Rights Groups: Population Admin. in Contempt of Court

Five civil rights groups yesterday initiated contempt of court proceedings against the Population Administration for non-compliance with a December court ruling to make public its procedures and regulations.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), Moked - Hotline for Foreign Workers, Kav La'oved (Worker's Hotline for the Protection of Workers' Rights) and Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual have asked the Administrative Court in Jerusalem to compel the Population Administration, a branch of the Interior Ministry, to comply with the court verdict requiring it to publish all its procedures and instructions.

Among other things, these procedures pertain to the awarding of citizenship to spouses of Israelis, the annulment of citizenship and the granting of refugee status. The non-publication of these procedures are said to be preventing thousands of non-Jews from obtaining citizenship, residency permits and work permits.

In a particularly harshly worded ruling in December, ordering the Interior Ministry to publish its procedures and regulations within 30 days, District Court Judge Judith Tsur said: "The Interior Ministry has not been following the law for years and has not respected court verdicts."

In requesting the contempt of court finding, attorney Oded Feller, representing the groups, said the Interior Ministry had released only some of the required information on its website. Among the material still unreleased are procedures involving the registration of children of East Jerusalem residents, and procedures for reassigning foreign workers who have left their original employer.

Feller noted that all approaches by the organizations to the Interior Ministry went unanswered. However, at least this problem has apparently been solved. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said in response: "Tomorrow they will receive an answer to all the arguments that have been raised."