Discussing “Security and Integrity of Governance”
The Civil Society Forum to Enhance Good Governance of the Security Sector holds its fourth annual conference, reiterating that the security sector must have an impartial political action and be only subject to the rule of law
Ramallah – The Civil Society Forum to Promote Good Governance in the Security Sector held its fourth annual conference to discuss “Security and Integrity of Governance.” The Conference was attended by the Minister of Interior and representatives of security forces and civil society organizations as well as a number of human rights and media organizations.
The first session focused on “Security and the Integrity of Governance in Palestine”, and addressed the governance and political integrity of the Palestinian security sector. It also tackled the guarantees to ensure that security forces respect rights and freedoms. The second session discussed social oversight of the security forces’ activities and the role of security apparatuses in the protection of civil peace. It further discussed the social oversight of the security forces authorities in detention and the role of the civil society in enforcing the standard code of conduct of the security forces.
Public opinion poll organized by AMAN in 2022: 54% of respondent expressed their satisfaction with the performance of the security apparatuses
The chair of AMAN Coalition’s Board (Forum Secretariat), Mr. Abdelqader Al-Husseini opened the conference with a diagnosis of the reasons behind deteriorating citizens’ trust in the security forces following the cancellation of the legislative elections scheduled for April 2021 after completion of the necessary preparations. Consequently, the negative effects of the political split and the absence of the Palestinian Legislative Council were magnified not to mention the deterioration of the civil peace. An opinion poll conducted by AMAN Coalition every year showed a drop in the number of respondents who believe that the security forces respect human rights and freedoms in dealing with citizens. The level of confidence declined from 23% in 2020 to 13% in 2022 while satisfaction with the performance of the security forces dropped to 54%, compared to 72% in 2020. Moreover, citizens’ sense of safety and security dropped from 25% in 2020 to 14% in 2022.
In his opening speech, Al-Husseini stressed that the security institution must be a pillar to promote the integrity of governance and protect against political corruption. Therefore, it must be immunized to act with full integrity, impartiality, effectiveness, and compliance with the rule of law. This includes an impartial application of the political leadership decisions to consolidate the basic principles of democracy and preserve the balanced separation of powers. Citizens have the right to access information and participate in the conceptualization of government policies. He also called for the organization of general elections to restore the democratic practices in Palestine and reinstitute official oversight by the PLC.
Minister of Interior: An Era of Cooperation, Partnership, Openness, and Promotion of Integrity.
In his address, General Ziad Hab Al-Reeh, Minister of Interior, stressed cooperation and openness to the Civil Society Forum to coordinate efforts to promote the good governance of the security sector. He listed the joint activities of both parties, most importantly the preparation of a communication strategy for the security sector in cooperation with the media and civil society organizations. Joint efforts also included an assessment of the complaints’ units and internal control units as well as support to prepare the Palestinian security sector’s integrity plan based on the Integrity Index, prepared in cooperation between both parties. The Minister also mentioned several youths and social accountability initiatives in partnership between the Forum and security forces.
Hab Al-Reeh also explained that an advanced team of the security forces has been trained on the systems of accountability and mentioned MoI’s intention to develop the complaints system in these different agencies from a citizens’ perspective. He further added that a public policy paper is being prepared to restructure the complaints unit and stressed the importance of continued communication with the local organizations and the media.
Consulate General of UK: Constructive criticism to fill the gaps and address the security sector’s violations
The Security Forces Advisor from the UK Consulate General in Jerusalem, Mr. Andrew Le Grice, underlined the importance of subjecting the security forces to citizens’ accountability, especially following the recent events in 2021. He further underlined the importance of institutionalizing the code of conduct and putting it into effect with continued cooperation between the security sector and the civil society organizations. Le Grice also referred to the assassination of Nizar Banat and the breaches that ensued the protestations against his assassination. He explained that constructive criticism may be employed to serve the public interest and underscored the necessity to be open and provide citizens and civil society organizations with information to promote partnership and cooperation among the parties and boost citizens’ trust in the security agencies.
Subjecting the security organs to the civil and political oversight to ensure that they comply with the law
The first session addressed the theme of governance integrity in Palestine. Issam Haj Hussein, Executive Director of AMAN Coalition (the Forum’s secretariat) presented a report on ‘democratization and governance of the Palestinian security sector to promote political integrity’. In his introduction, he provided a definition of political integrity and its correlation to the criteria of democratization and governance of the security sector based on Palestinian legislation. The criteria include subjecting the security organs to a civil political level, impartial rule in the competition among different parties in any elections or appointments to senior political posts, regulating the sector’s activity via a clear framework that defines their mandate and subjects them to parliamentary and official oversight and approval. The regulatory framework should stress the respect and protection of the rule of law, in addition to a transparent and independent system of appointments and promotions of security leaders. Moreover, a senior security leadership code of conduct needs to be promulgated and the financial assets disclosures of the security agencies’ leaders must be published. A public policy must be devised and implemented to immunize the security sector against corruption.
