UPDATE ON THE THIRD DAY OF THE GAZA SEMINAR ON HUMAN RIGHTS
UPDATE ON THE THIRD DAY OF THE
GAZA SEMINAR ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Date: 4th May, 1999
The third and final full day of the Gaza Seminar on Human Rights was held yesterday, May 4, 1999, at Al-Quds International Hotel in Gaza City. Two sessions took place during the day. The morning session was devoted to discussing the role of government in safeguarding the independence of the judiciary and promoting the rule of law during the interim period. The audience was addressed by Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, First Technical Advisor of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office in Gaza, Fadhel Ghedamsi, Secretary General of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, and Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Dr. Ali Khashan, Dean of the Law College at Al-Quds University moderated the session. The second session discussed the legal consequences of a proclamation of the state of Palestine. The speakers were Dr. Musa Dweik, Assistant Professor of the Law College at Al-Quds University, and Ibrahim Sha’ban, Lecturer of Law in the Law College at Al-Quds University. The session was chaired by Younis El-Jaru, Member of the Board of the Bar Association of Palestine.
In the first session, Medani asserted that the principle of the rule of law is crucial to safeguarding justice, security, and equality before the law. Approaching this principle in importance is that of the independence of the judiciary as it relates to the achievement of justice, equality, and redress through fair trial. Medani stated that the State Security Courts contradict the basic requirements for open and fair trials. Bringing citizens to such courts undermines their basic rights to a fair trial as well as undermining the independence of the judiciary. He also reviewed the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
Ghedamsi highlighted the Tunisian experience regarding the independence of the judiciary. In general, Ghedamsi said, the Tunisian Constitution and laws are compatible with international standards to a great extent. The practical implementation of the Constitution, however, has been obstructed by the Executive branch, especially in regard to cases of freedom of expression in which the judiciary is misused as an instrument of the ruling authority.
Sourani dedicated his presentation to the role of the Palestinian judiciary, appraising the role played by Palestinian judges to protect the independence of the Palestinian judiciary despite the many negative measures taken by the Israeli authorities. After 1967, he said, the Israeli authorities froze the delegation of the Palestinian High Court of Justice through military orders. During the Palestinian Authority’s era, the independence of the judiciary has been undermined by the firing of the Chief Justice,
the ongoing lack of an Attorney General, and the continuing failure to respect the decisions of the Palestinian courts. Sourani also called for the independence of the judiciary in order for it to be able to fulfill its mandated tasks in the best manner possible while ensuring respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers. He further stated that political parties, NGOs, and the Palestinian Legislative Council should strongly struggle for the independence of the judiciary.
In the second session on the legal consequence of the proclamation of a Palestinian state, Dweik spoke about three issues. First, he discussed sovereignty in international law and the impact of belligerent occupation. He particularly stressed the concept of sovereignty as an important pillar necessary for the solid founding of the state. Second, he referred to the legal basis for a Palestinian state which existed under the Ottoman Empire and during the British Mandate. Third, he mentioned the legal basis for a Palestinian state following the Israeli occupation in 1967, which he based on UN Security Council Resolution 181 of 1947. He concluded that the Palestinian people have the full right to practice all the rights of statehood as a declaration of statehood was already made in 1988.
Sha’ban called for the adoption of a constitution that organizes the relationship between the three branches of government and serves as the basis for all enacted laws. He also called for the establishment of one unified high court for all the Palestinian territories and for the political leadership to conduct national and municipal elections. Finally, he asked the Palestinian political leadership to take the initiative to join the United Nations and other international organizations and to sign important international treaties and agreements.
At the end of the last day of the seminar, Sourani and Sara Guillet, in charge of the Middle East branch of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), expressed their appreciation for the sincere participation and contribution of Palestinian judges, lawyers, and human rights activists during the discussions. PCHR and FIDH will jointly publish the final conclusions of the seminar in the very near future and at a later date will publish the proceedings of the sessions.
For More Information Contact:
Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Tel/Fax: (+) 9727 2824776 / 2823725