Human Rights in the Age of Corona

We are monitoring the government actions to halt the spread of the virus in order to ensure that the damage to human rights is substantive, proportional, for a fit purpose, and as limited as possible, and working to secure the rights of vulnerable populations during the crisis. Our work since mid-March covers: 1. Safeguarding Democracy and Basic Rights 2. Protecting Civil Liberties 3. Protecting Social Rights 4. Human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories & East Jerusalem 5. Human Rights Education

2020-03-15 18:18:25

Ending Power Cuts

We appealed to the Minister of Energy and the Chair of the Electricity Authority to order the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to stop cutting off power as a result of unpaid dues during the coronavirus crisis, and to order the provision of electricity to household consumers who rely on electricity via a prepaid meter (PPM) – regardless of the meter’s charge. We were pleased to hear that during a hearing held at the IEC the same morning, the company chair ordered an end to cutting debtors’ off from power, and providing emergency codes to customers who rely on PPMs.

2020-03-17 18:18:25

Making Social Security Forms Accessible to Arabic Speakers

We appealed to the Israeli Employment Service and National Insurance Institute, along with the organization WAC-MAAN (Workers Advice Center), demanding the translation of online forms into Arabic for people required to fill them out to receive unemployment benefits, thus enabling applicants to submit them in Arabic. In response, we were informed that the Israeli Employment Service had trained student volunteers to help residents fill out the forms, and that the service would increase the amount of Arabic call centers.

2020-03-18 18:18:25

Making Newscasts Accessible to Arab Speakers in Real Time

We appealed to the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC), demanding that they make leading newscasts accessible to Arabic speakers in real time – whether through Arabic subtitles, or by adapting the Arabic newscast to its Hebrew equivalent, in both scope and content. We did not fall on deaf ears, as already the following day, the IPBC’s Arabic newscast was significantly expanded.

2020-03-18 18:18:25

A Question of Authority

We petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ), demanding that the state of emergency declared by the Minister of Justice be repealed. Such a declaration entails the annulment of all court hearings, urgent matters aside. We further requested that the court deem the regulations authorizing the minister to declare a state of emergency illegal, and that such authority be solely regulated via primary legislation. As a result of the petition, the Ministry of Justice committed to considering regulating the minister’s legislative authority throughout the year, following the conclusion of the coronavirus crisis. The HCJ struck down the petition ruling that ACRI could submit another petition, should the minister disproportionately use his authority.

2020-03-19 18:18:25

Educators for Human Rights – Even Remotely

We filmed our first online course on the topic of “Media Amid Corona,” written for the Ministry of Education’s online learning system. Thereafter we were partners in writing and filming seven more filmed lessons for elementary school students, and six lessons for middle school students. The lessons address human rights and racism, coping with information overload and fake news, freedom of expression and children and youth leading change in Israel and around the world.

2020-03-19 18:18:25

Reducing the Amount of Prisoners

We joined Physicians for Human RIghts’ appeal along with fellow organizations demanding the maximum reduction of the prison population, to diminish the risk of infection and ensure inmates’ health. Indeed, the following day the Israel Prison Service (IPS) announced its intention to release approximately 5,000 inmates on leave, and on 27.3.2020 emergency regulations were enacted that allow the IPS to release prisoners close to the conclusion of their sentence for a 30-day leave.

2020-03-22 18:18:25

Freeze on Debt Collection for Benefit Recipients

Routinely, the National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII) is the sole creditor permitted to collect debts from people who receive subsistence benefits or child allowances, through reducing the amount of the benefit. We appealed (on 19.3.2020) to the NII with Haifa University’s Civil Litigation Clinic, requesting that it freeze this mode of debt collection from benefit recipients, in view of the economic situation challenging Israeli residents throughout the period of the coronavirus. Following our request, the NII announced that it would not offset new debts from benefit recipients until the month of June.

2020-03-23 18:18:25

Relief for Public Housing Tenants

Following our appeal (on 15.3.2020) to the Ministry of Housing regarding rights for both tenants and those eligible for public housing, we received a response according to which some of our demands were met: the Ministry of Housing promised to automatically renew eligibility for public housing and rent assistance for elderly tenants; offer those entitled to assistance and public housing significant relief in renewing eligibility, and ease bureaucratic demands; refrain from carrying out evictions during this period, and continue to operate exceptions committees as usual. The ministry further declared that it had issued a general directive to the housing companies to cease collecting debts from tenants entirely.

