ًWest Bank and Gaza
The ink on the issue of the Official Gazette and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had barely dried when the Council of Ministers announced on September 11, 2023, in its session No. (221) the decision to prohibit all state institutions’ employees (civilian, military) from joining the governing bodies of charitable associations, civil society organizations, and non-profit companies, except by prior approval from the council of ministers upon the recommendation of the relevant government department. This is in violation of Article (22) of the aforementioned international covenant and Article (26) of the Basic Law, which guarantees Palestinians the right to participate, as individuals or in groups, in political life without discrimination, including the right to form political parties, unions, associations, clubs, and grassroots organizations.
This also contradicts the law on Charitable Associations and Civil Society Organizations, which states unequivocally that Palestinians have the right to freely engage in social, cultural, professional, and scientific activities, including the right to establish and run charitable associations, in addition to the legislation governing companies, which contains no provisions prohibiting state employees from joining non-profit organizations.
Additionally, it runs counter to the Civil Service Law No. (4) of the year 1998 that did not contain any provision prohibiting public employees from joining associations and their governing bodies, not to mention that it also disregards the controls and constraints imposed on the work of military personnel according to Law No. (8) of the year 2005. The Council of Ministers also oversteps its powers and jurisdictions of following up on the implementation of laws, as it usurps the authority of the true and original legislator "The Legislative Council", transforming the system that regulates rights into one that restricts and denies rights, and disregarding the fact that the principle of conflict of interest is the determining factor in regulating the relationship between the government and ministries with associations, CSOs, and non-profit companies.
The Council of Ministers' unconstitutional decision coincides with the issuance of Circular No. (4) of 2023 by the Director General of the General Directorate of Public Affairs and Non-Governmental Organizations in Gaza on 18/09/2023 regarding the programs and projects of local and international associations and bodies. This negates government and ministerial claims regarding a partnership between the government, and the associations and CSOs. The circular stated that, prior to implementing their programs and activities in Gaza, charitable organizations and CSOs must obtain the necessary approvals from the relevant government departments and follow the mechanisms adopted by those departments.
We wish to draw attention that the circulation issued by the Director General of the General Directorate of Public Affairs and Non-Governmental Organizations in Gaza is a flagrant violation of the constitutional principles and texts of the Basic Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Public Meetings Law.
We, MUSAWA – The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, regard this decision and circular as a policy of restricting the civil space, compromising the independence of the civil work, and severely infringing on the right to participation in political and public life that is guaranteed to all citizens without discrimination. This necessitates the immediate cancellation of both to protect human rights and fulfill Palestine's international obligations, while emphasizing the role and message of civil society, which is both a right and a duty, to ensure sustainable development, civil peace, and the rule of law. The society as a whole, the rulers and the ruled, stand to lose the most from these restrictions, which requires abandoning this approach and respecting CSOs independence, allowing them space to carry out their role in protecting citizens' rights and contributing to meeting their various needs, which will promote civil peace and fulfill the aspirations of our society and all of its citizens.