HCJ 5439/09 Ahmad Abd Al Kader et al v the Military Appeals Committee

Petition Description: In May 2007, landowners from the Palestinian village of Qaddum noticed that Michael Lessens, a resident of the settlement of Kedumim, had invaded their land, planted hundreds of saplings, put down a drip irrigation system and installed additional irrigation devices. The landowners submitted complaints to the police with the assistance of Yesh Din and asked the Civil Administration to take action.

In August 2007, the Civil Administration issued an order instructing Lessens and the Kedumim Local Council to cease using the land and vacate it. However, Lessens appealed to the Military Appeals Committee and motioned to revoke the order. On March 10, 2009, two justices (out of three on the Committee) recommended the head of the Civil Administration revoke the order.

As a result, in June 2009 the landowners petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) with the assistance of Yesh Din, to request that the Court rescind the Military Appeals Committee decision and instruct the invader to vacate the land. The State joined the petitioners’ position; in its response to the HCJ it announced that it also holds there the legal conclusions made by the Military Appeals Committee were flawed. The petition also claimed that during the hearing in the appeal filed by Lessens, it was revealed that he invaded the said land on behalf of the Kedumim Local Council, with its support, encouragement and even plan, as part of a strategy for taking over land in order expand the settlement boundaries.

In March 2010, the head of the Civil Administration announced he intended to reject the Military Appeals Committee decision. However, in practice, nothing was done to remove Lessens. Subsequently, the HCJ issued an order nisi in early 2011 instructing the Civil Administration to explain why it fails to enforce the eviction order. The Civil Administration announced in its response that it would evict Lessens by August 1 2011. But in July 2011, Lessens turned to the Jerusalem Magistrates Court with a motion to declare him the landowner on the basis that he has been cultivating it for over 15 years and this grants him ownership of the land. The State informed Lessens that he must present his claims to the HCJ, Lessens petitioned the HCJ asking to prevent his eviction. After realizing that the State objected to his request, Lessens notified that he would stop cultivating the land and asked that the petition against him be withdrawn.

In March 2012, the HCJ accepted Yesh Din’s petition and ordered Lessen’s removal from the land he seized by May 2012, ruling court expenses for a total of NIS 20,000 to the landowners. According to the ruling, “Lessens’ conduct caused grave damage to the law enforcement efforts in the area.” The justices also referred to the order concerning interfering use in private land issued against Lessens, by which he was ordered to leave the land, and wrote that “the directives of this order fulfill the obligations of the military commander to maintain public order in the area and his obligation to protect the property of the protected population […] the military commander is obligated to […] prevent invasions and interfere with the use of private land. As already ruled, this protection is one of the military commander’s most fundamental obligations.”

Petition Status: The petition was accepted and the Civil Administration completed the removal as ordered in May 2012.