4 December 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 Approves Israeli Government's Decision to Cut Fuel Supplies to Gaza and Temporarily Freezes Cuts in Electricity Supplies

Adalah: The Supreme Court's decision violates international humanitarian law, which prohibits the collective punishment of civilians or the use of civilians for political goals

On 29 November 2007, the Supreme Court of Israel approved the cutting of fuel and diesel supplies to the Gaza Strip. The court also ordered the state not to cut supplies of electricity to Gaza for a period of at least two weeks, during which time it should present a “detailed report” to the court, containing information regarding the effects of the plan to cut electricity supplies on the Palestinian population. In response to the Israeli Supreme Court's decision, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, the General Director of Adalah and one of the lawyers representing the petitioners stated that, “The Supreme Court's ruling which confirms the Israeli government's decision to cut the supplies of fuel to Gaza violates the basic principles of international humanitarian law. These principles prohibit using civilians for political purposes and these actions amount to collective punishment. Today, they will cut the fuel and tomorrow, they might cut some of the food. The Court's decision to halt cuts to the electricity for 12 days might be perceived as an achievement but it is partial and temporary. The Court's decision today does not foresee a decision in the future in this case which respects the international humanitarian law.” The Supreme Court's decision was delivered in response to a petition filed by Adalah and nine other Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations against the government's decision to cut the amounts of fuel and electricity supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip. Attorney Sari Bashi of Gisha and Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-Ajou prepared and submitted the petition to the Supreme Court.

The Attorney General's Office had informed the Supreme Court and the petitioners that the state would begin to cut the amount of electricity that it supplies to Gaza starting from 2 December 2007. Likewise, Israel would continue to reduce the amount of fuel that it transfers to Gaza.

A large number of international organizations, media networks and embassy representatives attended the Supreme Court hearing on 30 November 2007, 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.

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 term that does not exist in international law. International humanitarian law obliges Israel to realize the rights of the occupied Palestinian people 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.

H.C. 9132/07, Jaber al-Basyouni Ahmed v. The Prime Minister (pending)

The petition (Hebrew)
The initial response of the state (Hebrew)
The decision of the Supreme Court (Hebrew)
The response of the state (Hebrew)
The response of the petitioners (Hebrew)
The Decision of the Supreme Court, 29 November 2007 (Hebrew)

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