Sari Bashi [Gisha] on Israeli military use of secret evidence

About ten days ago, Sari Bashi [Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization GISHA, which was founded to advocate for Palestinian freedom of movement. wrote [in Hebrew] about one application of the Israeli military’s use of secret evidence against Palestinian detainees.

Bashi wrote that: “In the six years in which Gisha has been providing legal assistance to Palestinians, the High Court justices have yet to deliver a decision that goes against classified material presented by the Internal Security Agency (Shin Bet)“.

She added that “Experience shows that information about security risks can be based on [1] statements made by collaborators trying to please their handlers, and [2] people can be accused as security risks based on non-violent political activism, [3] a refusal to serve as a collaborator for the ISA [Israeli Security Agency], [4] a relative’s actions against the State of Israel, and [5] even because of the mere fact that a relative was injured or killed by the military, rendering the entire family suspect of wanting to seek revenge. And yes, it’s safe to assume that [6] in some cases the classified material does contain concrete evidence of violent actions.“.

One case taken on by GISHA illustrates how this secret evidence is used: a Palestinian man was arrested in 2010, but then, on the basis of secret evidence, was taken out of prison and sent by the military to Gaza — expelled, exiled, deported — an action that was upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court on the basis of secret evidence:

    You can’t sell Bakr Haffi’s case to the mainstream media, and you can’t win it in the Israeli High Court of Justice. The 38-year-old Palestinian man, a bee keeper by trade, has not seen his wife and two daughters for two years. It all began when he was arrested in his home in Tulkarem in the northern West Bank on suspicion of being a Hamas activist. After a month of interrogation that yielded no results, a military judge ordered his release. But instead of releasing him back to his home and family in Tulkarem, the military removed him to the Gaza Strip, which is listed as his place of residence in the Israeli-administered Palestinian population registry. Israel refuses to recognize relocation from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, even for people like Bakr, who moved to the West Bank back in 1999 and established a family there”.

So, it appears — and, can it be so? — that although an Israeli military judge in an Israeli military court in the West Bank ordered this man’s release, other military officers ordered the man to be taken to Gaza. In the current circumstances, this is a one-way ticket, with no possibility of return to the West Bank [although, under all the important agreements of the Oslo process, signed by Israel and the P.L.O. in the mid-1990s. the West Bank and Gaza were specifically said to constitute a single political unit … What happened to change that? Ariel Sharon’s unilateral “disengagement” which removed 8,000 Israeli settlers, and the military + security forces protecting them, from Gaza in September 2005…]

What is not entirely clear is whether the military judge knew what was about to happen, or maybe even ordered Bakr’s removal to Gaza as part of his ruling to release him from detention? Or, did another branch of the military take it upon itself to, in effect, make its own ruling on Bakr’s fate, regardless of what the military judge decided.

Bashi continued, in her article:

    It has been two years since Bakr was removed from his home. He now relies on his brother in Gaza for financial support and hasn’t seen his wife and daughters, now aged 2 and 3.5, for two years. Bakr’s wife and daughters have become dependent on the charity of welfare officials in the West Bank. The girls no longer know who their father is.

    Bakr’s case has exhausted every legal procedure that Israel’s occupation bureaucracy has to offer. He requested legal assistance from Gisha, and we contacted the army on his behalf. We demanded and received a hearing at Erez Crossing, where we noted that his release from detention in 2010 was specifically due to lack of evidence. We mentioned a prior arrest, in 2003, for car theft, for which he was charged and convicted, and he served his sentence. We asked that if there is any evidence against him now, let it be presented, so that we can respond. We emphasized that the army apparently recognized Bakr’s residency in the West Bank, because in 2006, after he was previously removed from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, he was granted a permit to enter Israel in order to return to the West Bank. The permit was valid for a month. We raised questions about the “risk” posed by a man who received a month-long permit to enter Israel, including overnight stay. When the military issued its final refusal, we submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice.

    You can’t win Bakr’s case in the High Court of Justice, and there is no chance of getting public support for him through the mainstream media, because the state’s claim – that he is involved in hostile activity against Israel – is backed by secret information that will tip the scales against him … The law allows the army to present the alleged evidence against Bakr and charge him for any alleged crimes. Yet, as in so many other cases, the army prefers to use administrative measures, such as deporting a person and denying his or her return. These measures are based on evidence that never sees the light of day, and as such, cannot be refuted. Bakr’s punishment: the break-up of his family. Bakr’s crime: we’ll never know.”


What happened in the most recent effort by GISHA: *Epilogue: On January 4, 2012, the Israeli High Court of Justice heard HCJ 3010/11 Bakr Haffi v. Minister of Defense. After reviewing the classified material, the justices rejected Bakr’s request to return to his family in Tulkarem”.

This man remains exiled in Gaza.

Bashi’s post about this case was translated into English, and published by +972 magazine on 9 January, here.

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