31 May 2010
(Haifa, Israel) Tonight, 31 May 2010, Adalah, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) submitted an extraordinary petition for habeas corpus and request for an urgent hearing to the Supreme Court of Israel. The human rights organizations demanded that the state provide the names of people who were killed and injured on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla by the Israeli navy; the names and locations of those detained, as well as their condition; the legal status of the passengers on the ships; and access to those arrested, detained or in hospital without the restrictive pre-condition of requiring powers of attorney.
The habeas corpus petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn against the Minister of Defense, the Military Advocate General (MAG), the Israel Prison Service (IPS), the Israeli Police, and the Immigration Authority.
This morning, the Israeli military took control over the Freedom Flotilla, a humanitarian aid convoy, while it was in international waters en route to Gaza. Around 700 people from 40 countries are on the ships including human rights and peace activists, journalists, and members of parliament. According to media reports, about 15 people were killed and dozens were injured. Following Israel’s military control over the boats, the petitioners had no way to contact the passengers either by internet or telephone. Some of the injured were taken to hospitals in Israel, and others were taken from the hospitals to detention centers.
The organizers of the Freedom Flotilla asked for legal representation from Adalah in cases of arrests and detentions. Passengers’ families have also contacted Adalah, PCATI and PHR-I and have asked for legal assistance as well as information on the health and well-being of their relatives who are passengers on the boats. Many lawyers and doctors have also contacted the petitioners to lend their support and services, after hearing the media reports on the killings and injuries.
The human rights organizations contacted the Military Advocate General’s Office (MAG), the Attorney General’s Office, and the IPS seeking the names of those detained or hospitalized, the places of detention and/or hospitalization, and the status of these individuals so that the petitioners could meet them and offer legal representation or medical services.
The petitioners received no information concerning the individuals who were killed or injured. Regarding the detainees, the AG’s Office informed the petitioners, in general, that those individuals who were given deportation orders were taken to detention centers in Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva). The AG’s office also stated that attorneys could contact a center in the Ashdod Port and give them the powers of attorney for each individual. This reply is not responsive to the information sought by the petitioners, and it also places too restrictive of a condition for legal representation on the detainees in this situation.
The refusal to provide this information violates the right of the detainees to consult with attorneys, a right guaranteed by numerous decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court. It also violates the state’s legal duty to provide information on the location of a detainee as provided in Article 33 of the Criminal Procedure Law (Powers of Arrest) – 1996, and the individuals’ right to dignity, which is a constitutional right.