Jun 21, 2021

Highlights of Adalah's Strategic Litigation: Challenging Sweeping Governmental Powers

Adalah director, Hassan Jabareen (left) at SCT
Adalah director, Hassan Jabareen (left) at SCT

Dear friends,

Warms regards from Adalah. We hope that you are healthy and well and keeping safe.

In this update, we examine recent decisions in three of Adalah’s Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) cases.  Over the past few months, the SCT issued significant decisions in these major cases.

 

The Supreme Court upheld the sweeping powers granted to government by the Major Coronavirus Law, but cancelled a provision of the law that imposed certain restrictions on protests:

The SCT rejected, on 4 April 2021, a petition filed by Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) challenging the constitutionality of the "Major Coronavirus Law".The law, enacted by the Israeli Knesset in July 2020, authorizes the Israeli government to declare a state of emergency, giving it all-inclusive powers that lack transparency and which violate individual rights and liberties of citizens without parliamentary oversight. The petitioners argued that the law was legislated in a speedy process, and that it empowers the government to employ sweeping powers to deal with the pandemic without parliamentary supervision. Despite this ruling, the court cancelled one provision of the law, which imposed restrictions on the right to demonstrate over 1000 meters from your home, finding that it severely violated the right of freedom of expression and assembly. Therefore, the SCT also determined that fines imposed within the framework of this ban are void, and that all fines paid shall be reimbursed by the state.

While Adalah and ACRI welcomed the court’s lifting of restrictions on the right to protest, the groups expressed serious concern about the approval of the law as a whole, and undemocratic norms it sets, especially regarding the legislature’s authority. “A situation in which the Knesset is authorized only to retroactively approve or reject regulations already enacted by the government jeopardizes the rule of law. We also see a danger in the limited way in which the Supreme Court has, over the past year, imposed limits upon the government – which is violating human rights precisely at a time when the system of checks and balances is of paramount importance," the groups stated.

 

The Supreme Court grants unchecked powers to State Attorney’s Cyber Unit to continue to censor online speech:

On 12 April 2021, the SCT authorized the Israeli state attorney’s office Cyber Unit to work together with social media providers to block, delete, or otherwise take down users’ posts, often without the users’ knowledge and without an opportunity to defend their speech. The Cyber Unit flags and submits requests, without any formal legal proceedings, to social media giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, to “voluntarily” remove user-generated content according to the platforms’ own terms of service. Adalah andACRIfiled a petition to the SCT against these practices on 26 November 2019, arguing that the Cyber Unit’s referral activity violates the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and opinion and the user’s rights of due process without any legal authority.

While the court rejected the petitioners’ constitutional arguments, the court ruled that the Cyber Unit’s referrals constitute “state action” that requires adequate legal authorization, contrary to the state’s claim that these practices do not constitute state action since the removal of content is ultimately done by private third-party corporations. 

Online protests and dissent have gained even greater momentum due to restrictions on movement during the COVID-19 lockdown. Further, many Palestinians who took to the web to protest the police’s brutal practices during the recent events in May 2021, reported that social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter had taken down their posts or suspended their accounts.

In Adalah’s view, with this decision: "The Israeli Supreme Court has just authorized the state to continue to use its Cyber Unit to conduct quasi-judicial censorship proceedings in cooperation with private corporations, without allowing social media users to defend their rights or even to know that the state has been involved in removing their online content. Israel's Cyber Unit has operated in the shadows of the law to censor tens of thousands of social media posts every year. The Supreme Court has now, to our regret, given Israel a blank check to continue with this practice."

Adalah will continue to fight against the state’s crackdown on speech rights, including that of the Cyber Unit, to protect Palestinians’ constitutional rights by strategically challenging other aspects of the law, policies and practices.

 

Thank you, as always, for your support to Adalah’s critical work.

