24 January 2008
Adalah: "Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into the biggest prison in the world, and the Supreme Court must decide whether it will allow the population of the Gaza Strip to exercise at least the human rights that prisoners are entitled to. What Israel is doing in the Gaza Strip is a war crime under international criminal law."
On Sunday, 27 January 2008, at 10:00 am, the Supreme Court of Israel will hold a hearing on an urgent motion filed by Adalah and Gisha – The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, on behalf of ten Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, demanding an injunction to prevent Israel from continuing to cut the supply of industrial fuel to the Gaza Strip. The motion, filed on 21 January 2008, followed a night on which Gaza was plunged into darkness as a consequence of the severe shortage of industrial diesel fuel.
The state's prevention of the entry of all industrial fuel into Gaza on 20 January 2008 after almost three months of cutbacks left the Strip without the power to generate electricity, plunging the entire area into hours of darkness. As a consequence, hospitals in Gaza have stopped treating patients other than cases of serious emergencies because of their current lack of capacity.
In the motion, the General Director of Gisha, Sari Bashi, and Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-‘Ajou, argued that the residents of the Gaza Strip are suffering from a severe humanitarian crisis and that Israel is in violation of its responsibilities under international law, which proscribes collective punishment. The motion was filed as part of a petition submitted to the Supreme Court by ten Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations in October 2007. The organizations challenged punitive measures approved by the Israeli Cabinet that, among other things, drastically cut fuel and electricity supplies to Gaza.
During the upcoming hearing, the Supreme Court will also discuss the state's plan to reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip. On 25 December 2007, the court ordered the state to provide information on its plan to reduce electricity supplies to Gaza and the ramifications for Gaza's residents.
This order came after the petitioners submitted substantial information showing that any reduction in electricity supply to Gaza would inevitably damage the operation of hospitals, water systems, and other vital services. The State Attorney's Office has admitted that it gave the justices substantially incorrect information, and that the state officials who created the plan to cut electricity to Gaza did not even know how much electricity Israel provides and how much they were cutting. The document submitted by the state also ignored the court's detailed instructions to provide information to back the claim that the reduction would not harm humanitarian needs. In its ruling of 25 December 2007, the court sharply criticized the state, writing that, “The facts were not properly investigated … The course of events described above is puzzling,” and ordered the state to complete the information. The electricity reductions are currently on hold, pending the court's decision.
It should be recalled that in November 2007, the Supreme Court permitted the state to drastically reduce fuel supplies to Gaza. In response to the court's decision, Adalah 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 twelve 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.”
For more information, see a special web-report on Gaza Fuel and Electricity