Civil Wrongs Law - Amendment No. 8 (Liability of the State)

1967 Occupied Territories
Introduces near-insurmountable obstacles to justice, accountability and redress for civilian victims harmed by acts of the security forces carried out in the OPT, even acts that violate international law, and consolidates the immunity of the state from tort actions brought against it.

The law widely exempts Israel from its liability for injuries and damages inflicted on Palestinians in or from the OPT by the Israeli military.

First, the amendment redefines the term “act of war” by replacing a paragraph that required there to be imminent danger to the life and body of Israeli soldiers with the provision that an act of war should be considered such in “terms of its nature; including the purpose, location, or the danger on the security force as a result of conducting the operation”.

Second, the amendment added a new rule that gives the state the ability to invoke the “no liability” for an act of war defense as a preliminary argument. If it does, the court must consider the argument and give its decision according to the argument (without hearing evidence of any kind). If the court decides that the act is indeed an act of war, the case will be dismissed without evidence being heard.

Third, the original law exempted the state from its responsibility for injuries and damages inflicted on residents of enemy states. The amendment adds exemption from damages to “persons who are not citizens or residents of Israel, and are residents of a territory outside Israel that has been declared an ‘enemy territory’ in a governmental decree.”

This provision would apply to the Gaza Strip, for example, which has been declared an “enemy entity” by Israel. Here, the new amendment contradicts the Supreme Court’s ruling from 2005, in which the court struck down an earlier provision that sweepingly exempted the state from liability from damages resulting from acts of war carried out in areas declared by the Defense Minister as “conflict zones”.  

Moreover, this new exemption applies retroactively to 12 September 2005, the date of Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza, allowing cases pending before the courts to be dismissed. Fourth, the amendment designates the courts in the Southern and Jerusalem Districts as the only courts with the authority to preside over relevant cases, even though it is significantly easier for large numbers of lawyers and Palestinian plaintiffs to access courts in other districts.

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