The new Justice Ministry regulations: A guide for the perplexed

The amendment means that a person who is not a resident of Israel and has no foreign passport cannot engage in legal proceedings in Israeli civil courts. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman (Reuters)On August 1, 2012, the Israeli Justice Ministry issued Amendment No. 4 of the Civil Law Procedure Regulations, which imposes restrictions on the ability of people who are not residents of Israel and those without foreign passports to engage in legal proceedings in Israeli civil courts. According to the amendment, which goes into effect on September 1, 2012, a document submitted to the civil courts, which does not include the identification number of the person submitting the document, will not be accepted by the court registry. The amendment defines five kinds of ID numbers, both of corporations and of individual people. As for individuals, there are two kinds of ID numbers: the ID number of a resident of Israel as it appears in the Israeli population registry, and for a person who is not a resident of Israel, the country where their passport was issued and the passport number.

The significance of the amendment is that a nonresident of Israel who does not have a foreign passport (as is the case for many Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territory, migrant workers and refugees) cannot file a civil lawsuit or defend himself against a lawsuit filed against him in civil courts. The kind of proceedings that will be affected by the amendment are mainly proceedings concerning various monetary claims: damage claims, claims concerning contracts and other matters under the authority of the civil courts in Israel, from the magistrate courts through the district courts to the Supreme Court when it functions as a court of appeal.

It appears that once the amendment goes into effect, it will apply to pending legal proceedings and not only to future proceedings.

The language of the amendment seems to indicate it does not apply to proceedings underway before the Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice, the administrative courts and the labor courts. The proceedings before those courts are subject to a separate procedural system to which the new amendment does not apply. However, we are concerned about reports that the Justice Ministry may intend for the amendment to apply to proceedings before the HCJ, the administrative courts and the labor courts as well; most of the lawsuits and petitions by disadvantaged populations such as Palestinians and asylum-seekers are submitted to those courts.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territory do not have ID cards because of a freeze of the population registry initiated by Israel in 2000, and many of those without ID cards do not have foreign passports The amendment will prevent them from recourse to civil courts in Israel.

We are concerned that the amendment closes the doors of the courts to disadvantaged populations for whom access to the courts is a last resort.