Woman loses case to remain after leaving Israel over military service

Applicant was 17 when she came to Ireland in 2014 and sought refugee status

A file image of Israeli female soldiers  in the southern Israeli town of Sderot near the border with Gaza. Photograph: Getty

A file image of Israeli female soldiers in the southern Israeli town of Sderot near the border with Gaza. Photograph: Getty

 

A young woman who fled Israel after being called for military service because she conscientiously objected to participating in military actions against the Palestinian people has lost her case over being refused refugee status here.

The High Court heard the applicant was aged 17 when she came here in 2014 and sought refugee status.

If returned to Israel, she said she had a well-founded fear of being prosecuted or punished for refusing to perform military service in a conflict in which such service would include crimes or acts amounting to war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace or acts contrary to the United Nations Charter.

She felt psychologically unable to engage in armed combat and did not want to participate in the military actions of Israeli defence forces against the Palestinians, particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

She, her father and grandmother had been treated very well by Palestinian doctors in Israel and she could not live with herself if she was involved in military actions against the Palestinian people, she said.

In proceedings against the Minister for Justice and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT), she sought to overturn the tribunal’s November 2016 decision upholding the dismissal of her claim by the Refugee Applications Commissioner (RAC).

In his reserved judgment published this week, Mr Justice David Keane noted the woman was told in 2014 to report for military service in Israel in July 2015.

Dilemma

She said that created a dilemma as, if she reported for service, she may be required to kill or harm people directly or indirectly and, if she refused she would be prosecuted and jailed for two years after which she would be unable to pursue the profession of her choice in Israel.

The woman had said she is not a pacifist and was not opposed to military service in general but only to military service in a combat unit, he said.

She had not sought an exemption from service because she did not think she could get one and had been told no alternative form of service was available to her.

A United Nations handbook states a person is not a refugee if their only reason for desertion or draft evasion is dislike of military service of fear of combat, he noted.

For that and other reasons, the RAC concluded the problems the woman feared as a result of military service did not amount to persecution.

The judge said he could see no basis in law or fact for her arguments that, in claiming to be a full conscientious objector and “selective” conscientious objector, she would have been refused an exemption from military service on grounds of her selective objection to participating in some military actions.

The claim to have a well founded fear of persecution was based on an unproven proposition she would have been refused an exemption for which she had not applied, he held.

Narrow definition

He disagreed the RAT had adopted an unduly narrow definition of acts of persecution or had erred in saying she had to establish it was “highly likely” her unknown future military unit will commit war crimes or certain other acts.

The Tribunal held there was insufficient evidence before it for it to conclude Israel engages in systematic acts or official indifference in allowing war crimes or genocide.

The woman had also failed to show the tribunal’s findings were unreasonable or irrational given it had granted refugee status in 2010 to two other Israeli nationals who made arguments similar to hers, he ruled.

Additional claims of breaches of the woman’s right to fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice were also dismissed.