Six human rights organizations to the High Court
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza
Gaza Community Mental Health Program
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel
The Public Committee against Torture in Israel.
Six human rights organizations to the High Court of Justice:
The High Court of Justice must continue its deliberations on the petition against the reduced “security zone” for shells fired into the Gaza Strip
It has been seven months since the urgent petition on the issue was submitted by the organizations and six months since a hearing was held. In that time, the number of civilian victims as a result of the decision to reduce the “security zone” has swelled and risen, but the High Court has yet to reach a decision on the petition. The tragic events yesterday morning, during which many civilians were injured and killed in Beit Hanoun, highlights once again the critical need to expedite legal proceedings on this issue.
On November 8 2006, six Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations appealed to the High Court of Justice to request that it issue a ruling regarding the decision to reduce the “security zone” for shells fired into the Gaza Strip. The army has made no attempt to deny the fact that a decision was taken to reduce the minimal space allowed between a civilian population and the area from which the army fires shells from 300 meters to only 100 meters. This range, the petitioners make clear, is not sufficient and results in the death and injury of large numbers of civilians who are not involved in the fighting, thereby rendering the order to reduce the "security zone" patently illegal. Attorney Michael Sfard submitted the request on behalf of the following organizations: Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Al Mezan Center Human Rights in Gaza, B’Tselem, The Gaza Community Mental Health Program, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel.
In Attorney Sfard’s appeal to the court, he states that despite the fact that the first hearing of the petition was held over six months ago, and despite the fact that many months have passed since the organizations provided the Court with a breakdown of the number and names of civilians who have been killed and injured in what appears to be a direct result of the reduction in the "security zone," the Court has yet to reach a decision concerning the continuation of the deliberations on the petition. Meanwhile, the army has continued to fire artillery shells into the Gaza Strip in accordance with the order concerning the reduced "security zone," which has resulted in a significant rise in the number of civilian casualties. In light of the shelling yesterday morning which left 19 people dead, most of whom were women and children, and the injury of dozens of other civilians, a real fear arises that this shelling is also the product of the policy that is the subject of the petition. This further underlines the urgent need for the High Court of Justice to reach a decision concerning its continued deliberation on the petition.
The petitioning organizations further emphasize that in addition to the severe injury to residents, caused by artillery fire and other military actions, the civilian population in Gaza is also suffering from serious shortages which are the direct result of the military siege of Gaza and the severe restrictions on the passage of food, medicine, fuel, and other essential supplies. Since the army’s destruction in June 2006 of the electricity plant in the northern part of the strip, the residents in most parts of Gaza have only partial access to an electricity supply. Some 80% of Gaza's residents are now dependent upon food packages from aid agencies for their daily existence, the health system is in a state of collapse, and many children have still not begun the school year. An urgent petition that was submitted by six human rights organizations to demand the regular passage of essential supplies into the Gaza Strip, has received no redress from the Court, despite the fact that almost four months have passed since its submission and in spite of the severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza.