pr 08-06-04

28 October 2009

Adalah Holds 4th Annual Arab Law Students' Conference: The Absence of Justice and State Accountability

Over three days, from 6-8 October 2009, Adalah held its 4th Annual Arab Law Students’ Conference at Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salaam. Seventy law students from Israeli colleges and universities and Al Quds University and 25 human rights lawyers, academics and activists  participated in the event.  

The conference began with a field tour of the Arab neighborhoods in the Arab-Jewish mixed cities of Led (Lod) and Ramle. The tour was led by Ms. Butheina Debit and Mr. Jamal Salameh of Shatil. It aimed to expose the students’ to the wide gaps in living conditions in terms of housing, schools, and the availability of green or public spaces between the Jewish and Arab residents of the towns.

Following the tour, the conference coordinator, Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker, welcomed the students and introduced them to Adalah, the aims of the conference, and the conference program and over the next three days. The opening panel, chaired by Professor Michael Karayanni of the Faculty of Law, Hebrew University, discussed the challenges in defending human rights in the next decade. Attorney Sari Bashi, the General Director of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, spoke about the changes that have taken place in the Israeli Supreme Court and the challenges that it faces in deciding on cases outside the general Israeli consensus.

Dr. Neta Ziv, the Director of Legal Clinics at the Faculty of Law Tel Aviv University, proposed a new model that is completely different from the traditional judicial action taken in defense of human rights. This model is based on encouraging private sector, commercial institutions to develop projects that would alleviate the suffering of the people and achieve their rights.  Dr. Yousef Tayseer Jabarin, lecturer at Haifa University and Director of the Arab Center "Dirasat" spoke about the political dilemmas of submitting certain petitions to the Supreme Court that concern the Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as Palestinians in the OPT, as well as problems with the state’s lack of implementation of court judgments. Attorney Hassan Jabareen, Adalah’s General Director, asked the students to imagine constitutionalism in Israel in the year 2020, and opined that this future thinking could only be very speculative due to the extreme instability of the political situation and Israel’s lack of defined borders.

The second panel chaired by Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-‘Ajou was entitled “State Responsibility, War Crimes and Remedies for the Victims”. Attorney El-‘Ajou spoke about the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, and the recommendations that it issued, as well as the latest developments concerning the Palestinian Authority’s initial withdrawal of the resolution concerning the Goldstone report from consideration by the UN Human Rights Council.

Dr. Hala Khoury-Bisharat, a lecturer in international criminal law and a member of the Board of Directors of Adalah, spoke about international criminal courts, and the basis of their jurisdiction and the statutes that govern their work. Attorney Michael Sfard, a legal consultant to Yesh Din, talked about the possibilities of bringing cases involving war crimes in national courts abroad including tort cases for compensation against Israel.

Attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, an expert criminal defense lawyer and a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Association for Human Rights, gave the students vivid examples of harm caused to unarmed civilians, which, according to international law, is considered as war crimes. Attorney Abu Hussein stressed that since the second intifada, the Israeli courts have not compelled the State of Israel to compensate any injured Palestinian except in one case where compensation was granted in return for the individual’s agreement to release the state from any criminal responsibility. Attorney Sahar Francis, the Director of Addameer, dealt with fair trial violations of the rights of Palestinians in the Israeli military courts, and the institutionalized discrimination of the sweeping military orders which apply solely to Palestinians in the OPT and not to Jewish Israelis living in the same territory.

The third panel focused on land rights and the state’s expropriation of Palestinian refugees' properties. This panel was chaired by Dr. Mahmoud Yazbak, the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Adalah and a senior lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Haifa University. Dr. Yazbak spoke about the state’s confiscation of Arab-owned land and key historical points in the Arab citizens' struggle against land confiscation since the Nakba to the present. Hana Hamdan, Adalah’s Urban and Regional Planner, discussed the various methods used by Israel to expropriate Arab-owned lands. Attorney Awni Banna from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel elaborated on the Absentee Property Law-1950 and its implications for Palestinians, and explained the tactics used by the various authorities to exclude Arab citizens of the state from land distribution. Attorney Osama Halabi introduced the students to the methods used to confiscate the refugees' properties over the years and the legal procedures used to seize these properties, particularly in East Jerusalem. In his presentation, Dr. Yousef Rafiq Jabareen, a senior lecturer at the Technion, emphasized how Israeli land planning policies have worked to erase and/or conceal Palestinian architecture in the country.
In a special seminar, Mr. Osama Risheq, the legal supervisor for the Al Quds University Human Rights Clinic, spoke about the right to education in the shadow of the Occupation, with an emphasis on the work of legal clinics as a complementary educational method.
The fourth panel addressed the issue of political harassment of students and political activists during protest demonstrations. Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker presented Adalah’s new report entitled, "Prohibited Protest". She drew analogies between the State Prosecutor’s policies of detention towards demonstrators in the protests of October 2000 and Gaza 2009. Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn addressed the lawyers' role in arrest and detention cases of political demonstrators. She reviewed the rights of detainees, and the role of the General Security Service (GSS or the "Shabak") and the police in the interrogation room.

Students also participated in small group workshops focused on various legal issues including: “Torture of Detainees during Investigation”, led by Attorney Banna Shugri-Badarneh, Director of the Legal Department of The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; “The UN (Goldstone) Report in the Aftermath of Israel’s Military Attacks on Gaza,” led by Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-‘Ajou; “Military and National Service as a Condition for Awarding Economic and Social Rights and Benefits”, led by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher; “Discriminatory Legislation in Israel”, led by Adalah Attorney Alaa Mahajeh; “The Privatization of Employees' Rights in Israel: The (Wisconsin) Plan and its implications for Arab Employees”, led by Mr. Wehbe Badarne, General Director, Sawt el-Amel (The Laborer’s Voice); and “Disabled People's Rights”, led by Attorney Abbas Abbas, General Director, Al-Manarah Association.

The conference also offered screenings of several human rights films, and comedy and musical performances. Adalah is preparing a short video of the conference and the student participants, which will be posted shortly on Adalah’s website, You Tube page and in Facebook.   





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