Petition asking for demolition of structures in Rechelim, HCJ 2295/09 A-Sawiya village council head v. the Minister of Defense

Petition Submission Date: 12.3.2009

In February 2009, residents of the Palestinian village of a-Sawiya discovered nine new structures built on public land in the heart of the outpost. Aerial photographs indicate that construction of the structures began two months earlier. The head of the village council, with the assistance of Yesh Din, asked the Civil Administration and the Judea and Samaria Police to halt this construction. After the authorities failed to respond, the village council head had no choice but to petition the High Court to ask it prevent residents from moving into the houses and order the State to enforce the demolition orders issued against the structures.

“Like many other cases of illegal construction by settlers in the occupied territories, law enforcement authorities are making a mockery of themselves and of us. Construction in the outpost – notwithstanding the fact that it is illegal (like the rest of the structures in the outpost) – continues at full speed without any obstacles. This is all undertaken with the full knowledge of the law enforcement authorities, which fail to fulfill their most fundamental duty to prevent disgrace of the law and damage to private property, or, as in this case, public property,” the petition stated.

After submitting the petition, the High Court issued an interim order prohibiting construction or allowing anyone from moving into the structures or conducting any other transaction concerning them. In December 2012, the military commander signed an order retroactively authorizing the outpost of Rechelim. As a result, the High Court dismissed the petition, sustaining the order preventing the structures’ use until the planning status of the outpost is changed.

Petition Status: Dismissed

Petition demanding to prosecute the heads of Amana and Rechelim, HCJ 5145/16 – A-Sawiya village council head v. the State Attorney

Petition Submission Date: June 27, 2016

In spite of the court order issued during the proceedings of previous petition, construction in Rechelim continued. The petitioners turned to the police, which opened an investigation into the matter. The investigation found substantial evidence indicating that the interim order the High Court issued was violated. This included including admission by the families who now live in the structures that they moved into houses after the interim order was issued. In addition, the residents of Rechelim provided information revealing that Amana had a significant role in populating the houses in violation of the order.

The police decided to close the investigation in 2013. The only indictment served following the investigation was against the former secretary of the outpost, Noam Shamba, for lying on a sworn affidavit in which he claimed that several of the structures in question were populated prior to the High Court order. The State Attorney later withdrew the indictment.

Yesh Din appealed the police’s decision to close the investigation file, but the appeal was rejected; as a result, Yesh Din petitioned the High Court. The petition claims that the evidence collected during the investigation unequivocally demonstrate that the persons involved in populating the structures operated in order to render the order meaningless and lied to the court about it. Likewise, the petition argues that the police did not collect documents from the offices of Amana, although they could have been used against those being investigated.

A letter sent in November 2009 was attached to the petition, drafted half a year after the court order. It was sent by the Rechelim secretariat to one of the families that intended to move into one of the houses in question. The letter stated that “populating the houses is necessary for several reasons, of which I will only enumerate two. First and foremost, the moment you move into these houses we will be able admit new families into the community. In addition, these houses are supposed to have been populated and are reported as such. In the event of an inspection that finds they are not populated, their status could change”.

Yesh Din views the State Attorney’s decision not to indict those involved as undisturbed and full impunity for Israeli citizens involved in illegal construction in the West Bank. However, this case is gravely unreasonable in light of the evidence accrued by the police.

In its response, the State claimed there is no basis for the court to interfere with the professional decision made by the Police and State Attorney not to file an indictment. The response stated that while there was suspicion of severe offenses, the decision not to file an indictment was made after a complex and prolonged investigation, at the end of which the professional ranks reached the decision there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction. It also stated that the fact that the decision was made to regulate the status of the land and not to demolish the houses influenced the criminal proceeding.

In November 2017, the case was dismissed on the recommendation of the High Court justices, who asserted that only in rare cases can the prosecution order an indictment be served following the conclusion of an investigation for lack of sufficient evidence, and this case does not meet the requirements for this.

Status of Petition: Dismissed