HOME Workshops The Reality of Public Rights and Freedoms in Palestine between Regulation, Restriction and Oversight

The Reality of Public Rights and Freedoms in Palestine between Regulation, Restriction and Oversight

On Monday, 27 January 2014, the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University held a workshop on The Reality of Public Rights and Freedoms in Palestine between Regulation, Restriction and Oversight.

Besides members of the legal community, the event brought together legal experts and representatives of government bodies and civil society actors.

In his opening statement, Dr. Jamil Salem, IoL Director, welcomed the speakers and audience. Highlighting significance of the workshop, Mr. Salem explained that current political conditions throughout the Arab World have negatively impacted on public rights and freedoms. The workshop would shed light on the legal framework and status of public rights and freedoms in Palestine. The continued internal Palestinian political divide has exerted adverse consequences, including an impediment and violation of public rights and freedoms.

Having welcomed the audience, Advocate Mahmoud Alawneh, Director of the IoL Legislative Support Department (LSD), thanked the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung - Ramallah Office for its continued support of IoL activities. According to Advocate Alawneh, the workshop was an outcome of several research papers developed by the IoL LSD team and national researchers. These address the legal framework and practical application of public rights and freedoms in Palestine. With a view to enhance and consolidate the Palestinian legal system, research papers provide recommendations to national law- and decision-makers.

Entitled Public Rights and Freedoms in Light of Domestic and International Standards, the first workshop session was launched. In his presentation on The Regulation of Public Rights and Freedoms: Between Domestic Norms and International Standards, Advocate Hosni Daqqah explained the concept and philosophy of the development of rights. Providing a comparison to international conventions, the paper also explored public rights and freedoms enshrined in the Palestinian Basic Law and Draft Constitution.

In Constitutional Making, Human Rights, and Identity Construction in Occupied Palestine, Dr. Emilio Dabed overviewed constitutional and institutional developments Palestine has seen during the Oslo Process. The presentation investigated linkages to the concept of the Palestinian identity and reflections of the Oslo Accords.

In The Freedom of Expression in Palestine: Between Regulation and Restriction, Dr. Adnan al Hajjar provided an overview of the concept of the freedom of expression and Palestinian legislative approach to governing this right, including in terms of restriction and protection. In addition to exploring reflections of the internal Palestinian political split on public rights and freedoms, Dr. Hajjar investigated how consistent Palestinian regulations are with relevant international conventions.

The first workshop session was moderated by the Al-Haq Legal Advisor Dr. Issam Abdeen. Emphasising that freedom of expression was a reflection of public rights and freedoms, Dr. Abdeen confirmed that laws in force in Palestine imposed many restrictions on public rights and freedoms. Draft laws on freedoms were also impaired by legal gaps.

The second session was entitled Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom. In his presentation on The Freedom of Expression on Social Media Networks between Restricting Provisions and Space of Freedom: Is there a Legal Solution? Advocate Mahmoud Alawneh defined social media networks and explored legal frameworks that govern social media activity, inquiring how adequate these frameworks were as to protect social media interaction. Having explored liability for using social media platforms, Advocate Alawneh proposed a number of scenarios and potential solutions for protection of the freedom of expression on social media networks.

In Media Freedom: Between Inadequate Provisions and Freedom Violation, Advocate Alaa’ Hammad addressed media freedom in Palestine in light of the current Palestinian legal system and respective international conventions. Reviewing practical applications since 2007, Advocate Hammad stated reasons why media freedom was violated in Palestine. Media freedom is marred by an inadequate practice. The internal Palestinian political division has negatively reflected on freedom of the media. Media outlets and representatives are impeded by several impingements. The Judicial Authority should be play an effective and efficient role in protecting journalists. The presentation included several case studies, including the Watan ala Watar (Homeland on a String) TV series.

Advocate Sama Saqf al Heit highlighted the working relationship between the media and security establishment in a working paper on The Media Role in Accessing Information Possessed by Security Services. The current status was explored by a review of the legal framework that regulates the freedom of media representatives to access information. The context in which the Palestinian media operates is explored, including an investigation of the impact on access to information kept by Palestinian security agencies. Media outlets are impeded by a lack of clear institutional processes, which facilitate access to information.

The second session was moderated by Ms. Reem al Butmeh, researcher at the IoL. Ms. Butmeh emphasised that the target group of legal protection should be identified. In the context of regulating public rights and freedoms, controls should also be delineated.

In the third session on The Role of Formal and Informal Oversight in Protection of Public Rights and Freedoms, Mr. Maan Id’eis presented a working paper on The Role of the Independent Commission of Human Rights (ICHR) in the Protection of Rights and Freedoms. The presentation investigates the role the ICHR is playing in protection of public rights and freedoms, shedding light on the ICHR establishment and jurisdictions on the national and international levels. The paper makes clear the ICHR effort to safeguard and maintain human rights and public freedoms, with a particular focus on the freedom of expression and right to access information. It also highlights tools the ICHR uses to protect public rights and freedoms as well as challenges it faces in delivering its national role.

In The Civil Society Role in Protecting Public Rights and Freedoms, Mr. Mohammed Abu Hashem explored the role of Palestinian civil society organisations in maintaining and protecting public rights and freedoms. The presentation explored international standards that provided protection to human rights organisations as well as evolution and status of human rights organisations in Palestine. Also, the paper provided perspectives on the development of civil society actors’ role and mechanisms in relation to consolidating public rights and freedoms.

Entitled The Role of the Palestinian Judicial Authority and Problem of Control of the Freedom of Expression, Ms. Siham al Barghouthi’s presentation introduced the philosophical framework and evolution of human rights and freedoms, as well as the legal regulation of the freedom of expression. The paper emphasises the role of the Judicial Authority in protecting freedom of expression as an essential component of the state building effort. Safeguards should be in place to ensure this freedom. Predicaments to the judicial role in protection of the freedom of expression were reviewed in the presentation.

Dr. Hisham Awwad made a presentation on The Effect of Absent Oversight Role of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on Public Rights  and Freedoms, with a Particular Focus on the Freedom of Expression. The paper spelled out the PLC functions and capacities. In light of the internal Palestinian political split, the presentation investigated the impact of absent oversight role of the PLC on public rights and freedoms, particularly in relation to the Executive function. The paper also included an overview of functions delivered by parliamentary committees.

Advocate Raed Abdul Hamid, moderator of the third workshop session, highlighted significance of the foregoing presentations. An independent, impartial and effective judicial authority should be in place to adjudicate cases of publication and freedom of expression. Particularly in relation to the publication activity, penal laws should be revisited.

In the discussions ensuing all three workshop sessions, participants stressed that media-related laws should be revised and amended so as to conform to relevant international standards. These laws would be consistent with provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law. Particular focus should be paid to the publication process. Both journalists and citizens should be enabled to exercise their right to expression, using all electronic and traditional media. Discussants also highlighted the negative phenomenon and problems generated by the detention and trial of media representatives. A debate addressed legal frameworks of the freedom of expression on electronic forums, including social media networks.

This workshop was an informed outcome of the IoL LSD research activity. Supported by KAS, this activity was an integral part of the LSD Law and Politics project. It was tailored to examine the legal framework and status of public rights and freedoms in Palestine, including relevant consequences of the internal Palestinian political divide. Research papers will be published in a book by the end of February 2014.