Honenu attorney sets legal precedent in military court
Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 8:46 At the end of a prolonged legal struggle Honenu’s staff achieved the unconditional return of an impounded vehicle to its owner, a resident of the Binyamin region. The vehicle was impounded by the Civil Administration during the destruction of a storage shed at the hilltop community of Givat Ronen in the Shomron. During the course of the proceedings, a legal precedent, which created much aggravation for the Civil Administration, was set. From the story of one impounded vehicle much was learned about the judicial workings in the Yehuda and Shomron regions in general. In June 2015 army and police forces came to destroy a storage shed in Givat Ronen, a hilltop community in the Shomron. During the course of the destruction Civil Administration inspectors impounded a vehicle parked on the road near the storage shed, claiming that the vehicle blocked access to the shed. The owner of the vehicle, however, who came with his family to stay with his sister, a Givat Ronen resident, approached one of the inspectors, tried to explain that he had no intention of blocking the road, and rather had merely parked close to his sister’s house, without knowing that the Civil Administration intended to destroy the shed. The inspector did not respond to the vehicle owner’s explanation and impounded the vehicle without hearing his claims and without giving him any document authorizing the impoundment. The following morning the vehicle owner attempted to verify what had happened to his vehicle, in which he had valuable tools, sweets for his son’s birthday party, his wallet and documents. After an exhausting inquiry he was informed that Asher Weisel, the coordinator of the supervisory unit of the Civil Administration of the Shomron, decided that he must pay 2,700 NIS in towing expenses and sign an agreement that he would not use his vehicle for any crimes in the future. The vehicle’s owner angrily retorted that he had not committed any crime. He went to Honenu for legal advice in dealing with the Civil Administration and Menasheh Yado of Honenu’s civilian department began work on the case. Only after 10 days of repeated inquiries did the Civil Administration agree to transfer the impound warrant to Honenu attorney Menasheh Yado. Upon receiving the warrant, Yado filed a counter-claim in which he stated that no crime had been committed with the vehicle and that the process of impounding the vehicle had been carried out in an unacceptable manner. The Civil Administration rejected the counter-claim and Yado decided to appeal the rejection. Here Yado discovered something astounding. The Civil Administration claimed that because of an amendment to the law which the High Court of Justice had made, the military courts have no authority to rule on the matter and therefore the decision could be appealed only in the High Court of Justice. Yado attempted to plea that filing an appeal with the High Court of Justice in this instance was similar to appealing to the High Court of Justice after a municipality towed a vehicle, and that it was not logical to go to the High Court of Justice for such minor proceedings. Yado’s reasoning fell on deaf ears. Despite the fact that it seemed as if the proceedings would have no chance of succeeding, Yado decided to file a request to release the vehicle with the military court of appeals at the Ofer prison. In response, the Civil Administration filed a request to reject Yado’s request out of hand, claiming that the military court did not have authorization to rule on the matter, however the president of the Ofer military court of appeals accepted Yado’s claims and decided in a precedent-setting step to transfer the case to the Shomron military court in Salaam. Once the Civil Administration understood that their claims were being rejected and that an unusual deliberation at the military court was expected, they agreed to release the vehicle unconditionally and without any fee. The vehicle, including the valuable contents which the Civil Administration had refused to release during the litigation, was returned to its owner during the week of Sunday, August 9. Honenu stresses that ruling on the case of an Israeli citizen in a military court is an extremely unusual occurrence. “The military court secretary called me and asked me in surprise what an Israeli was doing in a military court,” said Yado. “She told me, ‘There is no precedent for this. You have made history’.” Yado explained that although Honenu had achieved a victory in having the vehicle returned, the case revealed that a very problematic judicial system was in effect in Yehuda and Shomron. “According to the Civil Administration an Israeli citizen does not have a court in which to [effectively] appeal restrictions that the CA has placed on the citizen because it is obvious that appealing to the High Court of Justice is meaningless because the High Court of Justice is not a court of factual jurisdiction,” explained Yado. “The method used by a court of law is better because it allows a citizen access to a court in which his case will be heard. That an Israeli citizen is required to bring his claims against the Civil Administration before a military court which operates by power of a decree, that is to say by subordinate legislation and under “the laws of the occupied region”, is a problem in and of itself. To that one may say, ‘You made history. You became a Palestinian’,” said Yado cynically. “There is absolutely no doubt that this case raises the question of applying Israeli sovereignty over Yehuda and Shomron, or at least over the Israeli citizens residing in those areas. And that is in order to allow them the opportunity to be tried before civil, not military courts. In any event, this case proves that the Civil Administration is also subject to legal norms and a system of judicial criticism and that they are also binding when restrictions are applied to settlers during destruction at an outpost,” concluded Honenu attorney Menasheh Yado.