In February 2013, the Israeli Southern Central
Court in Be’er Sheva dismissed 14 civil claims cases brought before it by the
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). These cases sought compensation and
reparations for the deaths, injuries, and material losses suffered by
Palestinian civilians due to alleged violations of international law committed
during Israeli military attacks. These decisions form part of a series of
measures enacted by the Israeli authorities in recent years, which have
resulted in the dismissal of a large amount of cases and are intended to
prevent Palestinians from claiming compensation in the event of violations of
international law by Israel.
Through these civil cases, PCHR endeavours to
ensure the fulfilment of the customary international law norms, which recognize
each individual victim’s right to reparations, as any State that violates
international humanitarian law is required to make full reparations for the
loss or injury caused to the victims. However, the Israeli legislature and
judiciary, through their legislative amendments and recent decisions, have
imposed various financial, legislative, and procedural obstacles in the way of
victims’ achievement of justice.
Out of the 14 cases, the court dismissed 11 by
relying upon the 2012 Amendment No. 8 to the Israeli Civil Torts Law (Liability
of the State), which sweepingly absolves the State of Israel of any liability
arising from damages caused to a resident of an enemy territory during a
“combat action”. This amendment directly contravenes norms of international
law, which prevent a State from absolving itself of any liability it incurs in
respect of grave breaches or serious violations, committed against civilians
during military operations.
The court dismissed the other 3 cases by
stating that they did not comply with procedural norms, according to which a
power of attorney for a civil case arising from the Gaza Strip is considered
valid only if it bears the signature and stamp of an Israeli diplomat. However, complying with this
procedure is not possible because claimants from the Gaza Strip are prevented
from travelling to Israel.
In addition to the above, the judiciary imposes
economic obstacles by charging each claimant a court guarantee, set at an
average of NIS 30,000 (USD 8,000). These expenses severely restrict PCHR’s
ability to pursue victims’ right to reparation.
PCHR has prepared a memorandum, which provides
a detailed explanation of the obstacles outlined above.
The dismissal of these civil claims is a
serious setback for the victims, denying them their right to accountability and
redress, particularly in light of the unjust reasoning behind the court’s
decisions. Such measures prevent and discourage victims from pursuing their
right to remedy and access to justice through civil claims cases. In effect,
PCHR believes that the Israeli judicial system is being used to provide an
illusion of justice, while systematically denying Palestinian civilians their
right to an effective remedy, and is evaluating and assessing all possible
Penalising the Victim (pdf)