May 10, 2021

End Israeli police violent incursions into Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem

Photo credit: Eye On Palestine / Instagram
Photo credit: Eye On Palestine / Instagram

Dear Friends,

Warm regards from Adalah. We hope that you are healthy and safe.

During the past month, the use of violence by the Israeli police has escalated against Palestiniansin Jerusalem, including in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Protests took place throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, following the police forces’ construction of barricades at the Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the Old City and one of its most iconic spots, where worshippers gathered after prayers at Al Aqsa. Tensions further intensified at demonstrations against the possible forced evictions of refugee Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem for the purpose of settling extreme Israeli Jewish residents, who have made pre-1948 land claims in this area.

Throughout Ramadan, the Old City of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the three holiest sites in Islam which is located at the heart of the old city, are crowded with worshippers. In response to protests, Israeli police have repeatedly raided Al-Aqsa compound over the past days, deploying extreme, excessive force and wounding hundreds of Palestinians. Additionally, Israeli forces blocked the main road leading to Jerusalem, preventing Palestinians from accessing Al-Aqsa compound on the Muslim holy night of Laylat al-Qadr, this past weekend.

Following these events, Adalah sent an urgent letter on 8 May 2021 to the Israeli Attorney General and Police Commissioner, demanding to end the police's violent incursions into Al-Aqsa compound,and to refrain from the use of excessive force against worshippers and medical staff at the site. The police used extreme measures to disperse them, firing rubber bullets, and stun and tear gas grenades, including against women and children.

Adalah stressed that the use of these deadly weapons at Al-Aqsa compound endangers the lives of Palestinians, is illegal and constitutes a violation of their right to freedom of worship. Adalah also demanded that the police reopen the road to Jerusalem in order to allow worshippers access to Al-Aqsa mosque to mark Laylat al-Qadr on that same night.

Adalah called on the police not to aid the extremist Israeli settlers in their attacks on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, particularly in Sheikh Jarrah, and warned that if the police do not reconsider its violent practices against Palestinians, it would lead to bloodshed and further harm to innocent people.

In response to these recent violent events, on 9 May 2021 Arab citizens of Israel held protests in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Once again, police forces resorted to extreme violence against demonstrators, refusing to transfer injured detainees for medical care in Haifa, and denying lawyers access to a police station in Nazareth to provide legal counsel to the detainees. Adalah sent a letter to the police headquarters in Haifa demanding to provide injured detainees with immediate medical care. Adalah also sent a letter to the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner demanding to allow lawyers access to the Nazareth police station.

Read: Adalah to Israeli attorney general, national police chief: End violent police incursions into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound immediately, 8 May 2021

Read more: Possible Israel War Crimes In East Jerusalem Land Right Case: UN, Agence France Presse (AFP), 7 May 2021

Read more on forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah: "Dispossession & Eviction in Jerusalem", a 2010 report by The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem and Adalah.

Follow the hashtag: #SaveSheikhJarrah

Thank you again for your support for Adalah’s critical work. Please consider a further donation to our project. We sincerely appreciate it.

In solidarity,

Ranna Khalil

Apr 19, 2021

Palestinian Prisoners' Day: Shield prisoners from threats of COVID-19

Gilboa prison. Photo: Google Maps
Gilboa prison. Photo: Google Maps

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah. We hope that you are healthy and well and safe.

With this update, we wish to provide some information on Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons and detention centers and COVID-19, and Adalah’s work on their behalf.

There are currently 4,450 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons, of whom 440 are administrative detainees (held without charge or trial); 140 are children; and 37 are women. Further, 300 are East Jerusalem residents; 250 are residents of Gaza; and 70 are Palestinian citizens of Israel (data from Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, April 2021).

It is an opportune time, as every year, Adalah marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (17 April) to raise awareness of the Palestinian political prisoners and to the human rights violations to which are they subjected.

