Penalising the Victim: Recent Israeli Measures to Deny Palestinian Civilians' Right to Reparation
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 options.