The undersigned human rights organizations have followed with much concern the decision issued by Mr.
Abdel-Ra'ouf Al-Halabi, the chairman of the High Justice Council (HJC) and the Chief Justice, dated 9 July 2009, which imposes specific dress for male and female lawyers when appearing before courts in the Gaza Strip.
This decision enters into effective force on 1 September 2009.
The decision comes in a context of a series of infringements upon public and personal freedoms in the Strip.
The decision stipulates that male lawyers must wear a special uniform when appearing before courts, which includes: A vesture of black cloth known as the robe; a dark suit; a white shirt; and a black necktie.
The same decision stipulates that female lawyers have to wear black cloth known as the robe; a dark suit (a jilbab, a long jacket or a coat); and a scarf or any other hair cover.
According to the preamble, the decision is based on the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003, the provisions of the Lawyers' Clothing Statute of 1930, clause 4 of article 26 of the Law of the Organization of the Law Profession of 1997, as well as what it described as 'common righteous norms'.
The undersigned organizations consider the HJC's decision a clear violation of Palestinian laws and constitutional provisions.
The decision arbitrarily hijacks the mandate of the Palestinian Bar Association and its bylaws by interfering in the Bar Association's authorities, which are defined in Law No.
(3), of 1999 concerning the Organization of the Law Profession.
Lawyers from the undersigned organizations have carefully reflected on the legality of this decision and have prepared a memo detailing its legal and constitutional flaws.
The memo concludes that this decision is invalid on the ground that it is in violation of articles 10 and 11 of the Palestinian Basic Law and its amendments of 2003, which stipulate that the Palestinian National Authority shall respect public and personal freedoms, and article 26(4) of the Law No.
(3), of 1999 on the Organization of the Law Profession, which places the authority to determine the dress of male and female lawyers with the Bar Association.
The undersigned organizations point out that the decision of the chairman of the High Justice Council of Gaza cites the Lawyers' Clothing Statute, of 1930; a regulation which was abolished by virtue of article 52 of the above mentioned Law No.
(3), of 1999.
The organizations also point out that the aforementioned abolished Statute, allows lawyers to litigate, even without the determined dress, when pleading inside of judges’ chambers and before arbitrators, conciliation courts or courts of investigations into suspicious deaths.
The undersigned organizations declare their absolute rejection of this decision and disapproval of any implications it may incur when it comes into force, especially those implications related to the possible interruption of citizens' right to plead to courts of law.
Therefore, and considering this decision a clear violation of personal rights and freedoms, the undersigned organizations: Assert that the new decision is in violation of Palestinian law and an arbitrary seizure of the authorities of the Palestinian Bar Association's council.
Moreover, it represents a serious attack on personal freedoms of lawyers; both male and female.
In addition, the decision represents a continuation of interference in the affairs of the judicial authority, which has been affected by the Palestinian political split.
Call on the chairman of the HJC and Chief Justice in Gaza, Mr.
Abdel-Ra'ouf Al-Halabi, to immediately revoke his decision, which represents a clear violation of personal freedoms and Palestinian law.
Call on the Government in Gaza, represented by the Minister of Justice, to act on its responsibilities by urging the HJC to immediately revoke this decision; especially as the Minister bears responsibility for the decision's consequences and its implications on interrupting the interests of Palestinian citizens in Gaza.
Assert that the decision lacks any objective necessity that could justify such a violation of the law and constitutes a hijacking of the competencies of the Bar Association.
They also view this decision as part of an attempt to impose certain attitudes that lack any legal grounds on society.
Recall their position concerning the legality of the HJC, which they deem as lacking any legitimacy as previously declared by Palestinian human rights organizations in a joint press release on 6 December 2007, which was issued in the aftermath of the take-over of the courts’ compound in Gaza on 26 November 2007 by the persons who are currently in charge of the HJC.
Ends The signatories: Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (Ombudsman) Democracy and Workers Right Center Center for Women's Legal Research and Consulting Palestinian Bar Association Hadaf Center for Human Rights Al Mezan Centre for Human Right