Adalah Appeals to the Supreme Court to Enforce the Right to Water in the Unrecognized Village of Umm al-Hieran

Civil Appeal 2541/12 - Salib Abu al-Qi'an vs. The Government Authority for Water and Sewage

(Beer el-Sabe, Israel) Adalah, on behalf of Arab Bedouin residents of the unrecognized village of Umm el-Hieran in the Naqab (Negev), filed an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court on 27 March 2012, demanding that the village be supplied with drinking water. Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher submitted the appeal.

Umm el-Hieran is home to 500 Arab Bedouin citizens  Israel and has neither water nor electricity. The nearest water access point is eight kilometers away, and sells water for high prices. The residents must transport water to their villages in unsanitary tanks. Residents of Umm el-Hieran have lived there since 1956, when the Israeli military government ordered them to relocate from the Western Naqab.

Petitioner Salim Abu al-Qi'an has led a legal battle on behalf of 34 families in the village to win access to drinking water. In January 2012, the Haifa District Court, sitting as a Water Tribunal, rejected the villagers' demand to connect the village to the state network; the villagers' submitted their demand in September 2011. This rejection followed a landmark Supreme Court decision delivered in June 2011 ruling that all citizens possess the right to minimal water access, regardless of the legal status of their community or of eviction or demolition orders against the residents or their homes. (See C.A. (Civil Appeal) 9535/06, Abdullah Abu Musa'ed, et al. v. The Water Commissioner and the Israel Land Administration).

Mr. Abu al-Qi'an is submitting a second appeal, after the Supreme Court decided that it is unclear whether the village already has minimal access to water, and requested further evidence. The matter was passed to a parliamentary committee, which found, in consultation with specialists in the field, that the residents of Umm el-Hieran do not have minimal access to water. However, contrary to this decision, the Water Tribunal again refused the demands of the residents to connect the village to water.

In the appeal, Attorney Zaher argued that supplying water to citizens is a constitutional duty of the state. Umm el-Hieran residents must currently buy water from a private source located eight kilometers from the village, and are dependent on the generosity of the source's owner, who does not possess a license to supply water. The appeal also pointed out that the Water Tribunal's decision to reject the request is due to eviction notices against the village, and that this consideration is contrary to the Supreme Court's ruling that such notices are irrelevant to the right to minimal access to water.

Case Citation: C.A. (Civil Appeal) 2541/12 - Salib Abu al-Qi'an vs. The Government Authority for Water and Sewage

Earlier updates:

For more information on the earlier case, and the 2011 Supreme Court decision recognizing the right to minimum access to water, see Adalah's press release from June 2011.

Following the decision, on 15 June 2011, Adalah asked the Water Board to implement the decision and connect Umm al Hieran, Gatamat, and Tel Arad to the water network.

Adalah filed an appeal to the Haifa District Court in September 2011 sitting as a Water Tribunal on behalf of residents from Umm el-Hieran and Tel Arad, after the Water Committee refused to improve their access to water, despite the court ruling.

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