On Thursday, 26 October 2017, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights gathered 36 law practitioners and experts to participate in a workshop entitled “Unifying Legislation: A Critical Basis for Reconciliation”. The workshop is a part of Al Mezan’s efforts to further the national reconciliation process that commenced after an agreement was signed on 12 October 2017 in Cairo by Palestinian factions. The workshop highlighted the importance of constitutional principles being closely followed throughout the reconciliation process in order to achieve effective and durable change that will benefit all Palestinian citizens.
“The internal division has posed a great challenge to the functioning of the Palestinian political system for ten years now, and has negatively affected the lives and human rights of Palestinian citizens and the Palestinian society in general,” said Mr. Issam Younis, General Director of Al Mezan. There is an urgent need to re-establish a single, united legal system—with the current systems being overhauled in accordance with the reconciliation agreement. “This process inevitably involves revisiting, annulling and/or amending laws adopted during the period of division, with the ultimate goal of creating a political system that is in greater compliance with established laws and human rights standards,” added Mr. Younis.
During the workshop, lawyer at Al Mezan, Mr. Samir Al Manama, presented a paper that laid out the historical overview of the Palestinian legislative system. Since 2007, the year when Fatah and Hamas divided politically and two parallel governing systems were established, 194 draft laws have been decreed in the West Bank and 59 laws or amendments were passed by the Hamas-led bloc at the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the Gaza Strip. This means that throughout the ten-year period, Palestinian citizens have effectively held different duties and had access to different rights depending on which judicial system they lived under. Also, people’s access to justice was hampered, restricted or in some cases denied. “In order to afford citizens better access to justice, the reconciliation process must move to new legislative and presidential elections. The newly-elected PLC must then perform its due diligence regarding laws that were introduced during the split. This is the only way to ensure that all citizens will enjoy equal rights under one legal regime and a unified judicial authority,” said Mr. Al Manama in his presentation of the conclusions to the document.
The workshop concluded with a discussion that resulted in three recommendations, unanimously endorsed by the participants:
All issues and recommendations discussed during the workshop will be compiled in a document that Al Mezan will publish in more detail soon.
In the past ten years, Al Mezan has actively worked to reunite the two Palestinian judicial systems in the occupied Palestinian territory with the goal of enhancing the respect and protection of human rights for citizens. With the recent signing of the reconciliation agreement, this task has become even more important.