Date: 22 July 2019
The International Commission: The amendment of the Judicial Authority Law in this manner indicates the continued dominance of the executive authority over the judiciary
The International Commission to Support Palestinians’ Rights “ICSPR” follows with deep concern and caution the announcement on Thursday morning, 18 July 2019, of two decisions issued by president Abbas that have the force of law, one of them amends the Judicial Authority Act to reduce the retirement age of judges to sixty (60) years, and the other dissolved the current Supreme Judicial Council and established a transitional Supreme Council of Justice for a period of one year, through which he exercises the functions of the Supreme Judicial Council.
The executive branch cited several justifications for these decisions, including that the recommendations of the National Committee for the Development of the Justice Sector demanded so, as result of the increasing decline in public confidence in the performance of the judiciary according to official and community reports, statistics and surveys, the prolonged litigation, accumulation of cases, worsening internal conditions, the failure of the current Supreme Judicial Council to halt and reform the rapid deterioration of the judiciary and in response to repeated demands for reform of the judiciary from official and community institutions, including the judiciary itself.
ICSPR affirms its support for the idea of reforming and unifying the justice sector and the Palestinian judiciary, and the urgent need to do so without prejudice to the independence of the judiciary, and it considers that the method of the executive branch and its current decisions is to reproduce past experiences aimed at ensuring that the executive power is more in control of the judiciary, especially in light of not taking the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Council in the new decisions. Therefore, ICSPR demands the following:
- ICSPR affirms that the new decisions and amendments to the Judicial Authority Law contravene the provisions of Article 100 of the Amended Basic Law, which stipulates that: “A Supreme Council of the Judiciary shall be established and the law shall specify the manner of its formation, its terms of reference and the rules of its workflow, and its opinion shall be taken into account in the draft laws governing any matter of the judiciary, including the public prosecution”.
- ICSPR believes that the manner in which the present amendments are made is a repetition of the same experiences adopted by the executive branch since 2005 without a positive outcome.
- ICSPR calls upon the President and the Palestinian Government to withdraw the current amendments and stop interfering in the work of the judiciary and to restore unity, rebuild and unify the institutions of the political system as a national and legal priority, ensuring the separation of powers and the rule of law.
- ICSPR urges Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, to take the necessary measures to pressure the executive branch to reverse these decisions and to ensure the independence of the Palestinian judiciary.