Petition by human rights organizations against the policy of removing Palestinians to the Gaza Strip based on addresses listed in the population registry, HCJ 4019/10
Since the events of October 2000, Israel has prevented changes in the Palestinian population registry by refusing to update changes in its copy of the registry. The "freezing" of the Israeli copy of the registry has a very powerful impact on people’s lives. Army officials in the West Bank, at the checkpoints, border crossings and elsewhere, are instructed to rely only on the Israeli copy of the registry rather than the original one, administered by the Palestinian Authority. As a result, many Palestinians who are originally from Gaza but who have made a home in the West Bank have been detained at checkpoints and face countless bureaucratic obstacles that result from how their address is registered in the Israeli copy of the registry – a record that does not necessarily reflect reality. Prisoners and detainees have been released to the Gaza Strip based on such records and people who went to the Gaza Strip for a visit have found themselves stranded without being able to return home. Following the freezing of the Israeli copy of the registry, thousands of Palestinian residents of the West Bank suddenly found themselves declared "illegal aliens", living under the constant threat of removal.
Over time, and perhaps acknowledging the absurdity of the situation to some degree, Israel has softened its position and announced in its response to a High Court of Justice petition, HCJ 6685/09 Kahouji v. State of Israel, that its policy from that point on would be not to remove Palestinians living in the West Bank with Gaza addresses, on condition that they moved to the West Bank prior to the year 2000 and that there are no security allegations against them.
The immediate remedy sought in the petition was to instruct the state to immediately desist from removing residents from their homes in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. The petitioners also asked the court to order Israel to update its copy of the population registry to reflect the reality on the ground. On the constitutional level, the arguments raised in the petition against the conduct of the state related to the severe infringement on human rights, primarily the right to family life. In addition, the petitioners argued that removing Palestinians who have been living in the West Bank for many years contravenes the strict prohibition international law imposes on forcible population transfers in an occupied territory.
On the administrative level, the petitioners argued that the sudden requirement that Palestinian residents of the West Bank whose registered address is in Gaza have a “stay-permit” is substantively flawed as it applies retroactively to thousands of people who acted lawfully and since it is wrongfully discriminatory compared to Israeli residents of the West Bank, who do not require any sort of permit. It was further argued that transferring members of the civilian population based on a population registry which is no more than prima facie evidence is entirely improper.
The petition was initially heard jointly with HCJ 2088/10 HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual v. Commander of the West Bank. HCJ 2088/10 challenged the "Procedure for Handling Applications by Gaza Strip Residents for Settlement in the Judea and Samaria Area", which limits relocation by Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank to exceptional humanitarian cases. However, after reviewing the parties' arguments, the court decided to hear the petitions separately. In the partial judgment issued along with the decision in HCJ 2088/10 on May 24, 2010, the court granted the petitioners' request and issued an order nisi ordering the respondents to explain why they should not apply the policy of non-deportation of Palestinians who entered the West Bank before the eruption of violence in October 2000, which they pledged in the Kahouji case, also to Palestinians who entered the West Bank prior to the day on which the military administration in Gaza was terminated following the disengagement plan. Since the respondents agreed to refrain from removing residents who entered the West Bank before 2005, and since the court did not see fit to grant the additional remedy sought in the petition and compel the state to correct the population registry, the petition was deleted without prejudice, as stated in the judgment rendered on April 21, 2013 (Hebrew).
To read the judgment (Hebrew)