Question of Palestine home
Economic and Social Council
21 January 2000
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Item 11 (d) of the provisional agenda
CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE QUESTIONS OF:
INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY, ADMINISTRATION
OF JUSTICE, IMPUNITY
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and
lawyers, Mr. Param Cumaraswamy, submitted in accordance with
Commission resolution 1999/31
This is the sixth annual report of the Special Rapporteur whose mandate, created by Commission resolution 1994/41, called upon him:
(a) To inquire into any substantial allegations transmitted to him or her and report his or her conclusions thereon;
(b) To identify and record not only attacks on the independence of the judiciary, lawyers and court officials but also progress achieved in protecting and enhancing their independence, and make recommendations including the provision of advisory services or technical assistance when they are requested by the State concerned;
(c) To study, for the purpose of making proposals, important and topical questions of principle with a view to protecting and enhancing the independence of the judiciary and lawyers.
VII. SITUATIONS IN SPECIFIC COUNTRIES OR TERRITORIES
38. This chapter contains brief summaries of the urgent appeals and communications transmitted to governmental authorities between 11 December 1998 and 30 November 1999, as well as of replies to the allegations received between 6 January 1999 and 24 December 1999. In addition, the Special Rapporteur takes note in this chapter of the activities of other mechanisms which are related to his mandate. Where he has deemed it necessary, the Special Rapporteur has included his own observations. He wishes to emphasize that the appeals and communications reflected in this chapter are based exclusively upon information that has been transmitted to him directly. Where information was insufficient, the Special Rapporteur was not in a position to act. He also recognizes that problems concerning the independence and impartiality of the judiciary are not confined to the countries and territories mentioned in this chapter. In this regard, he wishes to emphasize that readers of the present report should not interpret the omission of a particular country or territory from this chapter as indicating that the Special Rapporteur considers that there are no problems with the judiciary in that country or territory.
39. In preparing this report, the Special Rapporteur has taken took note of the reports submitted to the Commission by the country special rapporteurs/representatives and independent experts.
Communications to the Government
167. On 13 January 1999, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal jointly with the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on torture concerning Taysar Muhmed Aouwda. According to the information received, Mr. Muhmed was reportedly arrested on 30 December 1998 at the General Security Service Interrogation Unit of the Jerusalem Russian Compound. It was reported that he suffered from a chronic illness and has been denied medication he had brought with him to the Russian Compound. On 4 January 1999, an ad hoc military proceeding was reportedly held and extended his detention for 15 days. It was also said to have ordered that he be examined by a prison physician. Although he was reportedly not interrogated during the first five days of his detention, he was denied access to his attorney. A petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that all forms of illegal interrogation immediately cease and that the Order Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel be immediately lifted was filed and then withdrawn on 6 January, when the State Attorney reportedly indicated that no physical pressure was being placed upon Taysar Muhmed Aouwda.
168. On 2 February 1999, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal jointly with the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on torture concerning Ali Mustafa Tawbeh. According to the information received, he was reportedly arrested in Arnoun by Israeli armed forces on 6 October 1997 and taken to the Khiam Detention Centre in south Lebanon. Israeli armed forces in south Lebanon have reportedly claimed that he was arrested for “planning a military operation against them”. Since then, he has allegedly been denied legal counsel and it is believed that no charges have been brought against him.
169. The Special Rapporteur awaits a reply from the Government to his communication.
Communication to the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine
231. On 28 May 1999, the Special Rapporteur sent a letter to the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine concerning the situation of judicial institutions in the areas under the Palestinian Authority. According to the information received, the Palestinian Bar Association declared a one-day strike on 15 April, protesting the lack of judicial independence and demanding judicial reforms. It was further learned that Palestinian lawyers suspended work at Jenin Magistrate’s Court on 17 May 1999 to protest the poor state of the Palestinian court administration. It was reported that the lawyers’ protest action came after a sit-in, which was held the previous day, and that it followed a decision by the Jenin Magistrate’s Court to postpone court cases for extended periods. Finally, concerns were expressed at the long-standing vacancies in the two key positions of Attorney-General and Chief Justice, which are also reportedly negatively affecting the effective administration of justice.
232. The Special Rapporteur awaits a reply to his communication. Some additional information has been received.