2020-03-23 18:18:25

Freezing Home Demolitions

We re-appealed to the Deputy Attorney General, requesting that the enforcement of planning and construction laws be adapted to the state of emergency. We claimed that the policy of home demolitions is intolerable even amid routine, and especially when many have lost financial security and are confined to their homes. The following day (24.3.2020), the Ministry of Justice announced that the issuance of administrative demolitions orders will currently be reduced such that orders will solely be issued regarding new illegal construction; no demolition orders will be implemented for residential structures; and warnings will be diminished to the greatest extent possible.

2020-03-25 18:18:25

Lesson Plans: Plenty to Discuss

We began distributing a weekly newsletter to educators with lesson plans addressing human rights, racism, and democracy amid the coronavirus crisis, for use within remote-learning frameworks. Activities may be found on our education department’s website, “The Workshop” in Hebrew and Arabic.

2020-03-26 18:18:25

Cash Withdrawal of Subsistence Benefits

We submitted an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice against the Supervisor of Banks and the Bank of Israel. We demanded that they order all banks to open branches that offer cash withdrawal services on Sunday, 29.3.2020, the date on which subsistence benefits are distributed, to provide services to benefit recipients who have no other means of accessing the benefit aside from cash withdrawal. Furthermore, we demanded that actions be taken to enable customers who receive social security benefits and whose accounts are frozen, to withdraw cash protected from levies. One day after the petition was filed, the state accepted our primary demand and the bank branches with teller services were opened nationwide over the course of two days.

2020-03-29 18:18:25

Freezing Home Demolitions in the West Bank

We contacted the Civil Administration (following our previous appeals on 3.18.2020 and 3.25.2020) regarding home demolitions in the West Bank. We noted that during this period, wherein Palestinian residents of the West Bank are required to remain in their homes with the exception of leaving to obtain food and medicine, the haste with which home demolitions are carried out, endangers the population, is unacceptable, and must be stopped. Following our appeals, the Civil Administration ordered (on 7.4.2020) a freeze on home demolitions in the West Bank until the coronavirus crisis comes to an end.

2020-03-30 18:18:25

Struggle Against Restrictions on Outings and Visits

Along with the organization Bizchut, we submitted notes on a legal memorandum to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, regarding restrictions on the outings and visits of tenants living in dormitories, and minors who do not live in their parents’ home. We claimed that restrictions on visits and outings are disproportionate and severely infringe upon human rights. The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services has decided to freeze the promotion of this bill.

2020-04-02 18:18:25

Coronavirus Tests in East Jerusalem

We appealed to the Ministry of Health and the Jerusalem Municipality requesting that they open coronavirus testing sites in East Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier. A few days later, coronavirus testing sites were opened at the Shuafat Refugee Camp checkpoint and in Kafr ‘Aqab, and later at the Qalandiya checkpoint as well.

2020-04-07 18:18:25

Expanding Medication Delivery to Arab Localities

Along with the Clinic for Patients’ Rights at the College of Management, we appealed to Health Maintenance Organizations and the Super-Pharm chain, demanding that they provide medication delivery services via electronic prescriptions in Arab localities, as well. Following our appeal, their shipping policy has improved.

2020-04-12 18:18:25

Ensuring Income for Prisoners’ Early Release

We appealed to the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services, along with the legal clinics at Haifa University and the IDC Herzliya, requesting that he grant income support benefits to prisoners who have been released early due to the coronavirus outbreak (in order to alleviate overcrowding in prisons). Unlike released prisoners who are entitled to receive income support benefits for two months immediately upon their release, these prisoners are not entitled to this benefit as their status remains that of “prisoners” who are on “special leave.” Following additional appeals to the National Insurance Institute (NII) on 21.4.2020 and 3.5.2020, the NII recognized these prisoners’ entitlement to income support, and permitted them to apply retroactively, so as to be eligible for the benefit upon the date of their leave.

2020-04-13 18:18:25

Petition Against Placing Pregnant Women on Unpaid Leave

The Forum of Organizations for Workers’ Rights, of which ACRI is a member, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) against emergency regulations amid the coronavirus crisis, which would allow for unpaid leave to be imposed upon pregnant women, women undergoing fertility treatments, or women who returned from maternity leave, without a permit from the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services. Upon submitting the petition the regulations were repealed. During the HCJ hearing, it was agreed that a discussion on the harm caused to women during the period in which the regulations were in place, and relevant resolutions, would be conducted within the framework of the temporary Labor and Welfare Committee, and the petition was struck down.

2020-04-18 18:18:25

Defense of Freedom of Protest and the Right to Demonstrate

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, we took care to ensure freedom of expression and protest. Following our appeals to authorities, demonstrations were permitted throughout the country, and fines doled out to protesters were reduced and revoked.

