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Position Paper: Palestinian Civil Society Calls on the High Judicial Council to Respect Judges Right to Freedom of Expression
27، Feb 2018

Palestinian civil society recently convened to discuss the deteriorating conditions in the Palestinian judiciary, as well as the recent decision by the High Judicial Council (the Council hereinafter) to refer Judge ‘Izzat Al-Ramini, member of the High Court, for interrogations following his participation in a workshop discussing the protection of the judiciary. The Council had previously referred Judge Abdallah Ghazlan, member of the High Court, for interrogations after criticizing the judicial authority and its deterioration. Ghazlan’s membership in the Council was terminated contrary to the provisions of the law and the will of the majority judges at the High Court.

The recent decisions against Judges Ghazlan and Al-Ramini constitute a serious violation of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, guaranteed by international conventions that the State of Palestine acceded to without reservations, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. The right is further guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law, the law on judicial authority, and the Code of Judicial Conduct. Palestinian civil society is further concerned with the Council’s alteration of the disciplinary board, contrary to the law on judicial authority, which undermines the rule of law, with a clear intent to condemn Judge Abdallah Ghazlan.

Palestinian civil society reaffirms judges’ right to freedom of expression and opinion on matters of public affairs. The Executive Authority’s intervention in the judiciary is ongoing, resulting in a worsening human rights situation and institutional bias. This has been embodied in the current High Judicial Council, reflecting a structural imbalance in the judiciary. Moreover, the previous two Councils were formed by the Executive Authority, contrary to the law of the judiciary. The current President of the High Court, the President and Vice-President of the current Council, were all appointed contrary to the law of the judiciary – similar to the appointment of former Presidents of the High Court and the Council.

In light of this, the undersigned organizations:

1. Condemn the decisions of the High Judicial Council to refer Judges of the High Court for interrogations for exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion, and calls on the Council to repeal the decision and respect the right to freedom of expression and opinion guaranteed by international and national laws.

2. Calls on the Council to eliminate conditions imposed on judges, such as that to receive prior permission from the Council to participate in lectures, conferences, workshops, and others.

3. Calls on the Council to hold public sessions in the event that the Council carries out interrogative and disciplinary measures against the Judges, and proceed with it as a matter of public interest.

4. Will refer the case of Judge Ghazlan and Al-Ramini to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, in the case that disciplinary sanctions are indeed taken against them in this regard.

5. Call to establish an independent, impartial, effective, national commission, to undertake comprehensive assessment, reform and treatment of internal structural imbalance within the judiciary, by ensuring the re-establishment re-institutionalizing the Council, ensuring the independence of the judicial inspection department, and adopting professional and transparent criteria in hiring and promotions, as well as accountability.

Coalitions, Networks, and Organizations:

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.