AMAN releases first report on Integrity Index in the Palestinian Judiciary
Index results show that integrity system within the Palestinian judicial system is alarming
Ramallah – In the presence of the Civil Coalition for Judicial Reform, Independent Commission for Human Rights, human rights organisations and judicial stakeholders, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) released the first issue of the Results of the Integrity Index in the Palestinian Judiciary, the first of its kind in Palestine. Based on the results of 80 indicators, the Palestinian judicial system has had a final score of 57 out of 100, or an average rating. This demonstrates that the situation of the integrity system in the Palestinian judicial system is “alarming.”
AMAN has developed the Integrity Index in the Palestinian Judiciary on the basis of a number of indicators, which are capable of characterising and measuring integrity within Palestinian judicial system. The index is informed by a set of nationally and internationally recognised fundamental norms of the judiciary, as one of the three powers. It serves as a normative tool, providing a numerical expression of the integrity and immunity of the judicial system against all threats to its independence and resilience in the face corruption. The index also reflects the judiciary’s ability and efficiency to play its role in promoting the integrity of government, establishing the rule of law, administering justice, protecting citizens’ rights, and ensuring the stability of society.
The report covers the Judicial Authority in the State of Palestine, placing a special focus on the High Judicial Council (HJC), regular courts, and Public Prosecution in the West Bank. The index development process included a detailed review of international judicial principles, national legislation on the judiciary, and international conventions on the fight against corruption. It also involved foundations of the principles of transparency, systems of accountability, values of integrity, and independence of the judiciary.
Ratings of aspects of integrity in the judiciary
Reflecting an average rating, judicial independence scored 51. While efficiency had 58 scores (average rating), ability had a score of 48 (low rating). Appointments and personnel affairs scored an average rating of 65.
Results show that both regulations and practices were rated as average, scoring 58 and 56 respectively. Index results by pillars of the integrity system indicate that transparency was rated as advanced (67 scores). Scoring average, fight against corruption and integrity had scores of 62 and 56 each. On the other hand, accountability received a low rating with a score of 47.
In spite of respect for public court proceedings, publication of annual and administrative reports is still poor
The report demonstrated a poor rating of certain indicators, which affected the index results. Of these, while HJC decisions are not made publicly available, publication of the annual report on functions of the Judicial Authority is interrupted. Clear data on the subject matters of complaints, cases under inspection, or disciplinary cases are not released. Annual reports of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) do not provide specific data on the judiciary, including complaints, reports, investigation files, and cases remitted to the Corruption Crimes Court, which involve judges, prosecutors, or judicial staff.
According to the report, a law on the right of access to information has not been enacted. The Judicial Authority does not put in place a written mechanism for access to information on judicial activity. A law has not been passed, setting the conditions for and manner of compensation payable by the State of Palestine for judicial errors. The regulation on the HJC operating procedures has been neither upgraded nor put into effect. Legislative rules of judicial appointments provide a poor account of accurate and clearly defined nomination mechanisms and selection methods.
Interference of the Executive and security agencies with the judiciary
Index results cast light on the imbalanced application of the principle of irremovability of judges. Legislative interference by the Executive has given rise to the so-called “covert removal from judicial office.” Negative interference by security agencies in judicial functions is manifest, including the condition of security clearance for judicial appointments, postponed enforcement of decisions on the release of detained persons, and contempt of courts.
Results shows inadequate application of the principle of equitable opportunities in appointments because the Executive interferes with the judicial competition results. The principle of separation of powers is not effectively applied. In practice, the Executive is superior to and dominates other powers, undermining the integrity of government. The report further indicates that the principle of executable court decision is jeopardised. Oftentimes, the Executive has not been committed to enforce administrative court rulings without delay. A policy is not in place for holding to account parties that obstruct the enforcement of these decisions. The Executive also seizes control of the judicial budget, sets the budget cap, and limits budget line items to salaries and operating expenses, leaving out development expenditure. The budget is approved while the Palestinian Legislative Council is not in session.
Judicial staff compliance with financial declarations
Index results showed that judicial staff were committed to submitting financial declarations to the PACC. Financial statement disclosures of judges are on record. However, results indicated that the Regulation on Gifts does not include judges and prosecutors. The provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct are inadequate. The code has not so far been enforced to judicial staff.
Recommendations of the Integrity Index in the Palestinian Judiciary
The index recommended that the HJC develop a mechanism for publishing HJC decisions on a periodic basis. HJC annual reports will include clear data on inspection and disciplinary cases. The rights to freedom of expression and assembly will be ensured for and exercised by judges on a wider scale. Judicial inspection will practically involve High Court justices. A strict mechanism will be created to keep case files, ensuring that these files are not manipulated.
The index further recommends that the Executive, namely the President’s Office and Council of Ministers, cease all forms of hegemony or influence through regulations or practices. The Executive interferes with judicial functions, including through appointments, resource management, and requirements for providing resources based on judges’ needs. Law enforcement agencies should also uphold the execution of court decisions and hold to account persons who obstruct or disrupt the enforcement of these decisions.
It was also recommended that the Attorney General work towards enhancing the efficiency and role of the Corruption Crimes Prosecution. PACC annual reports will release specific data on complaints and issues regarding the judiciary. On the grounds of judicial independence, civil society groups need to concert efforts by developing a standing mechanism to promote community accountability of the Judicial Authority. These need to cooperate with the HJC to develop and incorporate focused material on integrity and fight against corruption within judicial training and education curriculum.