Adalah to Israeli authorities: Closure of Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, permission to use live fire against stone-throwers are illegal

Adalah issued the two urgent letters on 16 and 20 September following escalations in Palestinian areas of occupied East Jerusalem.

This past week, Adalah issued two urgent letters to Israeli authorities following escalations in Palestinian areas of occupied East Jerusalem.


Closures of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem constitute collective punishment


On 16 September 2015, Adalah sent an urgent letter to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Acting Police Chief Bentzi Sau demanding they immediately remove the illegal closures on Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. Adalah recently received complaints from Palestinian residents of the city who reported that makeshift checkpoints were being installed and removed in various parts of their neighborhoods.


Adalah Attorney Nadeem Shehadeh wrote in the letter that the practices on the ground constitute collective punishment against tens of thousands of Palestinian residents. "According to information we received, all entrances and exits to Jabal al-Mukabir which has about 20,000 residents, is completely closed off by concrete blocks. There were also closures at the entrances of other neighborhoods such as Issawiya and At-Tur. Further, according to this information, a security barrier has also been placed at the exit of the neighborhood, which is causing huge traffic in the area. We are also receiving many reports that the police cars monitoring the checkpoints are issuing fines and tickets to car owners for all sorts of alleged defects in their vehicles.


Attorney Shehadeh warned in the letter that the closure imposed on the neighborhoods could possibly endanger the lives of residents who required urgent medical treatment. "The closure could cause delays for ambulances at the entrances and exits while trying to transport people to hospitals during emergencies, a delay that can greatly affect the timely medical care required."


Adalah further argued that that the policy of closure in East Jerusalem was illegal, based on a ruling by the Supreme Court that prohibited indiscriminate and disproportionate measures such as imposing barriers. "The police's actions are sweeping and arbitrary, and are affecting thousands of residents without any distinction. The police can achieve their security objectives by other means that cause far less of a violation against residents' rights." Attorney Shehadeh added at the end of the letter that Adalah would turn to the courts if the authorities did not respond appropriately to the situation.


Permitting live fire and snipers against stone-throwers is illegal


On 20 September 2015, Adalah sent another urgent letter to Attorney General Weinstein demanding that he issue clear instructions to the Israeli police and security forces not to use live ammunition or sniper fire against stone-throwers. According to media reports, the government is planning to approve a major change in firing regulations, which would allow officers to use deadly fire to disperse demonstrators or respond to people who threw stones.


Adalah Attorney Mohammed Bassam wrote in the letter that, "Changing the rules of engagement regarding live ammunition to disperse demonstrators will inevitably lead to fatal consequences and is illegal, including under international law. The requested changes in regulations violate constitutional rights, and such dangerous police instructions cannot be changed unless you change the law as well…these changes effectively allow the police and security forces to carry out criminal acts."


Attorney Bassam wrote in the letter that the new regulations state that the use of live ammunition shall be subject to several conditions, such as the existence of a real and immediate danger to the life of a person; that less lethal means must be used before using live ammunition. "The starting point, as a rule, must be that the use of live ammunition is prohibited, except in extreme and exceptional circumstances that make it necessary to stop criminal acts through such fire in order to prevent real and immediate harm to life, and when there are no other means to prevent the danger."


Attorney Bassam noted in the letter that the exception to the use of open live fire at demonstrators were explicitly described by the Or Commission, which investigated the October 2000 events that led to the killing of 13 Palestinian protestors in Israel. "The Commission unambiguously clarified that the use of live ammunition cannot serve as a means to disperse demonstrations, and such authority to police officers can lead to unnecessary use of lethal methods. The most specific recommendations the Commission made against officers in the October 2000 events were regarding the use of snipers and rules of engagement, which were done illegally and without the explicit authority. It is not by chance that the Commission recommended the opening of criminal investigations against those involved in the use of these legal methods against demonstrations."