2020-04-20 18:18:25

Not Worth Less

We joined a letter written by the organization Bizchut, among others, demanding that recommendations on behalf of a committee that deemed bedridden people and those confined to wheelchairs who are in need of aid, or unable to work, at a lower priority for lifesaving medical care than working people, in the event of limited resources such as respirators. The letter claims that granting precedence to the perception of people through the prism of disability, rather than as human beings with desires, aspirations, social and familial ties, perpetuates prejudices and contradicts moral values and basic human rights.

2020-04-23 18:18:25

Reducing Violation of Suspects’ Rights

In the Special Committee for Dealing With the Coronavirus, a bill was passed that allows for the extension of suspects’ detainment, even if it is not possible to advance the respective investigation due to their quarantine or that of a central witness to the case. The original proposal was very problematic with regard to suspects’ rights. Following our comments (on 16.4.2020 and 30.3.2020), and our activities within the committee, the articulation that ultimately passed was significantly restrained relative to that of the original proposal, reducing infringement upon rights.

2020-04-26 18:18:25

Publication of Morbidity Rates in Small Localities

We appealed to the Ministry of Health requesting that data be published on people infected by the coronavirus in mixed cities and localities with less than 5,000 residents. Following our request, the Ministry began publishing morbidity-related data in localities with over 2,000 residents.

2020-04-26 18:18:25

Israel Security Service and Police Surveillance

The High Court of Justice (HCJ) received a petition that we submitted on 3.18.2020, following the government bypassing the Knesset to approve emergency regulations granting far-reaching authority to the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and the Israel Police within the framework of contending with the coronavirus. The HCJ ruled that the government’s authority regarding the ISA Law to impose the promotion of vital state interests of national security on the ISA, must be narrowly interpreted. The Supreme Court ruled that should the state seek to continue to use ISA technological means to contend with the coronavirus following 30.4.2020, such authority must be attained through primary legislation.

2020-04-28 18:18:25

Medical Insurance and Adequate Accommodation Conditions for Palsetinian Workers

We petitioned the High Court of Justice along with the Workers’ Hotline and Physicians for Human Rights, regarding the living conditions of Palestinians working in Israel throughout the period of the coronavirus. Following our petition, on 5.5.2020 emergency regulations were issued (after which the draft of a bill was also published) that included our demands: the provision of mandatory medical insurance for every Palestinian worker with a permit to reside in Israel; requiring employees to uphold standards for suitable accommodation conditions; and certifying additional supervisors. Furthermore, the permit’s stipulation on the Israeli employer’s possession of employees’ identity cards, was revoked.

2020-05-03 18:18:25

Protecting Working Parents

We appealed to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services, along with Itach-Maaki Women Lawyers for Social Justice, regarding protecting working parents who have been required to return to work full-time during a period in which educational frameworks remain partially operational. The primary victims of the situation remain mothers, particularly single mothers.

2020-05-04 18:18:25

Online Learning for All

We petitioned the High Court of Justice along with Haifa University’s Legal Clinic for Educational Rights, on behalf of parents of students and a number of organizations, against the Ministries of Education and Finance, demanding that remote learning be made more accessible to all students in Israel. We noted that the online curriculum leaves out tens of thousands of students who are unable to partake due to financial hardship, a lack of computers and tablets at home, and sometimes due to the community’s disconnection from electricity, let alone the internet. Furthermore, we demanded that the content of all online lessons be made available in Arabic, ensuring that online lessons will be broadcast on public television channels in Hebrew and Arabic. On 5.5.2020, the petition was struck down as most schools resumed in-person classes, and the court ordered the Ministry of Education to resolve the issue of students living in “red zones,” who are yet to resume full-time education due to the coronavirus.

2020-05-05 18:18:25

Conditioning Fertility Treatments on Coronavirus Tests

We appealed to the Ministry of Health in order to receive clarifications regarding conditioning fertility treatments on repeated tests for the coronavirus. Following our request, an amendment to the procedure was published, which reduced the amount of required tests.

2020-05-07 00:28:45

Where There’s No Water There Are No Classes

We appealed to the Al-Kasom Regional Council and the Ministry of Education, demanding that they connect the complex attended by kindergarten through ninth graders in the Tel Arad locality, to water. The complex was cut off from water even prior to the coronavirus crisis, yet during this period the right to water took on even greater significance due to health circumstances and the need to maintain hygiene, such that the school could not open its doors to students. On 21.5.2020 we petitioned the Administrative Court in Be’er Sheva on the matter. On 27.5.2020, the court accepted the petition and ordered the MInistry of Education to provide a regular water supply to the restrooms.

Human Rights in the Age of Corona

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