Sunday, April 01, 2018

On Law During Beliigerent Occupation

Israel's High Court for Justice handed down its decision on April 5, 1983 in the matter of HCJ 69/81 Aita v. Regional Commander of Judea and Samaria.

Arab petitioners who carried on various businesses in their respective regions challenged the validity of enactments imposing excise duty on local manufacturers in Judea and Samaria and on goods and services in the Gaza Strip, along with maintaining accounting procedures. These had been levied following the introduction of Value Added Tax in Israel.

Their main submissions were (a) since the Regions where the Petitioners live and work were occupied territory. Article 43 of the Hague Regulations required the Regional Commander to respect existing law unless the circumstances rendered it absolutely impossible. Such circumstances did not obtain in the Regions; (b) under the said Article, all enactments not designed to promote public order and safety were forbidden, whatever the purposes thereof; (c) Article 48 permits the Military Government only to adapt the collection of taxes to existing law and therefore does not give it power to enact new legislation even if it is for the benefit of the Region and its local population.

In the end, the High Court for Justice ruled:

A. (1) The basic norm on which the structure of the Israeli government in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is built, is the norm of military government.

  (2) The authority of such government is temporary and it shall continue in power as long as it is effective.

  (3) On assuming authority and as long as it continues, the military government occupies the place of the central government and its local authorities that ruled in the region, and concentrates in its hands every power, right and duty of such central government under the existing law in the Region, subject to such changes as the establishment of the military itself involves and the restrictions imposed by the laws of war.

  (4)  The authority of the military government is not limited to implementing the local law. It may translate its powers and directives in terms of security enactments subject, however, to the rules of the laws of war.

...C. (1) The acts of the occupying power derive their force and validity from customary international law which is embodied in international conventions and partly remains in the form of common law as reflected in the judgments of international or national judicial tribunals, in the practice of nations and in legal literature.

  (2) The latter is not merely interpretative of the international conventions which codify customary rules, it may also serve as an independent source evidencing general practice accepted as law.

  (3) When the High Court examines the question of the law as to whether there has been an act of omission or commission conflicting with public international law, it must differentiate between customary and conventional international law, and make a distinction between the two.

  (4) Customary international law is automatically incorporated into Israeli law, and becomes part of it except when it is in direct conflict with enacted Israeli law, in which case, Israeli law takes precedence.

  (5) Conventional international law does not become part of Israeli law through automatic incorporation, but only if it is adopted or combined with Israeli law by enactment of primary or subsidiary legislation from which it derives its force.

  (6) The legal principles embraced by the Supreme Court on subjects arising in the occupied territories are those of customary international law which gives force also to the local courts in the occupied territories according to Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, adopted in the security legislation.

...E. (1) The Addendum to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1907 (Hague Regulations) expresses customary international law in the framework of the laws of war.

  (2) The convention contains no express prohibition on the imposition of taxes by an occupying power. The ramifications arising from Article 48 of the Addendum to the Convention should not be examined according to the narrow limits resulting from the wording of the article - which does not enable reaching definite conclusions regarding the permissible limits of taxation. But the subject should be examined in light of the quality of the military regime and its obligations, and in light of the responsibilities towards the areas which it controls.

  (3) Article 49 opens the door to the imposition of additional payment on the populace: there are no restrictions on the frequency of the levy; no restrictions on the reasons for its imposition, the manner of its collection, its scope, the individual rates that shall be determined, or resulting associated features; but there is a restriction regarding the purpose of the levy, and other restrictions lacking real significance according to Article 51.

  (4) Articles 48 and 49 of the Hague Regulations have the sole purpose of limiting the scope of responses in the event that either of two situations arises: One, the collection of taxes by the military regime that are intended for the needs of the State, and two, the imposition of forced levies. Should either of these two actions take place, the military regime will be restricted in regards to methods of implementation and disposition of income, as detailed in the Hague Regulations.

  (5) Regarding the implementation of the payment to be made: The amount of the debt shall be determined according to the normal rules of assessment (how much to be collected) (from whom to collect). The debit is not rigidly fixed, but is flexible to no small degree and can be fixed according to existing conditions. In this matter there is no logic in applying the same criterion to a recently established military government and to a military government that has been in charge of an area with all its attendant civilian problems for more than ten years.

  (6) A forced levy by the military is clearly a means of compulsion expressed by a forced collection of cash meant to flow directly to army coffers, with no relationship or resemblance to taxes for civilian purposes.

F. (1) The military regime does not have the right to impose taxes on the inhabitants of the occupied territories and divert those taxes to the treasury of the state in whose name it acts.

  ...(4) There is no basis to the argument that a general rule of customary international law has developed, forbidding totally and absolutely and for any reason whatsoever, all military legislative enactments imposing new taxes. On the other hand, there is no reason to conclude that the matter of new taxes is left to the sole discretion of the military regime. [p. 203].

Shamgar, Meir Primary Author majority opinion
Bejski, Moshe majority opinion
Shilo, Yitzhak

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