West Bank and Gaza Strip
Will the National Committee for the Development of Justice Sector Succeed in stopping the bleeding in the Justice System and Recommend Lowering the Retirement Age of Judges to Sixty?
MUSAWA – The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, has thoroughly studied the meeting which was held in the presence of the National Committee for the Development of the Justice Sector and a number of representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), including MUSAWA. MUSAWA holds forth that the Committee – with all due respect- has not yet agreed on the scope and topics of its work despite the passage of more than 10 months of its official operation, leaving no more than 50 more days of that duration. The Committee has also excluded the Constitutional Court of its scope of work in terms of legislation and composition, and limited itself to a yet incomplete research on the Constitutional appeals! In addition, the Committee has not yet agreed on the reasons and core of the crisis, and has gone to propose legislative amendments. Moreover, The Committee has not yet settled on renewing its request for an extension of its official operation, transferred several of the disputed topics and issues, and did not agree on a mechanism for voting on its decisions, but instead adopted a two-thirds majority system to approve any direction, opinion or recommendation it adopts, thus keeping the hegemony of the official institution.
MUSAWA notes the fact that the remarkable consensus of the members of the Committee was represented by the submission of remarks for the amendment of the Draft Decree-Law on High Criminal Court, which was issued in amendment of a Decree-Law regulating it. Unfortunately, the remarks were issued in a manner inconsistent with our vision, and did not fully comply with the demands of the BAR Association, a member of the Committee. In addition, the Committee has not yet agreed on the nature of the crisis of the Justice System; whether it is a structural or personnel-related issue, or a crisis in the legislation, and is now keen to seek consensus on recommendations to the president to issue Decree-Laws amending the legislation in force.
MUSAWA also notes that the Committee did not address the unification of the Justice System and its reform and development tools, which indicates its inability to provide meaningful outputs capable of resolving the crisis of the Justice System and restoring community trust.
At MUSAWA, we believe that there is a broad societal consensus on the deterioration of community trust in the functioning of the Justice System, and that there is a lamentable “mating” relationship between it and the Executive Authority, which goes beyond the legislation in force and allows ample interference in the work of the judiciary and justice affairs. MUSAWA also sees that there are serious problems relating to the judicial administration from a number of internal and external aspects. However, all of this falls under the umbrella of diagnosing the manifestations of the crisis, and not solving it.
We believe that confronting and resolving the crisis requires a political will that supports the principle of separation of powers, and recognizes that both the reform and improvement must no longer be an Executive Authority’s monopoly. Such an approach must also recognize the inability of the judiciary to reform itself, and that its crisis is essentially a structural and performance one that requires evaluating the performance of personnel working the Judiciary professionally and objectively to determine their eligibility to continue working in this sector.
Until this is done, there is an urgent need to stop the bleeding and the deterioration of trust, which requires taking an urgent action represented in lowering the age of retirement from the judicial function to 60, prohibiting interference in the judicial work of judges from within or outside the judiciary, and holding administrative and criminal accountability for those interfering, in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and the relevant laws.
We hope that the Committee, before submitting its recommendations or its final report, will fulfill its commitment to provide the CSOs with a draft of that report to express their opinions regarding it, as agreed at the aforementioned meeting, during which MUSAWA submitted its vision for the unification, reform and improvement of the Justice System to the honorable members of the Committee.
Issued on 16/7/2018