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Restraining orders issued to settlers are unacceptable

According to media reports on 2 Aug. '11, GOC Central Command issued administrative restraining orders against 12 settlers from Yitzhar and from nearby outposts in the northern West Bank, for periods ranging from three months to a year.

In response, B'Tselem stated that the move is an unacceptable means of dealing with lawbreakers in the West Bank. Firm action must be taken against settlers who harm Palestinians and Palestinian property, but this must be carried out through the criminal-justice system and not by issuing administrative orders based on classified material.

For years, the state has refrained from enforcing the law on settlers, enabling ongoing harm to Palestinians and their property by settlers from Yitzhar, Gilad Farm, Susiya, Mizpe Ya’ir, Ma’on Farm, ‘Adey Ad, Mizpe Avihai and other settlements and outposts. This policy operates on all levels, whether it is soldiers in the field, the police or the judicial system.

In recent weeks alone, B'Tselem has documented several cases in which settlers from Yitzhar assaulted Palestinians and damaged their property in broad daylight, and in full view of security forces who did not act to stop the assault or arrest the wrongdoers.

Video: Soldiers stand by as settlers attack 'Asira al-Qibliya, 14 July, 2011

Administrative orders are issued without charges being filed, without trial and without judicial sanction. They are usually issued under a heavy cloak of classified information, so defendants cannot properly defend themselves. This tool can be considered lawful in certain circumstances; however, given the grave harm to due process that it entails, and in light of the evident danger of misuse, it must be used in exceptional cases only and as a preventive measure, when all other means have failed and only if there is no alternative. The restraining orders issued against the settlers from Yitzhar do not meet these criteria and contradict the restrictions on use of this tool imposed by Israeli and international law. These restrictions are intended to ensure the right to liberty and due process, the right to be heard, and the presumption of innocence.

The law-enforcement authorities must investigate, gather evidence on, and prosecute persons suspected of torching mosques and carrying out “price tag” actions in the West Bank, while safeguarding the suspects’ right to due process.