The Civic Coalition for Monitoring Legislation, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, and the Coalition for Economic and Social Rights, all representatives of dozens of Palestinian Civil Society Organizations (hereinafter CSOs), convened at Al-Haq organization following the interim order pronounced by the High Court of Justice on 31/01/2018 to rescind the Palestinian Bar Council’s call for boycotting the High Criminal Court, issued on 29/01/2018; and the interim court order pronounced on 05/02/2018 to rescind the Bar Council’s decision for the second time.
In their meeting, the CSOs discussed the Bar Council’s call for the suspension of work before the High Criminal Court for a specified period and the following High Court of Justice’s counter-order, which then lead the Bar Council to suspend work in all regular courts, military courts, and public prosecution offices, effective Thursday 01/02/2018, and to announce an open-end boycott of the High Criminal Court. The CSOs also addressed the consequences and implications of the ruling pronounced by the High Court of Justice on 05/02/2018 to cancel the Bar Council’s decision once again.
Furthermore, the meeting emphasized that these rapid developments are the product of the continuous deterioration and structural imbalance found in the judiciary and the justice system in general. This comes by virtue of the various interferences of the executive authority in the work of the judiciary and the attempts to usurp its powers; the synergy between the High Judicial Council and the executive authority to consolidate the hegemony of the latter over the judiciary; and the failed efforts which were made over the last years in an attempt to make a major breakthrough in the course of the reform process, resulting from the lack of a genuine political will to reform the judiciary as well as the absence of a peaceful rotation of power through elections which embody the will of the Palestinian people, not to mention the growing gap in the Palestinian political system.
Moreover, the CSOs expressed their support for the position of the Bar Council regarding the boycott of the High Criminal Court and their pioneering role in defending rights, freedoms, and human dignity. The organizations had already confirmed this position through a statement issued on 17/12/2017, which called for President Mahmoud Abbas to repeal the Decree-Law on the High Criminal Court for violating the Basic Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, fair trial guarantees, and the related legislation.
The CSOs affirmed that the two decisions of the High Court of Justice to annul the decisions of the Bar Council were not the only decisions issued by the Court to restrict the right to freedom of union work, which is guaranteed by the Basic Law and the conventions to which the State of Palestine has acceded. Examples include the decisions of the Court on the strike led by the teachers and staff of Palestinian universities in 2017; the dismissal of the action brought by the President of the Union of Workers in Public Service in 2016 regarding the decision of the executive authority to consider the union as an illegal body; the cancellation of the strike waged by the Doctors Syndicate in 2011; and other decisions. Not to mention that according to the published studies nearly 90% of the decisions pronounced by the High Court of Justice are in favor of the executive authority.
Accordingly, the Civic Coalition for Monitoring Legislation affirms the following:
1. Supporting the position of the Bar Council regarding the boycott of the High Criminal Court as it reflects the position of the Palestinian CSOs on the Court and is consistent with the objectives of the Bar set in the law of regular lawyers, which calls for the promotion of the rule of law and the expression of respect for human rights.
2. Reiterating the demand of President Mahmoud Abbas to repeal the Decree-Law on the High Criminal Court, given that it contravenes the provisions of the Basic Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the relevant Palestinian legislation, in addition to the fact that is violates fair trial guarantees, usurps the powers of the judiciary, and impedes the proper administration of justice.
3. Emphasizing the need to establish an independent national committee of persons recognized for their integrity, competence, and neutrality and from outside the formal institutions of justice. The committee shall undertake the reform process in the judiciary and the justice system by conducting a serious and objective assessment of the performance of all those who occupy a position within the justice sector. The purpose of the assessment is to address any structural imbalances; ensure the reconstruction of the High Judicial Council as the protective shield for the independence of the judiciary and the judges themselves; make sure that the Judicial Inspection Department is independent from the Judicial Council; guarantee that two-level litigation is in place at the administrative judiciary; ensure the establishment of a mechanism for the distribution of cases over the multiple existing judicial bodies while assuring that there is no prior knowledge of the body that will consider a certain case; and make certain that any appointments and/or promotions which take place in the justice sector are carried-out in a professional, unbiased, and transparent manner.
The Civic Coalition for Monitoring Legislation, which includes the following members: Al-Haq, Jerusalem Legal and Human Rights Center (JLAC), Al-Mezan Center For Human Rights, Palestinian Bar Association, Al-Marsad, Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), MUSAWA – The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), Institute of Law – Birzeit University, Women’s Technical Affairs Committee (WATC) , Palestinian Independent Trade Union (FIUP), MUWATIN The Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy, The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy MIFTAH, Palestinian General Union of People with Disability, QADER for Community Development, ADDAMEER Prisoner Support an Human Rights Association, Palestinian Governance Institute, Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights “Hurryyat” , Human Rights and Democracy Media Center SHAMS, Stars of Hope Society, Media Development Center – Birzeit University, and the Palestinian Commission for Human Rights as an observer.
The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, which includes: Al-Haq, ALDAMEER Association for Human Rights, ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights, Al-Mezan Center For Human Rights, Defense for Children International – Palestine Section, BADIL Resource Center for the Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights “Hurryyat”, Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS), Jerusalem Legal and Human Rights Center (JLAC), Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Commission for Human Rights as an observer.
The Coalition for Economic and Social Rights, which includes: Palestinian Independent Trade Union (FIUP), Al-Marsad, Palestinian National Institute for NGOs, Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), Jawwal and Paltel Workers Union, JDECO Workers Union, NBC Workers Union, Women’s Technical Affairs Committee (WATC), Rights of People with Disability Movement, NAJDEH Association, Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS), Palestinian Non- Governmental Organization Against Domestic Violence against Women (Al-Muntada), the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Union, UAWC Union of Agricultural Work Committees, QADER for Community Development, Birzeit University Workers Union, Bethlehem University Workers Union, Palestinian Movement, Women Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), Stars of Hope Association, FADOC Palestine, Progressive Labor Union Front Palestine, Labor Solidarity Group, Labor Unity Group, Palestinian Working Women Society for Development, Progressive Labor Group, Pulse of Youth forum, MANAJEL Organization, Palestinian Advisory Board for NGO Development, Teachers Creativity Center, Community Media Center, PalThink for Strategic Studies – Gaza, The Freedom Theater – Jenin , Young Men Christian Association (YMCA), The Arab Institution for Sustainable Development, Association of Women Committees For Social Work, Rural Women’s Development Society, Palestinian Medical Relief Society, Development and Heritage Committee, Young Women’s Christian Association, Physiological Development Association, Al-Hadaf Cultural Center, Popular Art Center, Financial Sector Workers Union, Union of Palestinian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (UPPM), Private Health Sector Union, Union for Women Working in the Health Sector, Jerusalem Water Undertaking Workers Union, Tanwer Palestinian Cultural Forum, Fuad Nassar Organization, Palestinian Bar Association, Burj Alluqluq Social Center Society, Al-Haq, Filastiniyat institute.