In a written memo sent to the Acting Head of the Advisory and Legislation Bureau, MUSAWA demanded that the necessary legal action be taken regarding the issuance of the Palestinian official gazette no. 116 and 118. The publications included provisions in English, making them invalid and unenforceable. The legal memo was as follows:
Acting Head of the Advisory and Legislation Bureau
Ms. Eman Abd-al-Hameed,
Subject: Issuance of the Palestinian official gazette contrary to the law
We, at MUSAWA - The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession would like to greet you and inform you that we studied the Palestinian official gazette no. 116, which includes provisions in English (Ministry of Health instructions No. 2 for the year of 2015 regarding schedules on narcotics, psychotropic substances and raw chemical materials), published on page 188 of the aforementioned publication issued on 27/12/2015, in addition to the provisions issued in English in the Palestinian official gazette no. 118 (UN Security Council resolution no. 1267 issued in 1999 in accordance with the decision no. 1 for 2016 by the implementation committee of Security Council resolutions), published on page 136 of the mentioned publication issued on 28/02/2016.
As a watchdog and independent civil partner in the Justice System, we at MUSAWA see that the issuance of any laws, regulations, or decisions with a legislative or binding nature in a language other than Arabic is a violation to the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law and a departure from the third paragraph of Article (4) of the Palestinian Basic Law, which explicitly states that “Arabic is the official language”. Furthermore, publishing in English or any other foreign language represents an unjustified abandonment of the legal position of the Arabic language; an official language recognized by the UN. What is strange and legally questionable about the matter is that the Security Council resolution that was published in the official gazette was originally issued by the Security Council itself in Arabic. In addition, Arabic is the official language for communication between the ruler and the ruled; between government authorities and citizens, whether natural or legal persons, and it is the language for communication in courts. It is inconceivable to compel citizens of any provisions, regulations, or decisions that were not presented to them in a language they understand and use, and of which vocabulary, meanings and purposes they are familiar. The previously mentioned contradicts with the logic behind publishing laws prior to enforcement and implementation, hence jeopardizing the essence of human rights and the right to citizenship.
Accordingly, many of the decisions published in a foreign language would possibly be described as void and invalid for claiming against others, predicating a procedural and structural defect that strips the decision or legislation of its value, for it is the right of those who are addressed by this decision to claim that it is unbinding and without value or effect as long as it was not published in their language and in accordance with the legal methods that would enable them to understand, realize, and adhere to its content.
What was published in English (a foreign language) jeopardizes the status of the Palestinian gazette as an official newspaper that symbolizes national sovereignty, violates the provisions of the social contract, and deprives the gazette of its official and national prestige, which gives rise to a serious phenomenon that should be addressed immediately in accordance with and in respect of the Basic Law and the related procedures. Furthermore, publishing in English reflects discrimination against citizens; violates their rights; presents the Palestinian official gazette as a publication that targets a limited social group (those who are proficient in English), which by the way represents a small group relative to the population; and contradicts the goals, objectives, and legal requirements behind issuing it as a document that addresses Palestinians of various backgrounds and cultural levels. All of the aforementioned aspects assert that when the gazette or any part of its content is published in English, it loses its uniqueness and one of the most important aspects legal norms should have, neutrality and generalization.
Elaborating more on the issue, which may seem as irrelevant to the subject at hand, the gazette may be translated into English as a whole for the knowledge of other countries but not for local enforcement or validity; an aspect that is not addressed in this memo, neither in terms of accuracy nor in terms of target groups.
It also goes without saying that according to the internationally common provisions of legal norms: laws, regulations, directions, and decisions should be published in the language that the citizens who are being addressed use and understand, which requires that these documents be published in their own language so that they clearly perceive them prior to demanding that they adhere to them.
Accordingly, and based on the aforementioned aspects, we kindly ask that you study our memo thoroughly, and then take the appropriate legal action regarding the matter. We kindly hope that you quote us the legal action taken by you duly.
With all due respect,
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Lawyer Yasser Jaber