On 30 November 2021, as the legal representative for four fishermen, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights retrieved four fishing boats held by the Israeli authorities. The sailboats, which had been confiscated in Palestinian territorial waters, belong to the following Gaza fishermen: Mohammed Samir Ali Al Burdwail (boat no. 231), Omar Mohammed Ismail Al Burdwail (boat no. 213), Mohammed Omar Mohammed Al Burdwail (boat no. 199) and Mohammed Adel Al Burdwail (boat no. 207). The Israeli authorities confiscated the abovementioned boats in June, July, and October of 2021.
On 1 November 2021, Al Mezan submitted civil notifications to the Israeli Ministry of Defense Compensation Department and initiated legal procedures with the Military Advocate General (MAG), Attorney General, and Ministry of Defense, on behalf of fishermen Mohammed Omar Al Burdwail and Mohammed Adel Al Burdwail on 8 November 2021 and for Mohmmed Samir Al Burdwail and Omar Mohammed Al Burdwail on 6 July and 2 August 2021, respectively.
Previously, on 10 October 2018, Al Mezan, in partnership with Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, filed a preliminary petition to the State Attorney in preparation for a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the release of additional fishing boats. Indeed, the Israeli authorities released 25 Palestinian boats on 29 November 2021, some of which had been held for years. Some were returned without their engines.
While deploring the protracted closure of the Gaza Strip, Al Mezan stresses that the Israeli authorities’ fluctuating and arbitrary maritime restrictions represent one of the forms of collective punishment inflicted on Gaza’s population and prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international humanitarian law. The recurrent violations against Palestinian fishermen include the excessive and lethal use of force, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and some forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments. When they are intercepted by the Israeli navy, Palestinian fishermen are often forced to undress and swim in cold water to the navy boats and are verbally abused. Their boats are usually damaged, particularly the engines, and confiscated. These practices directly violate international human rights and humanitarian law, and amount to different forms of inhuman acts under the 1973 Apartheid Convention.
Accordingly, Al Mezan urges the Israeli occupation authorities to end the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip and to release the remaining boats still under seizure. The Center also calls for the immediate return of confiscated fishing gear and equipment and compensation to the affected fishermen for the damage to their business during the period of suspension. Lastly, Al Mezan calls on the international community for an urgent and effective intervention to end the Israeli closure on Gaza and ensure respect for international law in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).