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Civil Society Organizations to Form A Fact-Finding Committee on the Question of Palestinian Judiciary
28، Feb 2018

Palestinian civil society organizations are concerned with media statements made by His Excellency Judge Abdallah Ghazlan in the Judicial Forum program on 20 February 2018, which highlighted the chronic structural imbalance in the Palestinian Judiciary, mainly the High Judicial Council and the High Court. The statements further reveal an entrenched flaw in the autonomy of judges; the cornerstone for an independent judiciary system.

Judge Ghazlan’s statements referred to instances where cases have been distributed among judicial bodies in contravention to the law; doubts surrounding some of the judges’ judicial process; instances where judges sign judicial decisions without being aware of the case, and at times violating the law; in addition to statements by judges contradicting their judicial conduct standards.

In a media statement, Judge Ghazlan, the oldest presiding Judge in the High Court, reaffirmed that despite him being elected by the High Court’s General Assembly (General Assembly) as a member of the High Judicial Council (the Council) in accordance with the law, he was never invited by the Council to attend any of its meetings, contrary to the law. In fact, on 27 December 2017, the Council requested the General Assembly to elect another member. The General Assembly rejected this request and responded by renewing the membership and position of Judge Ghazlan on 24 January 2018. However, the Council continues to refrain from inviting Judge Ghazlan to attend its sessions. In the same media statement, Judge Ghazlan addressed the legal procedural violations of his referral to investigation and the disciplinary measures taken against him recently, their dimensions and implications.

In response to the statement issued by the High Judicial Council on 22 February 2018, civil society organizations affirm that the statement did not provide any answers on all issues raised by Judge Ghazlan. No responses were provided regarding the statement issued by Palestinian civil society organizations on 15 February 2018, which required the High Judicial Council to respect the right of judges to express their opinion. The only relevant response was that "most of the criticism and statements made are not true and reflect personal motives that are not in the best interest of the public." The same statement issued by the High Judicial Council warned against "harming the integrity of the judicial system, or the abuse of any of the judges, who are authorized to take legal actions and prosecute any violations that would discredit the judicial system as an institution, or the judges as individuals.”

Palestinian civil society recall their previous statements which stipulate that the High Judicial Council has been the main organ utilized to allow for the executive authority’s intervention in the judiciary through different means. The current, and former two, High Judicial Councils were established by the executive authorities, contrary to the law. Meanwhile, the President of the High Court, who is the same President of the High Judicial Council, his vice president, and other former heads of the high Court since its establishment, were all unlawfully appointed. In light of the above, civil society organizations call for the following:

  1. Reiterate the statement released on 15 February 2018, demanding the High Judicial Council to respect the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including that of judges, guaranteed in international treaties and Palestinian legislation.
  2. Establish an independent national fact-finding commission of persons who are competent, professional, independent and impartial, to follow up on all issues and questions raised by Judge Abdallah Ghazlan, among other issues that have allowed for the continuing deterioration of the judiciary; also to publish the findings and recommendations of the Committee. Furthermore, establish a follow-up mechanism to implement these recommendations, emphasizing the importance and need for a transparent approach in the judicial reform.
  3. Call upon the High Judicial Council to clarify its position and follow up on all issues raised by Judge Abdallah Ghazlan and ensure accountability.
  4. To continue to hold meetings and intensify its efforts to realize a unified vision to build an independent and effective judiciary.
  5. Call upon the High Judicial Council to present its vision for judicial reform and to take concrete practical steps in that regard, to maintain its independence, and to restore citizens' confidence in the judicial system.
  6. Assert that the right to freedom of expression is a fundamental human right.
  7. Affirm the need for an independent judiciary which can be achieved by establishing judges’ and judicial sovereignty, which undergoes popular monitoring, both as a responsibility and a right.
Undersigned organizations, networks, and coalitions:

Al-Haq; Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC); Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO); Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Aldameer; Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights; Defence for Children International – Palestine; BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights;  Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS); Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; Independent Commission for Human Rights; Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC); Palestinian Bar Association; Economic and Social Monitor; Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (MUSAWA); Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN); Institute of Law, Birzeit University; Women’s Technical Affairs Committee (WATC); General Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy (MUWATIN); Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH); General Union of Persons with Disabilities (GUPWD); QADER for Community Development; Palestine Governance Institute; Human Rights and Democracy Media Center (SHAMS); Stars of Hope Society; Media Development Center, Birzeit University; General Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Economic and Social Monitor; Palestinian National Institute for NGOs; Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO); Union of Employees at the Palestine Cellular Communications Company (Jawwal) and Palestine Telecommunications Company (Paltel); Union of Employees at the Electricity Company; Union of Workers at the National Beverages Company (NBC); Women’s Technical Affairs Committee (WATC); Movement for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Association Najdeh; Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS);Forum of Palestinian NGOs to Combat Violence against Women; General Federation of New Trade Unions; Union Of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC); QADER for Community Development; Birzeit University Union of Employees; Bethlehem University Union of Employees; Palestinian Mobility; Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC); Stars of Hope Society; Youth Partnership Forum; Labour Union Front; Labour Solidarity Bloc; Labour Unity Bloc; Palestinian Working Women Society for Development; Progressive Labour Bloc; Pulse Youth Forum; Manajel Association; Palestinian Consultative Staff for Developing NGOs (PCS); Teacher Creativity Center; Community Media Center; PalThink For Strategic Studies, Gaza; The Freedom Theatre, Jenin; Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA); Arab Foundation for Sustainable Development; Association of Women Committees for Social Work; Rural Women's Development Society; Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS); Comités pour le Développement et le patrimoine [Committees for Development and Heritage]; Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA); Psychological Development Society; Al Hadaf Cultural Centre; Popular Art Center; Union of Employees in the Financial Sector; Union of Employees in Pharmaceutical Industries; Union of the Private Health Sector; Union of Female Health Workers; Union of Employees at the Water Undertaking; Tanweer -Palestinian Cultural Enlightenment Forum; Fuad Nassar Foundation; Palestinian Bar Association; Burj al-Luqluq Social Center Society; Filastiniyat.