Petition to the High Court of Justice

1 Jan 2011

On 5 May 2002 Adalah submitted a petition to the High Court of Justince in the name of seven human rights organizations against the IDF's use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. The petition presented many cases illustrating the army's practice.

Two days after the petition was filed, the state informed the High Court that, ".the IDF has decided to issue immediately an unequivocal order to the forces in the field. The order states that forces in the field are absolutely forbidden to use any civilians as a means of 'living shield' against gunfire or attacks by the Palestinian side."

The state distinguished between the use of Palestinians as human shields and "Palestinian residents assisting IDF forces in gaining entry to houses of other Palestinian residents during the military operations." This assistance, the state argued, does not constitute using them as human shields. However, "the IDF decided to clarify that even this act is forbidden in situations in which the commander in the field believes that a civilian is liable to be injured."

The IDF has used civilians as human shields for a long time, though army officials have vociferously denied it. The state's distinction between the danger to civilian lives in certain cases and the risk entailed in the case of "assistance" is incomprehensible. In each instance, soldiers jeopardize the lives of innocent civilians to protect themselves; thus, these cases are equally forbidden. The order to soldiers must be unequivocal: in no instance may a civilian be compelled to cooperate with security forces by performing military tasks that endanger their lives.