Ref: 141/2018

 

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with deep concern the Palestinian President’s statement on Saturday, 22 December 2018, when he said, “The Constitutional Court decided to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and called for parliamentary elections in six months.  This decision will be published in the Palestinian Official Gazette; and we have to execute this [decision] immediately.”  It should be noted that The Court had issued the decision at the request of the Minster of Justice at the Palestinian President’s behest.

 

‘Ali Abu al-Deek, Minister of the Justice, later stated that what was issued by the Constitutional Court is explanatory decision no. (10/2018) on 12 December 2018.  In its decision to dissolve the PLC, the Court has based on that, “The legitimacy of having a legislative council lies in exercising its legislative and supervisory role, and because it has not convened since 2007, the PLC has lost its status as a legislative authority and thus its status as the Legislative Council.” He added that Article 47 of the 2005 Amendment to the Basic Law stipulates that The term of the Legislative Council shall be four years from the date of its being elected and the elections shall be conducted once each four years in a regular manner.

 

Lawyer Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, commented on the decision and said, “the issue of the PLC is a “The issue of the Legislative Council is par excellence more political than legal.  what has been done by the Palestinian President, including requesting the Minister of Justice to ask for an explanatory opinion from the Court which then issued an advisory opinion to justify the dissolution of the PLC in addition to the president’s vowing to implement it, is explicit interference and collusion between the juridical and executive authorities against the legislative authority that would certainly lead to destroying the Palestinian political system instead of correcting the status quo.”

 

PCHR believes that taking such step is a serious deterioration at a time when the Palestinian people are looking forward to ending the division and lifting the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip and not the time for taking further political decisions that would reinforce the division.

 

PCHR emphasizes that the attempts to legalize this decision would not change the nature and reality of the political conflict and the poor employment of law tools in this conflict that has started since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority and escalated following the Palestinian elections in 2006.

 

PCHR reiterates its full rejection of the exploitation of legal and political means to question the Palestinian political representation at the international level, whether by the Palestinian President or by the Legislative Council. PCHR is concerned that the decision of the Palestinian president came in response to attempts by the Change and Reform Bloc to challenge the President’s legitimacy before the international bodies. The Change and Reform Bloc has previously submitted a petition to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Gutiros, prior to the President’s speech before the General Assembly in 2017, inciting against the Palestinian President and claiming that his term ended and he does not represent the Palestinian people.

 

PCHR affirms that the legitimacy of the Constitutional Court, which issued the decision to dissolve the PLC, is questionable due to the circumstances of its formation by the Palestinian President in light of the division.  The Palestinian President himself was supposed to take office until the presidential elections, which have been due since 2010, be held but has not so far. Therefore, the President does not have the right to issue crucial laws by decree, such as establishing the constitutional court, and even amending the court’s own law to ensure his control over it.

 

The Constitutional Court that was established by the President upon his decision has shown its non-independence in more than one previous decision. The court has always given the Palestinian President a free hand and absolute legislative powers, and even has granted him the power to lift the immunity of PLC Members. Today, the Court ignores the end of the Palestinian President’s term and issues an advisory decision to dissolve the legislative authority, although both have ended their term since 2010. This advisory decision comes in light of a systematic policy adopted by the President to control the Palestinian judiciary, and this was reflected in the overthrowing of Chief Justice, Chancellor Sami Sarsour, who signed his resignation before taking the oath for his appointment on 20 January 2016[1], as well as the formation of the Constitutional Court by the Palestinian President and amendment of Court’s law to ensure full control over it.[2]

 

It is noteworthy that the political conflict has intensified between Hamas and Fatah Movements after the Change and Reform bloc won the majority of the PLC seats in the elections held in 2006, while Fatah Movement was ranked second. The PLC held its first session on 18 February 2006 in light of political bickering between the two large blocs in the PLC, significantly obstructing the work of PLC.  Thus, the first and only round of the second PLC ended with no achievements at the legislative and supervisory levels. The outcome of the first round (from March 2006 to July 2007) was enactment of one law, which was the Approval of General Budget Law in 2006, in addition to 9 questions only for different ministries.

 

PCHR affirms that the decision to dissolve the PLC will contribute to strengthening and deepening the division. PCHR is concerned that the court’s call to hold legislative and presidential elections within six months would lead to holding elections in the West Bank without the Gaza Strip, thus effectively separating the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Following the bloody division and Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, based on Article 43 of the Basic Law, the Palestinian president arrogated issuance of legislations and laws-by decree, that are only applicable in the West Bank.

 

On the other half, the Change and Reform Bloc has convened in the Gaza Strip, and enact legislations that are limitedly applicable in the Gaza Strip and act on behalf of the PLC, despite lacking the quorum necessary for the council to convene and the President’s not demanding PLC to convene as stipulated by law.

 

At that time and in several occasions, PCHR emphasized its rejection of any legislations issued in light of the division. PCHR also stressed that the Palestinian president has exceeded the necessity condition of issuing laws by decree and that the Change and Reform bloc’s meetings do not represent the PLC and its outcomes are not legislations.

 

In light of the tense atmosphere which has aggravated following the Palestinian President decision, PCHR calls upon the President to withdraw the decision of dissolving the PLC, as the court’s decision is advisory and not binding, and to immediately work towards ending the Palestinian division.  PCHR holds the Palestinian President responsible for the repercussions of the decision to dissolve the Legislative Council that would lead to complete separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and end of the Palestinian people’s aspirations and hopes and their right to an independent democratic state.

 

PCHR urges the PLC Members, political factions and civil society to come out with a clear position of the dissolution of the PLC in order to put things in their proper context away from any political interests.

 

PCHR calls upon all international parties and states to intervene in order to stop this escalation between the Hamas and Fatah Movements and calm the atmosphere to push the two parties towards ending the division.

 

PCHR calls upon the two parties to the division to immediately implement the reconciliation agreements signed between them, including reconstructing the Palestinian political system and ensuring the independence of the judiciary and the Constitutional Court.

 

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[1] The Rule of Law vs. The Law of the Jungle: Independence of Palestinian Judiciary in Jeopardy

https://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=8539

 

[2] Press release issued by Palestinian Human Rights Organizations and Palestinian NGOs: “The Supreme Constitutional Court has not completed its formation procedures and its decisions are invalid” https://pchrgaza.org/ar/?p=14016