Organizations like Human Rights Watch,the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights are deeply concerned that the Acting Council of the Palestinian Bar Association continue to remove Palestinian human rights lawyers associated with human rights organizations from its list of practicing lawyers.
Our organizations are deeply concerned that the Acting Council of the Palestinian Bar Association continue to remove Palestinian human rights lawyers associated with human rights organizations from its list of practicing lawyers. The Acting Council removed active human rights lawyer Khader Shkirat, the director of LAW Society- an ICJ, FIDH, and OMCT affiliate. Mr. Shkirat received a letter stating that the Acting Council took this decision on 14 May 2000. The Acting Council's term of office expired on 9 May 2000. Mr. Shkirat is running as a candidate for the Bar Council elections.
In a statement issued on 15 May 2000, we already expressed our deep concern that on 10 May 2000, the Acting Council removed six human rights lawyers associated with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), also an ICJ and FIDH affiliate, and one lawyer from the Women's Legal and Social Counselling Center. These lawyers petitioned the Palestinian High Court, which in a welcome preliminary decision, issued on 17 May 2000, suspended the Acting Council's decision.
Our organizations remain alarmed by the punitive nature of these measures and by the lack of due process. We are further concerned that the action taken by the Acting Council may be politically motivated. Earlier, Mr. Shkirat was threatened with violence in an attempt to deter him from running for the Bar elections.
Our organizations wish to reiterate Principle 23 of the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which states: Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organisation and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organisation. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognised standards and ethics of the legal profession.
As these lawyers are also human rights defenders, we also wish to emphasise that Article 12 of the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders requires the State to
... take all the necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.
We, therefore, call once again on the Acting Council of the Palestinian Bar Association to rescind these measures. We also call upon the Palestinian Authority to ensure that human rights lawyers do not face threats, intimidation and professional sanctions because of their human rights activities.