PA, Human Rights Groups Condemn Expulsion Ruling

The High Court of Justice's decision to authorize the expulsion of two Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip is a gross violation of international law and basic human rights, Palestinian spokesmen and human rights organizations charged yesterday.

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, an adviser to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, said the PA will ask the United Nations Security Council to pressure Israel to halt the relocation policy.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat branded the High Court ruling "a black day for human rights." He criticized the decision as collective punishment and called on the international community to intervene immediately to stop the deportations.

PA Culture and Arts Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo ridiculed the verdict as "`justice' reached by war criminals." Reiterating a statement he made several weeks ago, Abed Rabbo said the PA will not "collaborate" with Israeli authorities in the deportations. He also called on international organizations to stop "the High Court's criminal decision."

But despite such declarations, it remained unclear whether the PA will take substantive measures either to protest Israel's policy or to try to block the arrival of the Ajouri siblings in Gaza.

Rashida Ajouri, the mother of the two siblings to be transferred, said the deportation will not deter terrorists, because pressure and despair are what give rise to terror.

Her son, Ali, who is accused by the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service of sending suicide bombers to carry out attacks, was killed by the IDF on August 6, and her family home was demolished after a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv this July in which Ali was allegedly involved. "The demolition wasn't enough for them," she said, speaking to reporters at her home in the Askar refugee camp. "They want to kill everyone in this family by using these expulsions."

Human rights groups also strongly opposed the ruling. Hamoked - the Center for the Defense of the Individual, which had joined the petitions, said it stands by the position it argued in court: that the act sanctioned by the High Court is an act of deportation proscribed under international law as a war crime.

"Whoever orders and carries out such deportation can expect to be put on trial in international tribunals," the center stated. "It is doubtful that such tribunals will embrace the High Court's interpretation, which authorized this deportation."

Amnesty International also denounced the decision as a flagrant violation of international law. The ruling is a "serious violation of one of the most basic principles of international human rights law - the right of the accused to a fair trial, and to present his version against the evidence presented against him," Amnesty stated.

The ruling was also criticized by politicians from both ends of the political spectrum. The chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Michael Eitan (Likud), said that terrorist organizations must be laughing at Israel and mocking the decision to send accomplices of murderers to two years of confinement in the Gaza Strip.

MK Ahmed Tibi (Arab Movement for Renewal) claimed that the decision violates international law, and said the court's failure to uphold human rights is lamentable.

But opposition leader Yossi Sarid (Meretz) said that given the court's predicament, "stuck between a rock and a hard place," yesterday's decision can be seen as both a misfortune and a blessing. Sarid said the court continues to do its utmost to save Israelis from the hands of international justice.

An other Knesset member who praised the ruling, coalition whip Ze'ev Boim (Likud), called the decision courageous and precedent-setting.

He said that the ruling supports Israel's efforts to uproot terror by imposing substantive punishments on all parties involved in terror, and that it gives the state an important tools with which to deter potential human bombs.

The Ajouri siblings will be transferred to Gaza at 10 A.M. today. The process actually got under way last night, when the pair was brought to an army detention facility near the Beit El settlement for the night. An IDF vehicle will transport the Ajouris this morning from Beit El to the Erez Junction in northern Gaza.

The IDF plans to allow Israeli and overseas media to cover the Ajouris' transfer to Gaza. This coverage is being allowed because the IDF wants the measure to have a deterrent effect.

The army hopes the punishment will deliver a message to the Palestinian population and deter it from aiding and abetting acts of terror, an Israel Defense Forces source said.