Make the security sector’s political affiliation more visible
The security sector and its leaders’ subjugation to the civil political level (the government) is weak. Some security forces are not governed by law while the executive regulations of the Law on Service in the Palestinian Security Forces have not been enacted to date. The report underlined this point in its recommendation highlighting the importance of applying the basic law and subjecting security agencies to accountability via submission of reports on their performance to the PNA political level. This oversight will undermine their ability to make decisions that serve personal or partisan interests rather than the public interest and the stability of the political system. It will also reduce the chances of administrative, financial, and political corruption.
Weak integrity of governance in the rotation of power, in violation of the law
The report addressed the security sector’s partiality during the electoral process, which contradicts with the General Elections Law No (1) of 2007. Security forces intervened in the elections, detained, intimated, and threatened candidates and voters. Furthermore, the Law on Service in the Security Forces prescribed that security agents may not be involved in politics but in practice, some security officers interfere in political life while some agents are members of political factions, mainly the ruling party. Moreover, some security officers interfere in the appointment to senior administrative and judicial posts.
The report concluded that the security institution must apply the law and refrain from playing any roles in the elections other than those prescribed in the law and enforce applicable sanctions in case of any breach.
أهمية وجود لجنة مستقلة تتولى فحص ملاءمة التعيينات المتعلقة بقادة المؤسسة الأمنية مع الشروط والمعايير المطلوبة
There is a need for an independent commission to assess the adequacy of appointments of the chiefs of security agencies
Although the laws specified the mechanisms of appointment of the chiefs of security forces, practice shows that senior ranks depend on factional affiliation. There aren’t any objective criteria applicable to the appointments, transfers, and promotions while there isn’t any independent committee to assess the adequacy of appointments to senior security ranks or to prescribe the qualification criteria. The President exercises direct control of the different forces being the commander in chief. He appoints chiefs who are directly subject to his orders. The report recommends establishing an independent committee to evaluate the current appointments against a set of specified criteria of qualifications.
The law prescribes that security forces must respect and defend public rights and freedoms, but international and local human rights organizations report several violations of civil rights by these forces. The recommendations of the official investigation/ fact-finding missions formed to investigate the attacks on public rights and freedoms under a political cover and undeclared immunity without any accountability by the political system are not implemented.
The regulatory framework needs to be upgraded to ensure that public rights and freedoms are safeguarded by the security agencies
Mr. Nasser Al-Rayyes, from the Palestinian Democracy and Peace Centre, member of the Civil Forum, presented the guarantees to ensure the promotion of rights and freedoms by the security forces. He stressed that the security forces are regulated by several pieces of legislation, but they simply govern the institutionalization of these agencies without referring to their role in protecting public rights and freedoms. For example, the existing laws do not tackle the rights of persons in arrest or detention or the right to habeas corpus.
He also referred to the penal guarantees that criminalize the assaults of security forces agents, which undermine the rights and freedoms. Such acts include arbitrary detention, degrading treatment, torture, and violation of the right to privacy among others. Furthermore, the Palestinian security laws do not refer to the rights and compensation of the victims and the prosecution of the perpetrators of human rights violations. They do not include provisions to follow up on complaints and grievances filed by individuals for compensation for the damage they endure as a result of infractions committed by agents of the security forces.
Al-Rayyes also explained that the existing guarantees relating to the promotion and safeguard of the rights and freedoms by the security forces are not complete and inconsistent with the international standards. They do not cover the issues of criminalization, transparency, and accountability. The regulatory framework must be revised to include controls that promote security forces’ observance of human rights.
Classification and concealing of information compromises social oversight and accountability
Moreover, Al-Rayyes reiterated the importance of social oversight and accountability by civil society organizations, political parties, and lobbies and underlined the necessity to put an end to impunity. He pointed out that, ‘no social entity may exercise the right to accountability and ask Palestinian security officers for explanations so long as the law immunizes their acts on the ground of classified information. He added that information is concealed due to the absence of the law on access to information.
Comment by the Ministry of Interior
Brigadier General Dr. Tareq Ashour, member of the Ministry of Interior’s Integrity Team, stressed that the security institution and civil society are one team not two teams. He explained that open dialogue and meetings promote this partnership. He criticized the paper’s methodology and underscored the need to update the data used by the researchers.
In her intervention, Dr. Enas Nazzal, member of MoI Integrity Team, stressed that the absence of the Legislative Council has compromised oversight of the security agencies. She criticized the proposal to have full civil control of the security sector, especially as it relates to planning because this will undermine the status of the security forces.
