Ref: 63/2011

 

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) closely observes the
developments related to the elections of the Palestinian Bar Association’s
Council, which is scheduled to be held on Saturday, 16 July 2011. PCHR is gravely concerned over the
ramifications of a decision by the President Mahmoud ‘Abbas on 26 June 2010,
which has the power of law, amending the Law of Lawyers No. 3 of 1999, as
amended by Law No. 5 of 1999, which would harm the independence of the Bar
Association’s work and would push the Association into the political conflict prevailing
under the fragmentation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). PCHR calls upon President ‘Abbas to annul
this decision and hold the Bar Association’s elections according to law in
force since 2000.

On 26 June 2010, President ‘Abbas issued a decision which has the
power of law regarding the amendment of the Law of Lawyers No. 3 of 1999, as
amended by Law No. 5 of 1999, depending on the provisions of article 43 of the
Basic Law of 2003 and its Amendments. The decision states: "Paragraph 1 under article 40 of the Law of
Lawyers No. 3 of 1999, as amended by Law No. 5 of 1999, shall be amended as
follows: The Council consists of fifteen members, including Head of the
Association, who shall be elected by the general assembly according to the
Provisions of the Statute by secret ballot. The elections shall be held in accordance with the single constituency,
and the Council’s term shall be two years."


It should be noted that the Law of Lawyers has made the Association
free to choose the elective system of the Association’s Council and the number
of constituencies under the Statute, as article 40 stipulates that: "Item
1: the Council consists of fifteen members, including Head of the Association,
who shall be elected by the general assembly in accordance with the Statute by
secret ballot. The Council’s term shall
be two years."
 Article 23 of
the Bar Association’s Statute of 2000 requires that: "The Association’s
Council consists of fifteen members, including Head of the Association. Nine members shall be from the northern
governorates and six members shall be from the southern governorates. They shall be elected by the general
assembly’s members, who are registered in the Association …, besides, the
fifteen members shall be elected in two constituencies; one is in the northern
governorates and the other is in the southern ones."
 The election Association’s Council was held smoothly
held in 2000 in conformity with the provisions of Law and Statute until
2006. It was decided that the following
elections would be held in 2008, but they were impeded due to the political
fragmentation and were deferred to be held on 10 April 2009. On 08 April 2009, the Supreme Court in Gaza
issued a temporary injunction stopping the elections under the pretext of the
existence of violations in practicing lawyers’ records. On 31 May 2011, the same court issued a
decision that obliges the Bar Association’s Council and its central election commission
to be committed to the provisions of Law No. 3 of 1999. As a result, the elections of the
Association’s Council had been impeded for more than two years without any
reason. Additionally, the decision did
not show any conviction of the Association regarding violations, in addition to
obliging the Association to put the provisions of Law into effect, a matter
that does not add anything.


On 11 June 2011, the Bar Association’s Council decided to hold the
council’s elections on 16 July 2011. The
general assembly of the Association confirmed the elections’ date, which was decided
in a subsequent meeting in Ramallah to be on 02 July 2011. However, the general assembly which held a
meeting in Gaza on the same day decided to file a recommendation on holding the
elections in conformity with Law No. 3 of 1999 with two constituencies (the
first is in Gaza to elect six members of the southern governorates, and the second
is in Ramallah to elect nine members of the northern governorates).          


In light of the above, PCHR:

1. Calls
for annulling the decision issued by President ‘Abbas which has the power of
law regarding the amendment of the Law of Lawyers No. 3 of 1999, as amended by
Law No. 5 of 1999, and holding the elections of the Bar Association’s Council
in accordance with Law No. 3 of 1999 and its Amendments and the Statute in
force since 2000;

2. Stresses
that holding the elections according to the President’s decision means that it
is an open invitation to impede the elections process in the Gaza Strip and
confiscating the right of approximately 700 practicing lawyers to decide on the
Association’s council, and giving an absolute right to approximately 1,500 ones
in the West Bank to decide the elections’ results;

3. Believes
that there is no reason for the President’s intervention into the Association’s
affairs through issuing this decision which has the power of law; besides,
holding the elections of the Association’s Council is not part of the urgent
cases that cannot be delayed until the Palestinian Legislative Council is
convened according to Article 43 of the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 and its
Amendments. Therefore, the President’s
intervention into the elections is a reflection of the state of political
fragmentation in OPT, which may add more obstacles that would impede the
elections;

4. Stresses
that in spite of the current state of fragmentation, the Bar Association is
able to hold its internal elections under law and the Statute without any
intervention. PCHR calls upon the
official bodies in Ramallah and Gaza to facilitate holding the elections
according to law; and

5. Stresses
that the registered members in the record of practicing lawyers in the
Association are registered in conformity with law, particularly articles 6, 7
and 8 of the Law of Lawyers and there are no violations in registering their
membership. Additionally, there is nothing to impede holding the elections
through resorting to judicial authorities in requests that may impede the
elections, as it was the case in the abovementioned request.