Tomorrow: Israel’s High Court to discuss demand by human rights organizations to amend Israel’s draconian directive on processing times for permit applications by Gaza residents

Tuesday, January 29, 2019: Tomorrow (Wednesday, January 30) at 9am, Israel’s High Court will hear a petition (Hebrew) submitted by human rights organizations Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual against the Ministry of Defense and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). The petition challenges a directive stipulating grossly unreasonable processing times of permit applications by Gaza residents, which severely and systematically infringe on their human rights and limit the possibility of fulfilling basic needs.

The directive, introduced by COGAT in 2017, is an expression of the bureaucratic violence intrinsic to the permit regime imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. Only Gaza residents who meet Israel’s stringent criteria for movement to and from the Strip are eligible to submit a permit application. In previous legal proceedings, Israel has pledged to process permit applications within a reasonable timeframe, including allowing time for appeal in cases where permits were denied by Israeli authorities. Despite these prior commitments, the timeframes stipulated in the 2017 directive greatly extend the processing times stipulated in Israel’s previous directive from 2015, disregard Israel’s obligations to Gaza residents, and preclude them from realizing their fundamental right to freedom of movement.

According to the directive, an application made by a medical patient must be processed by the Gaza Civil Liaison Committee (CLA), COGAT’s operative unit, within 23 business days, regardless of the patient’s appointment. An application to visit a relative who is severely ill, or to attend a first degree relative’s wedding in the West Bank or Israel, must be processed within 50 business days, while travel for study abroad must be processed in 70 business days. Despite these long processing times, the Gaza CLA frequently fails to answer permit applications within the times stipulated in the directive, and often doesn’t respond to applications at all, with disastrous ramifications for the lives of residents. Security needs cannot justify such a flagrant dereliction of duty to respect the rights of Gaza residents.

The exceedingly long processing times the Israeli authorities have granted themselves block Gaza residents from reaching appointments for medical treatment unavailable in the Strip or academic scholarships in universities abroad, they prevent people from attending work meetings and conferences, and deny them the possibility of visiting a first-degree relatives at risk of death, among other examples.

The scope and depth of Israel’s ongoing control over the lives of Gaza’s two million residents come with an obligation to protect the rights of the people under its control and to maintain normal living conditions in the Strip. Rather than granting itself an inordinate amount of time to respond to permit applications, if at all, Israel must process applications within shorter timeframes, in such a way that allows Gaza residents to fulfill their basic needs.

To view the petition (Hebrew), see here.