Ms. Haitham Arar, Head of MoI Human Rights Unit explained that security forces receive specialized training on human rights and the relationship with the civil society that is based on full coordination. She added that MoI is working on amending its regulatory framework to prescribe severe sentences of torture and implementation of illegal orders by the security forces.
Civil Forum Coordinator: As Police Forces to Address Civil Peace Disruption
The second session focused on the social oversight of the security forces. Coordinator of the Civil Society Forum, Dr. Omar Rahha, Director of Shams Human Rights and Media Centre, presented a paper on “social oversight of the security forces’ role in the protection of civil peace.” He presented the civil roles vested in the police and security forces to maintain civil peace by addressing the causes of social tension and promoting the independence and response of the formal judicial system to enable it to protect rights and freedoms without delay and without jeopardy to the guarantees of a fair trial.
Rahhal reiterated that the police and security forces need to develop the Palestinian security academies and provide them with curricular and extracurricular courses on the respect of human rights. They further need to develop the capacities of their internal and external control units and activate their complaints units while informing the public of the accountability by the law enforcement agencies to the violations of citizens’ rights. He explained that deterrent action against such violations will have a positive effect on civil peace. Therefore, security agencies need to organize ongoing campaigns across different governorates to maintain peace and order.
Al-Haq Institute: Subpoena via a phone call is a violation of the constitutional and legal rights and guarantees
On a related topic, the legal counsel of Al-Haq Institute, Engineer Ashraf Abu Hayyah, presented research on the international and local guarantees in the cases of arrest and detention. He enumerated the cases of arbitrary detention based on the cases documented by human rights organizations, most notably detention upon the governor’s order without being summoned by the public prosecution or the judiciary. Some persons were arrested without an official subpoena by the prosecution or courts and without detailing the reasons for the deprivation of their liberty. Others were arrested on the ground of exercising their right to the freedom of expression and opinion and to peaceful assembly among other rights. According to the United Nations, arbitrary detention is the arrest and deprivation of liberty of a person in spite of a court ruling to release him/her.
The common forms to summon citizens by the security forces include phone calls, written subpoenas signed by the chiefs of the security forces. These summonses are a violation of constitutional and legal rights and freedoms and to the right of personal liberty. These subpoenas are judicial and can only be ordered by a judge or a public prosecutor. The fact that security forces continue to issue them is a flagrant violation of the rule of law.
Abu Hayyah also explained that the non-enforcement of judicial decisions is a crime in the basic law and other application legislations. He defined arbitrary detention as keeping a person in detention in spite of a court ruling to release him/her. He emphasized that refraining from enforcing or impeding the enforcement of a court judgment is a crime punishable by imprisonment and dismissal from an official position if the accused is a public servant or in charge of public service. The defendant in whose favour a judgment has been pronounced may initiate a suit before the competent court while the PNA shall guarantee him/her full compensation. Therefore, he recommended holding the perpetrators of these violations accountable for their acts and prosecuting torture, maltreatment, and arbitrary detention with effective remedies based on the rule of law and justice and compensations toward the victims. Competent human rights bodies must play a more significant role in the investigations of violations of human rights and in the prosecution of the perpetrators. Such acts will enable Palestine to fulfil its obligations under the international conventions it acceded and will restore citizens’ trust in the justice sector.
Institutionalization of security forces code of conduct
In his presentation, Mr. Hilmi Al-A’raj, Director General of Hurriyat Organization (a Forum member), stressed the major contributions of civil society organizations in the development of a standard code of conduct of security forces that is in harmony with the codes of each agency. He also mentioned that training on the code of conduct was organized and urged competent bodies in the security sector and their partners to institutionalize the code of conduct. If well enforced, it will be a real guarantee to provide the best quality security services to citizens under all circumstances. Building on the historical value of the Palestinians, this security doctrine will be based on the respect of human rights and dignity to consolidate the confidence between citizens and security agents and preserve the national interests of the Palestinian people.
MoI and the Military Justice Commission: A strategic plan for civil peace and development of a Palestinian military penal code under preparation
Mr. Majdi Alawnah, Deputy Minister of Interior, reiterated the need to raise public awareness of the importance of civil peace and the rule of law. He announced that work is underway to prepare a strategic plan for civil peace. Brigadier General Abdelnasser Jarrar, Prosecutor of the Military Justice Commission, also explained that a Palestinian military penal code is being drafted to respond to the Palestinian context, while Brigadier General, Mohammad Al-Zitawai, from the Ministry of Interior confirmed that the ministry has employed relentless efforts to adopt and provide training on the code of conduct and awareness of security officers.
Link of the first session: https://fb.watch/bNYde3twIl/
Link of the second session: https://fb.watch/bNVp-M4Qf5/