In a discussion session held on repealing Article 22 of the Code of Conduct for the Civil Service by the government,
AMAN: We need comprehensive political reform, including elections and end to the internal divide
Ramallah/Gaza – The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) held a discussion session on Decision No. 3 made by the Council of Ministers in early July 2021. The Decision provides for repealing Article 22 of the Code of Conduct for the Civil Service in the context of declining public freedoms, particularly freedom of opinion and expression, in Palestine. Most recently, some civil servants have been subjected to threats, which aimed at squeezing the space for freedom of expression. To this effect, verbal instructions or direct threats were issued, amounting to removal from civil service.
AMAN believes that the Code of Conduct for the Civil Service is a significant achievement to promote integrity and fight against corruption in the public sector. AMAN commended the role of the national taskforce, which developed the Code in 2012. In addition to advocating values and behaviours that civil servants must comply with, the Code includes rights ensured by the Palestinian Basic Law. AMAN views with grave concern the repealing of Article 22 of the Code: “Civil servants shall have the right to express and publish their opinion in speech, writing, or other means of expression, taking account of the legislation in force. When they express their opinion, comment, or participate on social media sites, civil servants must make clear that they represent their personal opinion only and do not reflect the view of the government body, at which there are employed.”
AMAN is of the view that the status of the Palestinian Basic Law should be restored. A comprehensive political reform programme should be implemented to revitalise democratic life in Palestine, engage all three powers, put an end to the internal Palestinian political divide, and protect freedoms. Without these, a chaos of decisions, amendments, and abuses of fundamental rights enshrined in the Basic and Law international conventions will continue unabated. AMAN also stressed the need to hold elections. Accordingly, governance will be based on participation. Serving as the source of legitimacy, the will of the people will be upheld. Through an elected legislative council, the government will be held to account for the suppression of freedoms.
Government decision is in conflict with the Basic Law and must be annulled
AMAN considers it necessary to repeal the Council of Ministers’ decision because it runs counter to the Basic Law, Declaration of Independence, Civil Service Law, and international conventions binding on the State of Palestine, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Participants generally agreed that the right to freedom of opinion and expression is inherent to the human person. The current situation will lead to a regrettable state of stifling public freedoms as well as further undermining and confiscating freedoms. It involves the executive encroachment and hegemony over all areas of life and turning further away from a peaceful transition of power, rather than holding elections and offering a glimpse of hope of a democratic political system.
Discussants highlighted the importance of redrafting effective legislation, including the Cybercrime Law and laws on the media. These will safeguard human rights, freedoms, and dignity.
Interlocutors expressed perplexity regarding the government, which justified that repealing Article 22 would promote freedom of opinion and expression. They emphasised a contradiction between the government discourse, decisions, and measures taken on the ground. The fact that Article 22 is repealed sends a message to civil services, placing restrictions on their opinion and reports on any potential irregularities or suspicions of corruption, which they probably witness.
Access to justice amid declining government integrity in the West Bank and Gaza
AMAN reiterated its call for a democratic system that will have proper respect for human rights and dignity. This system will be premised on the Declaration of Independence and Basic Law. An independence judiciary will be in place and accessible in the context of declining government integrity in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip to avoid the risk of relapsing into the quagmire of political corruption.