Akka Magistrate Court Quashes Demolition Order Against Mosque in Husseniya


On 12 November 2001, the Magistrate Court of Akka ruled to quash a demolition order, issued by the head of the Misgav Local Committee for Planning and Building (“Misgav Planning Committee”), for the destruction of a mosque in the unrecognized Galilee village of Husseniya.


Representing the Trustees Committee that was appointed by the Shari’a Religious Court of Akka to manage the mosque and the cemetery, Adalah staff attorneys Jamil Dakwar and Suhad Bishara argued that the Court should quash the demolition order. The Court accepted Adalah’s argument that the order was illegal because there was no prior consultation with the head of Husseniya’s Local Governing Committee.


The demolition order was issued on 16 April 2001 by the head of the Misgav Planning Committee, who is authorized to issue demolition orders under the National Planning and Building Law (1965). The government officially recognized the village of Husseniya in December 1995, but the village’s planning process is not yet complete. As such, most of the buildings of the village, including the mosque, do not have building permits.


Adalah argued that the demolition order was invalid, because the head of the Misgav Planning Committee did not consult with Husseniya’s Local Governing Committee. The Local Governing Committee was established by the Ministry of Interior, with members from Husseniya appointed on an interim basis until elections can be held in December 2001. The Court ruled that this Committee must be consulted, as the duly designated local authority, before an order can be issued to demolish a building under its jurisdiction.


Only the head of Misgav Regional Council was consulted prior to issuing the demolition order. Adalah argued that, even if the Court wished to view the Regional Council has having authority in this matter, that the consultation process was legally flawed.


In his precedent-setting decision, Judge Moshe Alter ruled that in cases where there is a local governing committee, but no municipality or local council, the head of the planning committee must consult with the head of the local governing committee before ordering the demolition of buildings under the latter’s jurisdiction. Judge Alter noted that the head of the local governing committee, as a resident of the community and an active participant in its everyday life, is best suited to making planning decisions affecting the lands under his jurisdiction. The head of the regional council, he observed, does not necessarily have access to the kinds of information that must be considered in approving demolition orders.


Adalah welcomes this extremely significant ruling, which strengthens the legal status of the local committees that represent residents of villages without local councils, in particular the local committees of the unrecognized villages. The ruling has even greater importance because of the increasing number of demolition orders which are being issued without other options being examined, and because of the continued practice of passive planning by the state and the planning authorities in Arab towns and villages.