Since 2007, Al-Haq has been engaged in a campaign against the PA’s illegal practices, such as arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees and the application of military jurisdiction to civilians. The campaign entailed numerous meetings with policy and decision makers, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Interior and security agencies, to condemn the illegality of such practices and their effects on Palestinian society as a whole. Al-Haq has produced a report in Arabic analysing the illegality of extending military jurisdiction to civilians from both a substantial and procedural point of view. Such application of military jurisdiction is illegal under Palestinian Basic Law and was enacted without being published in the Official Gazette, an essential requirement for the formal entry into force of new Palestinian legislation.
On 15 January 2011, the Palestinian General Intelligence in the West Bank called for another meeting with the General Director of Al-Haq, as one of the representatives of the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations. The Head of the Legal Division, Mr. Fawaz, stated that, after consultations with both the political leadership and the security agencies in the West Bank, a formal decision was made to ban military courts from prosecuting civilians. Starting from Sunday 16 January 2011, all security agencies operating in the West Bank have been ordered to strictly abide by civil procedural law when civilians are involved in alleged violations. Military arrest warrants can no longer be issued against civilians, and civilians illegally detained as a result of military arrest warrants will be released. The Chief of the Military Judiciary, Mr. Mobaied, confirmed that from now on civilians will not be tried in military courts and those awaiting trial will have their case transferred to civilian courts.
The decision to put an end to the illegal practice of issuing military arrest warrants against civilians and trying them before military courts is the result of the combined efforts of Palestinian human rights organisations and foreign diplomatic representatives in lobbying Palestinian policy makers. While the decision issued by the Head of the Legal Division of the Palestinian General Intelligence represents a positive measure with regard to respect for the rule of law and human rights, Al-Haq calls upon the President of the PA, Mahmoud ‘Abbas, to promptly issue the required Presidential Decree to institutionalise such a fundamental decision in order to avoid any future abuse of power against civilians.
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