8 May 2002

In Response to Supreme Court Petition, Israeli Army Implicitly Admits to Using Palestinian
Civilians as Human Shields and Declares its Intention
to Open an Investigation

Last night, 7 May 2002, the Attorney General's Office submitted a response to a request for an immediate injunction, filed to the Supreme Court by seven human rights organizations, to stop the Israeli army's use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, as hostages, and for other military purposes. The State's response implicitly confirms the Israeli army's use of these practices.

Specifically, the State, as represented by Mike Blass, Advocate, replied as follows:

  • In light of the information specified in the petition, and without admitting or denying any of the allegations, "the IDF decided to immediately issue a decisive order … imposing an absolute ban on all of the forces in the field from using civilians … as a means to 'humanly shield' from fire or terrorist attacks by the Palestinian side or as hostages."

  • Regarding complaints specified in the petition involving the Israeli army's use of Palestinian residents to enter the homes of other Palestinian residents during military operations, "it was decided in the IDF to clarify that even this activity is forbidden, in those cases in which the commander in the field thinks, that a danger to the body of the civilian might arise. In addition, the military authorities intend to examine in the coming days the various aspects of the issue of being assisted by Palestinian residents."

  • "Furthermore, in regard to the complaints specified in the petition, it was decided to conduct within the IDF a comprehensive investigation on this issue, but naturally, there was not enough time for the respondents to do that in the time that has passed since the petition was submitted."

  • "In light of the fact that the respondents decided to immediately issue an order, as mentioned … the respondents are of the opinion that the need for the requested injunction is moot."

    The motion for injunction and the petition were filed on 5 May 2002 by Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, B'Tselem, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual. The petitioners named as respondents Yitzhak Eitan, Commander of the Israeli Army in the West Bank; Shaul Mofaz, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army; Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Minister of Defense; and Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel.

    In the petition, written by Adalah Staff Attorney Marwan Dalal, the seven human rights organizations provided extensive documentary evidence of the Israeli army's abusive practices, drawing on recent reports issued by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B'Tselem. The organizations argued that the army's use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, as hostages, and for other military purposes, is inhuman treatment and violates the right to life, physical integrity and dignity. Further, these actions constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949) or war crimes, and violate several articles of the Hague Regulations (1907).

    In light of the State's response, the seven human rights organizations will continue the proceedings in Court and demand that any use of Palestinian civilians for military purposes by the Israeli army be barred immediately.

    The seven human rights organizations also stress the need that those responsible be held accountable for the grave breaches of international humanitarian law inherent in using civilians as "human shields," taking them hostage, and using them for other military purposes.

    H.C. 3799/02, Adalah, et. al. v. Yitzhak Eitan, Commander of the Israeli Army in the West Bank, et. al.

    See also, Adalah News Update, "Seven Human Rights Organizations Petition Supreme Court to Stop Israeli Army's Use of Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields," 6 May 2002

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