A group of legal experts, jurists and academics joined the battle against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan on Monday after sending Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip a letter claiming that the evacuation plan violates basic human rights.

“After reviewing the details of the plan, we arrived at the conclusion that its implementation violates a large portion of the human rights principles which have been upheld by the Supreme Court over the past 12 years,” states the letter, signed by Prof. Eliav Shochetman from the Sha’arei Mishpat Law School and attorneys Haim Misgav and Nitzana Darshan-Leitner.

Taking the struggle against the plan to the legal sphere, the group of jurists claim that the plan contradicts The Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom since it contravenes the ownership rights of thousands of the Gaza residents in addition to other rights such as the right to demonstrate and freedom of movement.

The letter further states that “the transfer of a group of people from one part of the land to another, against their will, contradicts international law as well as the local Israeli law.”

Calling themselves “The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel”, the group of jurists writes in the letter that it intends to keep a close watch on the plan’s legislation process currently underway. Referring specifically to the draft disengagement bill made public last week, the jurists write, “this draft has intensified the legal problems which stand before the plan’s initiators, and we intend to closely follow the legality of every step in the plan.

“Every time we find a deviation from the law or proper procedure or a lack of reasonability, we intend to take action,” the letter adds.

Misgav, one of the letter’s signatories, has already taken legal action against the plan. Two weeks ago he filed a petition to the High Court of Justice in the name of Gaza Regional Council head Avner Shimoni against PM Sharon, the security cabinet and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. In the petition, Misgav claimed that the decision to distribute advanced compensation payments to Gaza settlers was made illegally and stands contrary to The Basic Law: State Economy and the 2004 state budget law.

The group also calls upon the settlers to abstain from submitting signed requests for compensation or advanced payments, claiming that “until the picture becomes clear, it is very important that residents are not tempted to receive advanced payments from the Disengagement Administration since the documents the residents will be asked to sign may contain ‘small print’ which could pose a danger and will prevent them from claiming the full damages they really deserve.”

This ran in the Jerusalem Post October 4, 2004