Ref: 154/2007

Date: 04 November  2007

Time: 13:00 GMT


Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Enjoy Legal Immunity for Arbitrary Measures against Gaza Patients on Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

PCHR strongly condemns the arbitrary measures taken by IOF against Palestinian patients from the Gaza Strip. The Centre also condemns the legal immunity granted to the IOF by the State Prosecutor and Israeli High Court, resulting in minimal review of these measures and giving a free hand to IOF to control the fate of tens of patients from Gaza requiring treatment outside the Strip. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of deaths resulting from denial of health care in Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Israeli hospitals. The Centre calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to intervene and ensure the movement of patients from Gaza requiring medical care outside the territory.

The Center’s Legal Unit has received numerous negative replies from the appeals department in the Israeli State Attorney’s office regarding the cases presented to the Israeli High Court on behalf of Gaza patients requiring treatment outside the territory. The core of these replies is that the State Attorney cannot follow up these requests; and that the office deals with exceptional cases requiring immediate resolution. The State Attorney indicates that these appeals should be directed to the relevant parties, without specifying them. The Center’s experience with the Israeli High Court is that its decisions do not conflict with the position of the State Attorney. As a result, Israeli security forces enjoy a free hand against patients, who are one of the most vulnerable sectors of the civilian population that is protected by International Law. Israeli security forces subject these patients to arbitrary measures that are protected by the judiciary.

The latest response to the Legal Unit came on 22 October 2007 regarding the case of the patient Adham Ahmad Dawwas (41) from Deir El-Balah. He is suffering from cancer and requires treatment outside the Gaza Strip. The appeals department in the Israeli State Attorney’s office stated that it cannot follow up this request; and that it only deals with exceptional cases requiring immediate resolution. The office indicated that the Centre should direct these appeals to the relevant parties, without naming them. It is noted that Palestinian Ministry of Health transferred Dawwas to an Israeli hospital since his treatment is not provided in the Gaza Strip. Dawwas went to the Palestinian Liaison Office in the Ministry of Health to get a permit to enter Israel. However he received a reply on 10 October 2007 that he was rejected for security reasons. On 21 October 2007, the Legal Unit submitted an appeal to the State Attorney’s office. The response to the appeal came on 30 October 2007, and was negative.

The Israeli State Attorney’s position results in:

1-     Preventing Gaza Strip patients from traveling for security reasons; thus depriving them of the right to seek legal remedy.

2-     Death of patients at the crossing as a result of the deterioration in their conditions due to movement restrictions.

3-     Blackmail and extortion on patients to provide information to Israeli security services.

It is noted that Dawwas and scores of other patients who received negative responses to their applications are suffering from serious deterioration in their health conditions. The Centre has received numerous complaints from patients who were subjected to extortion. Despite having the necessary permits to pass, Israeli security services refused to allow them to pass through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing. They were told to go die in Gaza for refusing to cooperate and provide security information to the Israelis. It is noted that Israeli security perpetrates these actions with total disregard to the lives of patients, and without consideration for the implications of the decisions to bar their entry with the full knowledge that these patients cannot be treated in Gaza.

IOF continue to close Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, and prevents free movement of Gaza residents, including patients to hospitals in the West Bank or Israel. Despite claiming the allowance of passage to emergency cases, information from the field clearly point to movement restrictions for Gaza patients that has resulted in the death of 3 patients, including 1 woman, in less than two weeks.

In the cases where patients are allowed entry, IOF have utilized complex and lengthy security procedures that have had a direct impact on the conditions and lives of patients seeking treatment in the West Bank or Israel. These procedures are totally unjustified since most cases are seriously ill or seriously wounded patients in coma or unable to move.

It is noted that patients are transferred for treatment outside the Gaza Strip due to the lack in medical services, supplies, and medication in the Gaza Strip. In addition, the continued closure of the Rafah crossing between the Strip and Egypt prevents the transfer of patients to Egyptian hospitals. These restrictions on the movement of the civilian population are a form of collective punishment, a violation of International Law.

PCHR reiterates the call to the International Community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and international organizations such as the UN, WHO, and ICRC to pressure IOF to permit the movement of Gaza patients to hospitals in the West Bank or Israel, and to allow the free passage of medical supply and shipments into the Gaza Strip.