The International Human Rights Clinic was established several years ago and is one of eight subject-specific Clinics at the CLEC. It works to promote and apply international human rights law to the realities of life in Israel and to the country’s legal system. It provides legal assistance to both individuals and organizations, advancing large-scale impact around the status and rights of the most vulnerable people in Israel today. The Clinic facilitates dialogue and exchange among Israeli human rights organizations, UN treaty bodies and Israeli policy shapers. It focuses on legal representation of diverse minority groups, such as Palestinians from East Jerusalem, asylum seekers and other stateless persons, Ultra-Orthodox women, and the LGBT community. The Clinic also publishes position papers and drafts bills that promote the civil, political, cultural and social rights of such groups.
Alongside helping individuals and groups to protect and utilize their rights, the Clinic’s goals are to arm students — the future generation of lawyers in the public and private sectors — with social sensitivity, knowledge on international human rights, and understanding of the relationship and gaps between “law on the books” and “law in action”.
A. Legal Representation
- The Clinic submitted a petition against the Palestinian Authority to the UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities regarding Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed who are missing in Gaza.Mengistu and Al-Sayed, both of whom have serious mental health conditions, crossed the border into Gaza in 2014 and 2015 (respectively). Based on a video from 2016, it seems that Hamas is holding, or held, Mengistu and Al-Sayed illegally and has refused to provide any information pertaining to either man. Their families have not heard from them, nor have they received any information about their location and status. Numerous human rights are being violated, including those anchored in the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities. On behalf of the families, the Clinic filed a complaint against “The Palestinian State”, which has ratified the Convention, in the name of the families of Mengistu and Al-Sayed. Alongside its complaint, the Clinic filed a request to take measures. The Committee has issued an interim order and ordered the Palestinian Authority to “take any means necessary” to prevent irreversible damage.
- The Clinic assisted a family reunification process. The mother is Palestinian and has permanent residency status in Israel. Even though they have been living in Israel as a family for decades, her husband and children were refused permanent residency status since they were previously registered with the Palestinian Authority [NB: They have no connections with the Palestinian Authority and all of their affinities — family and others — are to Israel]. The Clinic assisted the husband and children with the request to renew their permits. Specifically, it sought to prevent the Population and Immigration Authority from unlawfully refusing to renew the husband’s permit, which would have made him an illegal immigrant and subject to deportation. Following the Clinic’s intervention, renewal of the husband’s permit was approved and he continues to live in Israel with his family.
B. Policy Change
- The Clinic advised a coalition of organizations seeking to protect and advance the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Israel in drafting a shadow report for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child review of Israel, which is scheduled to take place in 2021. Israel is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to reporting to the overseeing Committee. The shadow report includes documentation and analysis of rights violations that impact children, with a focus on education, health and welfare, and pertaining to Israeli policy on asylum seekers. The shadow report will bring these issues before the UN Committee and the government authorities appearing before it who are accountable for Israeli policy and for showing that Israel is abiding by the Convention.
- The Clinic applied to the Law Enforcement and Collection Authority, the body responsible for enforcement of judicial decisions on debt collection, to improve accessibility for Arabic speakers. In previous years, the Clinic successfully urged the government to improve accessibility to its services for Arabic speakers. This year, it focused on demands to the Enforcement Authority to implement changes to improve accessibility.
- In a precedent-setting case, the Clinic successfully represented two siblings with no citizenship at a hearing of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Humanitarian Affairs. The siblings, living in Israel, have no status (or passports) from any country because their parents have no legal status in Israel. After significant efforts on the part of the Clinic, the Committee ruled that it will discuss the status request. This creates a precedent since it may allow others with no passport to bring their cases to the Committee.
C. Education and Awareness Raising
- The Clinic, in collaboration with Hebrew University’s Minerva Center for Human Rights, hosted a conference ‘The Role of the Public in a Democratic State’ whose main focus was the role of civil society organizations. A panel discussion included New Israel Fund Director Mickey Gitzin; Adv. Bana Shougry, PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law and former Clinical Attorney of the International Human Rights Clinic; Adv. Hila Tene Gilad, director of human rights and relations with international organizations at of the Ministry of Law; and Prof. Tomer Broude.