the road has also brought about the closure of many small businesses in the villages, and severe disruptions to workers trying to reach their place of employment in Ramallah. As a result there has been a sharp rise in the unemployment rate in the villages. In addition to which, a number of students, who are residents of the villages, have been forced to end their studies in the city due to increased travel costs. Many other families have had to leave their homes in the village to rent apartments in the city. Familial visits and cultural ties have become extremely scarce. The villages have been cut off from all health services and many sick residents have had to forgo medical treatment in Ramallah. Schoolchildren have been forced to travel using expensive public transport services, and to walk some 5 kilometers instead of the half a kilometer they used to walk to reach their school. Likewise, village residents find it extremely difficult to purchase vital necessities due to the expenses they incur by traveling along this lengthened and convoluted route, or the logistical obstacles it presents.

Attorney Yehuda further stresses the fact that this sweeping enforcement of restricted and prohibited movement is not based on any legal directive, and that the denial of this basic right is the result of only one factor – national origin. These actions and verbal orders severely undermine a basic and accepted norm among enlightened nations and Israeli law, which views societal divisions on the basis of national or ethnic origin as insufferable, illegal, and immoral. State agencies are willingly complying with a process of systematic and institutionalized discrimination that is directed solely against Palestinian residents. The policy of prohibiting movement on this road is not an isolated case but is part of a general policy of restricted movement that is imposed on the Palestinian residents of the West Bank. The creation of a regime of “forbidden roads” has converted the right to freedom of movement in the West Bank into a privilege that is dependant upon the national origin of an individual. The petition also claims that the decision to close this road to Palestinians must be rescinded, as an IDF Commander is not authorized to issue this order, which is extremely unreasonable and results in a disproportionate violation of human rights.

last updated : 07/03/07

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Categories: Freedom of Movement, Impact of Settlements, The Occupied Territories

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