New paper tackles possible responses in the aftermath of coronavirus state of emergency

A paper published by Asem Khalil, Birzeit University’s vice president for community affairs and the H.H. Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Constitutional and International Law, and Rashad Twam, a ؤoordinator and developer training programs, explores the aftermath of the state of emergency, declared in Palestine in attempts to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak, probing to what extent the Palestinian Authority can extend the current state of emergency beyond thirty days.

Titled “The Aftermath of the State of Emergency Declared in Palestine to Combat the Coronavirus Outbreak: Predicted Scenarios and Risks” (in Arabic), the paper initially presents an overview of a state of emergency as outlined in the Palestinian Authority’s Basic Law. Article (110) states that the president may declare the state of emergency “for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days” and allows for it to be extended for another thirty days “if a two-thirds majority of the members of the Legislative Council vote in favor of the extension.”

Because it is barely possible to predict the length of an emergency situation during the unfolding of a pandemic, and as the number of coronavirus cases in Palestine is increasing, Khalil and Twam explore and present the scenarios that would allow overriding the abovementioned constitutional limitations – given that the Palestinian Legislative Council is absent and, hence, it is not possible to apply the provisions of the Basic Law for an extension of the state of emergency.

Once the 30-day state of emergency, declared on March 5, 2020, comes to an end, Khalil and Twam suggest four possible scenarios, analyze the pros and cons of each, and take into account the importance of protecting civil liberties and human rights as well as the democratic assets of a constitutional system.

The outbreak of a pandemic disease, such as COVID-19, calls for the application of strict quarantine regulations that limit certain freedoms. Khalil and Twam stress the importance of making sure, however, that the quarantine measures and an extension of the state of emergency would not violate rights that under normal circumstances would be guaranteed by the constitution.

This paper is part of Birzeit University’s Working Papers Series in Legal Studies–Policy Papers Module (2/2020) and supported by H.H. Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

The full paper (in Arabic) is available here.