29 November 2007
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel * Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement * HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual * Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
* The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights * The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel * Gaza Community Mental Health Programme * B'Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories * Al-Haq * Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Supreme Court Due to Deliver its Decision on Petition against State's Decision to Cut Supplies of Fuel and Electricity to the Gaza Strip
Today, 29 November 2007, the Supreme Court of Israel held a hearing on a petition filed by ten human rights organizations against the Israeli government's decision to reduce the amount of fuel and electricity that it supplies to the Gaza Strip. The Attorney General's Office has informed the Supreme Court and the petitioners that the state will begin to cut the amount of electricity that it supplies to Gaza starting from 2 December 2007. Likewise, Israel will continue to reduce the amount of fuel that it transfers to Gaza. The court is due to deliver its final decision on the petition shortly. Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Fatmeh El-‘Ajou, and Attorney Sari Bashi of Gisha represented the petitioners at the hearing before the Supreme Court.
The petitioners argued at the hearing that the reduction in supplies of fuel has caused extensive damage to vital systems in Gaza, including to water wells. Gaza's population is being affected directly; for example, approximately 250,000 Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from disrupted water supplies.
The petitioners further emphasized that the disruptions being caused to the supply of essential goods and services do not constitute economic sanctions, as Israel claims, but rather the collective punishment of Palestinians, since Israel is not allowing the Palestinians to obtain these goods and services from an alternative source. The petitioners strongly contested the state's claim that it is only bound to safeguard “a minimal humanitarian situation” in Gaza, a definition that does not exist in international law. International humanitarian law obliges Israel to realize the rights of the Palestinians and prevents it from deliberately violating these rights.
The human rights organizations further argued that cutting electricity supplies will indisputably impair the operation of hospitals and other vital services.
The petitioners emphasized that contrary to its claims, Israel will not be able to control the consequences of the reduction in fuel and electricity supplies; international law imposes practical duties on Israel towards the Palestinians in Gaza, which compel it to preserve the safety, lives and welfare of the population.
“The Supreme Court, like the international courts, has never before permitted intentional harm to civilians. The conscious decision to disrupt supplies of essential materials to one and a half million people is certainly not a legally valid decision,” argued the petitioners.
A large number of international organizations, media networks and embassy representatives attended the Supreme Court hearing today, including the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Dagbladet (Sweden), The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Oxfam Novib (Netherlands), Oxfam Great Britain, the Representative Office of the Netherlands, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the British Embassy, the UK Department for International Development, Palestina Grupper, Save the Children, Medical Aid for Palestinians UK, Diakonia (Sweden), Gruppo di Voluntariato Civile (Italy), Cooperazione Internazionale (Italy) and International Volunteering for Development.
H.C. 9132/07, Jaber al-Basyouni Ahmed v. The Prime Minister (pending)