Consolidating Judicial Independence is Prerequisite for Elections and Revitalizing Democracy in Palestine
Date: 03 February 2021
Time: 09:00 GMT
Concerns have increased over the three laws by decree issued by the Palestinian President on 30 December 2020 relating to the judiciary. Calls demanding the annulment of the issued laws, which constitute a serious violation of judicial independence at a very sensitive timing, have been overlooked by the authorities. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) stresses that Palestine today is in desperate need for the enhancement of judicial independence in order to hold the upcoming general election in an atmosphere of trust and support efforts to restore democracy and rule of law in Palestine
The Palestinian President issued three laws by the end of 2020 regarding judicial affairs, including the law by decree no. (40/2020) to amend the Palestinian Judicial Authority Law No.1/2002, law by decree no. (39) on regular courts and law decree no. (41) on the formation of administrative courts. These laws have been issued at a very sensitive timing as Palestinian political parties have agreed to hold general election in Palestine in the coming months.
These laws are part of a series of measures and decisions taken by the Palestinian President claiming judicial reform, which included the dissolution of the High Judicial Council based on a law by decree issued on 15 July 2019, appointment of a Transnational Council, amendments to the Judicial Authority Law and dismissal of several judges.
Palestinian human rights organizations have strongly denounced those measures and laws which constitute interference with the judicial authority by the executive. In addition, Palestinian Bar Associations have held a series of protests against these interreferences. Nevertheless, Palestinian authorities continue to ignore the calls for the annulment of these decrees which are exceptionally serious due to the circumstances they were issued in.
PCHR has previously issued a press release stressing that the Palestinian President’s interference with the affairs of the judicial authority under the pretext of reform jeopardizes its independence and undermines public confidence in the judicial system. The introduction of such measures and laws comes at a time when Palestinians are looking to end the internal division and hold presidential and legislative elections. PCHR have always emphasized that the main problem facing the judiciary has been the executive authority’s interference with its work, not the laws regulating the judicial authority, and stressed that any reform should start with ending the executive authority’s interference with the judicial authority.
PCHR reiterates its unwavering position that the Palestinian President should abide by the principle of “necessity” when issuing laws by decree, especially that the abovementioned laws and measures are not necessary, which is evident from the strong criticism the reforms received from political parties and civil society organizations. Moreover, these laws by decree were issued as the public anticipates the elections, which require an atmosphere of positivity, unity and confidence in judiciary and the rule of law.
PCHR hereby calls upon the Palestinian President to leave the task of introducing judicial reforms to the bodies to be elected by the Palestinian people in the upcoming elections.
PCHR supports the Bar Association in all its demands and calls upon judges and all human rights organizations to work hand in hand to confront any attempt that would jeopardize the independence and prestige of the Palestinian judiciary.