Press Release

PCHR encourages all Palestinian Lawyers to Boycott Celebration of Palestinian Lawyers Day on 9 July 2000

Date: 8 July 2000

Ref: 89/2000

The Appointed Council of the Palestinian Bar Association plans to organise a celebration tomorrow, 9 July 2000, for Palestinian Lawyers Day, five months before the date on which this occasion is traditionally marked, December 9. In previous years the council has not made regular efforts to celebrate the day, and it seems that in this case (particularly in light of the strange choice to celebrate the day now instead of in December) the council may be hoping, through the celebration itself and through participation in the celebration by lawyers, to obtain some kind of legitimacy or support for their ongoing function as council, despite the expiry of their legal term. It is the view of PCHR that this constitutes an attempt by the member of the council to impose themselves as representatives of Palestinian lawyers while side stepping both the law and the will of the lawyers themselves.

PCHR expresses its deep concern over the continued assumption of function by the council since 9 May 2000, on which date their term ended. PCHR therefore calls upon Palestinian lawyers to boycott tomorrow’s celebration, which will only serve the personal interests of the members of the appointed council.

The Founding Council of the Bar Association was established, and its members nominated, by Presidential Decision No. 78 in 1997. The Presidential decision specified a one-year term for the Founding Council. That term expired without any election being held for council members. On 12 January 1999 a further Presidential decision was issued which extended the term of the council until the promulgation of the law of the Bar Association and the convening of elections. This Presidential decision was issued six months after the one-year term provided in the previous Presidential decision had expired. During these six months the council continued to operate without any attempt to convene free elections.

On 24 June 1999 Law No. 3 regarding the Organisation of the Law Profession in Palestine was issued. According to article 51 of the law the appointed council would continue its functions until elections were held, which should be no later than six months after the law took effect. On 10 October 1999 the law was published in the Palestinian gazette and took effect. This meant that the term of the council would end no later than 9 May 2000. However, the council failed to prepare for elections.

Two months have now passed since the expiry of the deadline for the election, and no measures have been taken to hold such election. During this period the council took a decision to extend its own term. Furthermore, on 9 May 2000 the council took a decision to remove 32 lawyers from the Bar Association, all of the lawyers affected by this decision were active in the field of human rights and civil society.

These actions of the council were condemned by local, regional and international human rights organisations, including the Arab Lawyers Union, the ICJ, FIDH, Amnesty International.

PCHR believes that the legal vacuum which continues to exist in the Bar Association, two months after the final deadline for the holding of an election and the expiry of the council’s term, requires all Palestinian lawyers to make efforts to salvage their Bar Association and to ensure that fair and free elections are held as soon as possible.