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Supreme Court

  • Israel's High Court nixes law allowing detention of asylum seekers without trial

    Court orders the state to begin releasing more than 1,700 prisoners immediately. In a landmark ruling, a special nine-justice panel of the High Court of Justice decided to strike down the amendment to Israel’s infamous anti-infiltration bill, which allowed the state to hold African asylum seekers in custody, without trial, for three years (and in some cases – indefinitely). The court’s unanimous decision was that the bill contradicts Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. The amendment in the bill allowing the state to hold without trial any person who entered the country illegally was deemed “disproportionate” to the challenge…

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  • Would Israel's refugee policies stand up in... Nairobi?

    Israel could learn a thing or two from the Kenyan High Court's rebuttal of efforts to lock up asylum seekers. There are judges in Nairobi [1], and they are more courageous and much more familiar with refugee law than judges in Jerusalem. A Kenyan court last month published a ruling on a government decision to round up asylum seekers from urban areas and put them in refugee camps, from which they will need permits to leave. There are around 600,000 asylum seekers in Kenya. At the end of 2012, the Kenyan government published a new policy saying that asylum seekers…

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  • When 'black' becomes synonymous with 'infiltrator'

    Israeli society is undergoing a process by which the words 'Eritrean' and 'Sudanese' are becoming synonymous with the word 'cleaner,' while 'Filipina' has long ago become synonymous with 'caregiver.' And who else is behind the education process if not the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry? The job market in Israel has always been divided along nearly impenetrable national and “racial” lines; the Knesset, like the Supreme Court, is careful to maintain the divisions. In the past the divisions were primarily between Mizrahi Jews, Muslim Arabs, and Christian Arabs. These days there are different groups as well. There is a direct link…

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  • Seeking asylum in Israel: Deportation without due process

    Instead of giving asylum seekers the benefit of the doubt, as international law prescribes, in Israel, the district courts find doubts, the Supreme Court approves their decisions, and persecuted peoples are deported before the merits of their cases can be examined. Everyone can sleep soundly. Israel's asylum system is designed to allow everyone, aside from asylum seekers, to sleep soundly. The chairman of the Advisory Committee on Refugees said in an interview last year that he sleeps soundly when he rejects asylum requests, because he knows that if he has erred, the court will rectify the mistake. District court judges…

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  • With help of Supreme Court, Israeli asylum system reaches new lows

    The Interior Ministry, which processes applications for asylum, is by now well-known in Israel and the world for its lack of credibility. But it has a friend in the courts. We have discussed in the past the ways that the Supreme Court rules on refugee-related matters without any reference to refugee law. Since then, many similar decisions have been taken, and if it seems that we neglected to report on these rulings, it’s because they have become, in our eyes, trivial – courts are disinterested in refugee law. Judges purport to rule in accordance with international law without bothering to…

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  • Cut off from communities, Palestinian families seek mercy from Israeli court

    The separation barrier has isolated two families living near Bethlehem from their communities. While they are on the Jerusalem side of the barrier, they are also banned from most of the city. The courts and the state have little sympathy. By Ehud Uziel "Nu, when is this case going to end? It's been dragging on since 2006." With these words, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein convened a hearing on the lives of the Zawahreh and Jado families on Monday morning, November 19, 2012.  Throughout the hearing, I wondered whether the justices were aware of Kafka's presence in the courtroom. They…

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  • The immigrant as homo sacer, and the courts' intolerable contempt for liberty

    How Israeli courts succeed in employing legal norms in a manner that excludes immigrants from the most basic principles of freedom and justice. Immigrants of all kinds have become, to use Giorgio Agamben's terminology, the paradigmatic homo sacer of our day – they are in the area of indistinction between the external and the internal realm of juridical order, the threshold where inside and outside do not exclude each other but rather blur into one another. They are in this paradoxical realm, in which they are included in the juridical order by means of being excluded from it and abandoned…

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  • For Supreme Court, Israeli interests dictate rights of ‘foreigners’

    In many countries, if asylum seekers are engaged in legal proceedings, their deportation is automatically delayed, in light of the implications of deporting an individual to a country where he or she faces danger. In Israel, this principle does not exist.  We have discussed elsewhere how the rights of “foreigners” in Israel are considered through the prism of the rights and interests of Israelis.  The likelihood of the court granting a “foreigner” relief in the country improves considerably if an Israeli citizen's rights and interest are positively affected. However, when seeking legal status in Israel in order to improve their…

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  • Don't abandon the legal system in fight against occupation

    By Noam Wiener Former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy submitted on Monday his report on the legality of settlements in the occupied territories, recommending we change the very language we use to describe the territories, taken by force of arms by the Israeli army in 1967. The report declares, contrary to more than forty years of Israeli Supreme Court jurisprudence, that the territories are not occupied according to international law. The report further recommends that settlements built in the occupied territories, without authorization even according to Israeli law, be authorized ex-post facto based on the legal theory of administrative promise.…

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  • Report that claims 'there is no occupation' presents an opportunity

    What is behind the left’s anger at a government commission report that rejects the existence of the occupation? The report presents an opportunity to replace empty political rhetoric and legality with a focus on facts on the ground. By Itamar Mann The Israeli left responded with a mixture of laughter and rage to former Justice Edmond Levy’s report on the status of the West Bank and its claim that “there is no occupation.” One commentator particularly baffled was human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, who wrote that the “report was written in Wonderland, governed by the laws of absurdity.” Instead of…

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  • Knesset extends legislation that facilitates torture

    The Knesset has extended temporary legislation under which interrogations of security prisoners are exempt from requirements to visually record the investigation, Haaretz recently reported. The security establishment pushed hard to make the law permanent; Haaretz reports that opposition by two of the democratic-leaning Likud members, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, as well as human rights organizations like ACRI resulted in the compromise of a temporary extension. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote in a statement that: In security-related offenses, full documentation is all the more necessary. This, both because of the increased concern for wrongful pressure in such…

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  • Knesset rejects 'land grab' bill; settlements expand anyway

    Updated: The Knesset on Wednesday voted down a bill called the "Settlement Arrangement Law," a motion tailored to legalize settlement areas and outposts in the West Bank facing legal challenges from Palestinians who claim to own the land privately. The vote failed (69 against, 22 in favor) despite severe pressure from the right this week, and following Prime Minister Netanyahu's threat to fire any government minister who supports the bill. On Tuesday the Attorney General approved a compromise plan offered by Netanyahu, which ensures the future of settlement expansion in the West Bank. In a fierce legislative battle to win state approval for settlement…

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  • No end in sight: Occupation marks 45th anniversary

    Today, June 5, Israel marks a double anniversary: 45 years since the Six-Day War and 30 years since the first Lebanon War. The name of the latter is misleading – the war took place in Lebanon, but it was yet another attempt to solve our "Palestinian problem" by force. Israel conquered most of its neighbor to the north (including the capital), installed a puppet leader as president, and forced the PLO to sail all the way to Tunis. But the plan failed. Five years later, a popular unarmed revolt broke out in Gaza and spread to the West Bank. A…

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