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Honenu’s legal battle against unjustified weapons confiscation

Friday, November 16, 14:16 Honenu is launching a campaign against the unjustified confiscation of weapons from residents of Yehuda and Shomron. “This isn’t negligent conduct but rather a dangerous scheme leading to the abandonment of human lives,” says Honenu. Honenu explains: “Unlike in many countries of the Western World, in Israel a license to carry a weapon is not considered a luxury. Whoever receives a license to carry a weapon lives in an area which necessitates it for the purpose of protection of life. Unfortunately as the years have passed it has become clear that the authorities do not take that adequately into consideration and the ease with which a weapon is confiscated from a person who needs it is intolerable.” Many residents of Yehuda and Shomron carry a licensed weapon. Frequently, these weapons have been used to save the lives of people caught in complex security situations and they also constitute a deterrent against potential attackers. In recent years, a situation has developed in which someone arrested for ideological crimes is denied a license to carry a weapon – even if the crimes of which he was accused were carried out many years ago and/or when the accused was a minor. If he already has a license, then his weapon will be confiscated, even if the case was closed without an indictment. The return of the weapon is contingent upon a long exhausting process which can last over a year. In the end, in 80-90% of the cases either the Israeli Police or the Ministry of Internal Security refuses to return the weapon to its owner. In some cases, the police or the Ministry of Interior Security waits until the owner tries to renew his license and then refuses the renewal. Honenu adds that with “regular”criminal offenses the authorities are much more forgiving and the procedure for returning the weapon is immeasurably more efficient. According to Honenu, there have been instances in which this policy has cost lives. One example is the confiscation of a weapon belonging to Yitzhak Ames of Beit Hagai in the Har Hevron area. Not long after his weapon was confiscated, he, his wife and two other passengers in his car were murdered in a shooting attack. If Ames’s weapon had been in his possession, perhaps the incident would have ended differently. In another case handled by Honenu, the personal weapon of A., a 28 year old resident of Susya who had completed the elite IDF “Sayeret Matkal” course, was confiscated after clashes with local Arabs who had infiltrated the community. Despite the fact that the case was closed without an indictment, and the fact that A. continued to serve actively in the reserves in one of the most elite units of the IDF, the police and the Ministry of Internal Security refused to return his weapon to him. Only after considerable effort, which included the intervention of MK Yisrael Hassun, was A.’s weapon returned to him after nearly a year. Honenu, which provides legal assistance to individuals detained or arrested for security reasons in Israel, has recently decided to allocate additional resources to the matter. “In the present situation people simply feel helpless, without any place to turn. Although we have handled numerous cases of weapons confiscation, we now intend to designate an attorney especially to handle this matter.” Additionally Honenu would like to remind the public that its services are provided free of charge. Honenu attorney Adi Kedar, who has been handling the cases of confiscated weapons until now, states that, “Since its founding, Honenu has dealt with, among other cases, instances in which a civilian’s weapons license has been revoked. In light of the current situation, during the past few years several deliberations regarding the issue of weapons confiscations have taken place in the Knesset and in other forums. However we still see a continuous policy of revoking weapons licenses which had been issued for personal protection, either directly by the police or by the Ministry of Interior Security in an administrative procedure.” Approximately one year ago, the issue of weapons licensing was transferred from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Internal Security, and the number of offices handling cases and serving the public was reduced. However, despite the apparent decrease in bureaucracy due to the transfer of authority to the relevant ministry, there still has not been an adequate response to the situation. Honenu still encounters many requests from people whose weapons have been confiscated and not returned. A check carried out by the legal department of Honenu revealed that the authorities are quick to revoke licenses. It appears that the causes for revoking licenses, in many cases, are completely arbitrary and unjustified, endangering the lives of the weapon owner and his family. The cases are mainly those in which civilians encounter security situations near their homes or another area of Yehuda and Shomron. Often, indictments are not filed, and the case is closed. But, despite that, the police often refuse to return the weapon. Beyond the serious injury to the security of civilians, and their abandonment by the government, this is an example of discrimination, since a defendant in a criminal case unconnected to the Yehuda and Shomron area will not automatically have his weapon confiscated and his license revoked. In recent months, Honenu has turned to certain persons in the Ministry of Internal Security in order to advance specific and general solutions and, “We call upon anyone who has been harmed by the conduct of the above mentioned ministry to contact Honenu’s offices and we will assist in any possible way.” Honenu headquarters telephone: 1599-50-40-20

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