HCJ 1252/19 Mustafa Ibrahim Mustafa Ghanam et al. v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the West Bank et al.
Date of submission: February 17, 2019
Following the invasion of their agricultural land, located near the outpost of Havat Gilad, four landowners from the villages of Tell, Immatin, and Far’ata filed complaints with the police (three complaints were filed in 2009 and one in 2013). All the investigative files were subsequently closed without anyone brought to justice. According to the police, the files were closed due to a failure to obtain an opinion regarding the status of the land in which the invasion took place. Yet, over the years, the Civil Administration had refrained from providing these opinions, while the police refused to investigate the incidents in the absence of an opinion. In addition to closing the files, the police determined that the petitioners must obtain such an opinion themselves (that law enforcement authorities could not obtain).
In other words: settlers invaded the petitioners’ land without any document or written evidence linking them to the land. The landowners then filed a complaint with the police in which they presented their ownership documents (which are accepted as evidence of ownership of unregistered land, such as property tax drafts), yet these did not suffice for the law enforcement authorities, who requested to wait for an opinion from the Civil Administration. When the Israel Police understood that they were not capable of obtaining the opinion after ten years had already passed, they closed the investigative files and decided to deflect responsibility onto the petitioners. Needless to say, no one demanded that the invaders prove their right to the land they invaded.
Over the long period of time since the complaints were filed (as noted, most of them in 2009), law enforcement officials neglected their obligation to investigate legal violations and prosecute those responsible, enabling the invaders to continue to do as they please on the land. Ultimately, after having held the files for nearly a decade, they decided to close the complaints. Following the closure of the files, the landowners, assisted by Yesh Din, filed appeals against their closure. The appeals were rejected by the State Attorney’s Office.
The petition was filed against the head of the Israel Police’s Judea and Samaria District, the Custodian of Government and Abandoned Property, and the State Attorney, after the rejection of the appeals. The petition, filed by the landowners with Yesh Din’s assistance, demands that the decision to reject the appeals be revoked, the investigations be reopened and invaders prosecuted, and that the Court order the Civil Administration’s Custodian of Government and Abandoned Property to transfer its opinion regarding the status of the land to the police, and, ultimately, evacuate the invaders.
The decision to close investigation files addressing invasions has enormous ramifications. This implies that in any incident in which settlers trespass borders onto unregistered land in the West Bank (comprising approximately 70 percent of land in the region) they will not be investigated for the invasion, and as a result will not be prosecuted, in spite of the fact that, regardless of whether or not the land is private or state-owned, the act constitutes an illegal invasion.
On November 28, 2019 the petition was rejected without a hearing. The Court accepted the State’s claim that the four investigation files were closed for different grounds, should not be heard together, and were all closed for justified reasons. The petitioners claimed that the investigation files were closed because of a single systematic failure which led to no real investigation into any of the cases. This claim was rejected. The meaning of rejecting this petition is that Israeli law enforcement agencies are knowingly exposing some 70% of West Bank land (unregistered land) for Israeli settlers to trespass on. There is little to no chance that settlers who invade and seek to take over such land will stand trial.