From the outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-March last year, Palestinian political prisoners, who are classified by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) as “security prisoners”, suffered and continue to suffer from grave health risks, as well as other extremely harsh measures of confinement imposed by the IPS and other Israeli authorities. With prisons being closed and over-crowded places, they are high-risk areas for corona outbreaks. Palestinian political prisoners constitute the most vulnerable group of prisoners, and especially so during the COVID-19 emergency. As detailed below, it was easy for the IPS and other authorities, including the courts, to violate their rights, and to justify these infringements, as the scope of external supervision was severely restricted.

Isolating prisoners, closing prisons

Over the past year, Adalah brought numerous cases before the Israeli courts and state authorities to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners. At the early stages, the IPS took drastic steps to isolate Palestinian prisoners, completely shutting the prisons and cutting them off from the outside world. In March 2020, Adalah, on behalf of lawyers, prisoners and their families, filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) demanding the cancellation of Emergency Regulations prohibiting family members and lawyers’ visits. Many months later, the Israeli authorities eased restrictions on lawyers’ visits – while instituting many conditions which continue to impose a severe burden - and allowed some telephone calls in a very limited number of cases. The SCT refused to intervene in the discretion of the IPS and allowed these cases – which challenged the severest practices - to remain pending for most of the year, even in the face of fundamental violations of the right to counsel and the right of family visits.

Further, in light of the exclusive control over prisons and prisoners by the IPS, and to enable some monitoring of prisoners’ conditions during the pandemic, Adalah also requested an additional hearing in its case on behalf of Member of Knesset Yosef Jabareen (Joint List), asking the SCT to reconsider its decision and to rule against the sweeping ban on visitations by MKs to Palestinian prisoners. This case remains pending.

Adalah also challenged a pre-bill (in advance of a law) that permitted the holding of criminal proceedings and detention hearings in courts in the absence of detainees or prisoners, replacing their presence by real time audio or video telecommunications. Clearly, these arrangements disproportionately infringe on fundamental constitutional rights of prisoners, as they prevent the court and attorneys from being able to get a full impression of the prisoners’ conditions during detention and to ensure that prisoners were not ill-treated or tortured.

Health and safety measures

Adalah also demanded that the IPS take immediate preventive health measures, conduct COVID-19 tests, and permit prisoners' families from the OPT to deposit money in prison canteens to allow their purchase of food and sanitary products in order to cope with the spread of the virus. These demands were infrequently met. In May 2020, Adalah filed a petition to the SCT demanding the implementation of Health Ministry guidelines to maintain social distancing in crowded cells in Gilboa Prison, months before COVID-19 infection rates spiked. Despite the high-risk posed of spreading the virus in the overcrowded cells, the SCT rejected this request, ruling incredulously that these rules are not relevant for prisoners.

Vaccinating prisoners

At the end of 2020, Israel started administrating COVID-19 vaccinations to the Israeli public, mostly elderly people, healthcare workers and other very high-risk groups. However, the Israeli Public Security Minister ordered the IPS not to vaccinate prisoners, contrary to the Health Ministry’s directive. Only after five human rights groups, including Adalah, petitioned the Israeli SCT challenging the Minister’s decision, did the IPS begin to vaccinate prisoners.

Current challenges

Among the main COVID-related challenges now facing the Palestinian prisoners is the severe overcrowding in prison cells and the lack of access to immediate and appropriate healthcare services, risks that are aggravated as the prisoners continue to be largely cut off from the outside world. The conduct of the Israeli authorities, especially the executive and the judiciary, during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate the ease with which prisoners’ rights can be violated.

Under these exceptional circumstances, Adalah calls on the Israeli authorities, including the IPS, to allow full access of lawyers and family visits to prisons; to increase health protection measures for prisoners; and to release the most vulnerable, especially older prisoners and those with serious health conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19.

Thank you again for all of your support for Adalah’s critical work. We would be grateful if you would consider a further donation. Your contributions to Adalah are vital to making a difference!

 

In solidarity,

Ranna Khalil

 
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