Date: Monday, November 9th at 09:00
At: The Israeli High Court of Justice, Case number HCJ 8115\12 (Judges panel led by Chief Justice Miriam Naor)
Address: Kiryat Ben-Gurion, 1 Sha’are Mishpat St., Jerusalem
Attendance by international and local observers is requested
On Monday 9 November 2015, the Israeli High Court of Justice will hold a key hearing in relation to the forcible transfer of the Wadi Qteyf Bedouin community near Jericho. The community are currently living in an area allegedly designated as a ‘closed military zone’ by Israeli authorities and are facing demolition of their structures which have been provided as part of an international humanitarian response.
The community have petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to cancel demolition orders which were issued in 2012. It is understood that the Israeli Civil Administration may propose that the community ‘relocate’ to the Nweima site near Jericho in return for a freeze on the demolition orders, pending approval of the Nweima plan. If the Court were to accept this arrangement, it would facilitate the forcible transfer of the community in violation of international humanitarian law.
The community wish to remain in their present location and do not wish to be ‘transferred’. International law experts have noted that the ‘relocation’ of a community in a coercive environment when the community has no real choice constitutes the offence of forcible transfer under international humanitarian law. Recent reports have noted the frequent misuse of Palestinian land as ‘closed military zones’ by Israeli authorities.
Background to the community
The Bedouin community of Wadi al Qteyf is located in the Jericho governorate next to the Sea Level lay-by on Highway 1 and is home to 13 families (15 households) who have lived permanently in their current location since 1982. The community have used the location as a seasonal migration stop-off since prior to 1948 and the areas constitutes part of the traditional territory of the Jahalin tribe of which the Wadi al Qteyf community are members.
The land of Wadi al Qteyf is reportedly owned by the waqf (religious endowment) as part of the Nabi Musa heritage site. The community reports that the military zone begins 0.5 km from the community and state that they are not located within its boundaries. The group is not registered with UNRWA as refugees.
According to latest information, the ICA has offered to allow the community to build new structures at locations in the Nweima area near Jericho, in return for the non- issuance of any demolition orders against existing community structures until the Nweima plans are approved. The Nweima plan remains pending with the Israeli Civil Administration following the lodgment of a large number of objections to the plan as as well as legal proceedings challenging the process leading to the plan. During the upcoming session the Court will provide its opinion regarding this proposal. It is possible that the Court will accept the ICA offer, especially if it finds that the community are resident in a closed military zone.
Adv. Shlomo Lecker, who represents the Jahalin Bedouin, emphasises that it is practically impossible for Bedouin to build in a “lawful” manner and avoid the issuance of demolition orders. Throughout decades of military control of the area, Israel, as Occupying Power, has refrained from establishing mechanisms that would allow Bedouin residents to build lawfully as ‘protected persons’ in international law. Consequently the Bedouin live with the constant fear of demolition and evacuation from their homes.
Prohibition of forcible transfer under international humanitarian law
Under international law, the Israeli relocation plan may constitute an “individual or mass forcible transfer” of a protected civilian population under occupation. Forced population transfers are considered grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime under international law. The term ‘forcible’ is not restricted to physical force, but may include threat of force or coercion, or taking advantage of a coercive environment. The international community has expressed its strong objections to the Bedouin relocation plan. The UN Secretary-General has stated that the implementation of the proposed relocation “would amount to individual and mass forcible transfers and forced evictions” in violation of international law. IHL expert Professor Marco Sassoli notes that ‘The current plans to displace the remaining Bedouin communities would amount to forcible transfer under IHL if carried out.”
Recent research indicates a high level of misuse of Palestinian land as ‘closed military zones’ by Israeli authorities. Whilst nearly one third of Palestinian land in the West Bank (1,765,000 dunams or about 436,000 acres) has been declared as closed military zones, approximately 78% of this land is not used for military purposes at all. (Kerem Navot: A Locked Garden: Declaration of Closed Military Areas in the West Bank, September 2015).
For more information please call NRC on: 054-4384266
Cover photo: Members of the Jahalin tribe at Wadi al-Qatif (west of Jericho) given 48-hour eviction orders, April 30, 2014. Photo by Neal Badache.