Mr. Shaul Mofaz
Minister of Defense
Via fax: 03 6976990
Re: Deportation of Palestinian Students from the West Bank to Gaza
1. On 21.11.2004 the military detained four veteran students from the Birzeit University (Walid Muhanna, Mohammad Matar, Bashar Abu Salim and Bashar Abu Shahala). Military forces deported the students to the Gaza Strip.
2. The deportation was not carried out within the framework of security measures permitted to the military under international law and according to the decision of the High Court of Justice: not regarding to the reason and not regarding to the procedure.
3. The “reason” for the deportation: the residential address recorded in the Population Registry for these students was in Gaza.
4. It seems that it is necessary to return to basics:
a. The Occupied Territories, both Gaza and the West Bank, form one integral territorial unit. This is the stance of both the sides signed on Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement – including Israel. This is also the stance which you presented to the High Court of Justice when defending assignment of residence to the Gaza Strip of family members of those involved in terrorist activities (the Ajouri case). This is the stance accepted by the High Court of Justice sitting in an extended panel of nine justices.
b. Every resident of the Occupied Territories is permitted to travel within them and to decide on his place of residence according to his own wishes, as long as this right is not restricted by a legally valid order. This right is part of the basic code of rights and is even considered a basic right in customary international law. Freedom of movement within the territories is also the basis upon which the transfer of individuals thought of as dangerous to the Gaza Strip can be considered “assignment of residence” – to a designated section within the territory in which they are free to move about from the beginning – and not as deportation to another place.
c. Regulations concerning the Population Registry require a report to the Palestinian Authority after having changed address, and there is no provision which would block the change of place of residence.
d. Every forceful transfer of a protected civilian not carried out according to legal authorization is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is considered a War Crime and in every state and country in the world as well as the appropriate international tribunals are required to punish those responsible. The deportation of the four students clearly falls within this framework.
5. HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual protests the forcible transfer of the four students to Gaza, and joins in the call to permit their return to studies without any delay, and to desist from placing any limitations on students from the Gaza Strip requesting to study in institutions in the West Bank.
Executive Director, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual
Cc: Col. Yair Lotstein, Legal Advisor to the IDF forces in the West Bank.
HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual is an Israeli human rights organization whose main objective is to assist Palestinians of the Occupied Territories whose rights are violated due to Israel’s policies. www.hamoked.org.il