The Palestinian President issued a decision, ostensibly oral, to suspend salaries of 37 Members representing the Change and Reform Bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the West Bank. This step came 10 years after suspending the salaries of the Bloc Members in the Gaza Strip following the Palestinian division. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) emphasizes that suspension of PLC Members’ salaries is in violation of law and not in any way of the President’s or any other’s powers. PCHR also stresses this step sets a dangerous precedent to intensify the executive authority’s intrusion into the other authorities.
A number of PLC Members stated to media that they did not receive their salaries. They added that 37 Members’ salaries were suspended; all of them are from the Change and Reform Bloc in the West Bank. The Ministry of Finance refused to give any explanation, saying the Ministry is just an executive authority, which only follows the orders issued.
The Palestinian President has recently ordered the Unity Government to take several measures against the Gaza Strip and Hamas movement, including deducting from salaries, putting thousands of servants on early retirement, stopping payments for the electricity and other restrictive measures. The Palestinian President claims that those measures were taken to put pressure on Hamas Movement in order to end the division.
PLC Members’ salaries are guaranteed in law and not according to administrative decisions. Moreover, the law does not give any body the power to dismiss PLC Members or suspend their salaries.
Suspending the PLC Members’ salaries by the Head of the Executive Authority violates the principle of separation of powers stipulated as the basis of government in Palestine in Article (2) of the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL). Neither the PBL nor constitutional norms gives the Palestinian President the right to interfere under any context into the PLC’s work or dues. Thus, denying this principle totally destroys the concept of good governance and separation of powers and undermines the independence of the legislative authority.
Moreover, suspension of the PLC Members’ salaries is in violation of Article (53) of the PBL which provides that, “2- No Member shall be interfered with in any manner…” The concept of democracy seems impossible without the independence of the PLC and keeping it away from any financial or legal pressures.
PCHR reiterates that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as Palestine is a State Party to the Covenant. One of these obligations is what came in Article 25 that provides the following, “Every citizen shall have (a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives…” Thus, interfering with those representatives in any manner is considered as denial of this right.
These arbitrary measures are part of long series of incidents started by the division of the PA in 2007 and Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip and then the formation of the Unity Government in 2014. The Unity Government did not assume its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip after disagreeing on some details of the agreement reached in April 2014. Following this, a new round of conflict erupted between the two parties to division and intensified after the failure of the local council elections and establishing an administrative committee to run the Gaza Strip by Hamas Movement. The situation then escalated as the PA imposed a series of punitive measures which affected all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip to put pressure on Hamas Movement in order to enable the Unity Government to practice its work in the Gaza Strip without any conditions.
It should be mentioned that PCHR sent a letter to the Minister of Finance on 18 November 2014 wondering the reason behind suspending the salaries of the Change and Reform Members in the PLC in Gaza since June 2007. The Ministry refused at that time to give any written explanations and merely phone called to inform PCHR in to contact the PLC in order to address the Ministry. PCHR believes that evading giving any official papers or responses aims at shielding the salaries suspension decision against the judicial oversight through avoiding issuing an official decision of suspension and benefiting from the disruption of the PLC since 2007. It seems that this scenario is now being applied against the PLC Members in the West Bank without having any written decision or a legal document.
PCHR denounces the successive actions taken by the Palestinian President and Unity Government against the Gaza Strip and the Change and Reform Bloc. PCHR also emphasizes that suspension of PLC Members’ salaries is a serious violation of the law and reveals the interference of the executive authority into the legislative and judicial authorities by misusing its power, which has become arbitrary without any accountability.