Law Institute Holds Legal Encounter on Recent Gaza Legislation and Human Rights

Birzeit University’s Institute of Law organized at its Gaza Office a legal encounter on Gaza-issued legislation and human rights during the division that has prevailed between the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2007.
The presentation was made by coordinator of the Technical Assistance and Advocacy Unit at the Gaza-based Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights Adnan al-Hajjar and brought together representatives of human rights organizations, members of the legal community and other interested groups.
Opening the event, Lina al-Tonsi, Coordinator of the Institute’s Gaza Office, welcomed the speaker and audience and described the Legal Encounters program.
Al-Hajjar then explained that the legislative policy in the area is affected by concurrent political conditions. Legislative approaches differ from one political regime to another. Under authoritarian regimes, legislative policy does not allow parliaments to play a significant role and instead the executive plays an extensive role in the legislative process.
This has been the case in the Gaza Strip since the political divide, he said. At the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Change and Reform Bloc acting largely alone has approved many laws that have been published in the Gaza-issued Official Gazette. Under such circumstances, the parliament provides – through the Change and Reform Bloc – legislation for the benefit of the executive, i.e. “what the executive branch needs.”
Democracies accommodate political pluralism, independent political parties, and stable and effective civil society organizations, he commented. With well-established democratic legislative policy, enactments result from interaction between social and political forces. Although one might outweigh another, all political actors retain the power of influence. In this situation, legislation is a true reflection of social needs and legal standards. Laws are enacted to serve, not to adapt, the society.
Al-Hajjar then questioned the purpose of the many laws promulgating by the parliament through the Change and Reform Bloc under a dichotomy within the PLC itself. Regulations are passed in isolation from relevant stakeholders and civil society organizations, immediately impacting society.
He said that 30 laws have been passed by the Gaza-based PLC. These include the Civil Law, Tenant Law, Law on the Youth, Amended Penal Procedure Law, Law on Unions, Company Law, and Education Law. The Draft Penal Law is being developed and will be approved and promulgated. Al-Hajjar said that this law is dangerous and gravely impinges on human rights in Palestinian society.
In the ensuing discussion, the audience made several comments, arguing that the enforcement of regulations issued in the Gaza Strip should be suspended. By means of public oversight and ballot boxes, all members of the society should be involved in the legislative process, audience members said. They, as well as experts, should be allowed to take part in a debate on the need for and significance of enacted legislation.
Legislation should be predictable and enjoy consistent application. Otherwise, an uncoordinated legislative process will generate unexpected or undesired consequences, some commented. In fact, commenters noted, absent community participation allows enactment of laws that breach human rights.
The legal encounter was organized in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.