Israel's Justice Minister Scraps Plan That Would Have Limited Court Access for Palestinians and Migrants

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

Responding to a public outcry, the Justice Ministry has threw out an amendment that was set to take effect in September and would have barred many Palestinians and migrants from appearing in court. The new rules will preserve their right to access to the legal system.

The amendment to the Civil Law Procedure Regulations, first reported by Haaretz earlier this month, stated that in order to file a legal proceeding, the litigant would have to include either his identity card number or his passport number on the paperwork. That would have barred most Palestinians and migrants from going to court, since they lack both Israeli ID cards and, in many cases, passports.

The new rules, which were signed by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, on Thursday, will allow Palestinians to use the ID number issued by the Palestinian population registry.

In addition, they allow someone who has neither an ID number nor a passport to instead attach a note to his paperwork explaining why he lacks these documents. As long as a document explaining the reasons is attached, the court secretariat will be obliged to accept the paperwork and open the proceeding.

If a litigant feels the secretariat has unjustly refused to accept his paperwork, he will have the right to appeal to either the court registrar or a judge.

The Justice Ministry said the revisions were meant "to clarify that the regulation does not alter, and cannot undermine, the basic right of any person to go to court. For according to the fundamental principles of our [legal] system, regulations do not have the power to undermine a basic right."

Since doubts about this had been raised, the ministry decided "to remove any doubts" by making these revisions.

Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, who had written to Neeman to protest the original regulations, said he was pleased with the change. "We're glad the Justice Ministry has recognized its obligation to ensure everyone have the right to access the courts, not merely citizens or residents, but also Palestinians, refugees, migrant workers and stateless people," he said.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi