The Palestinian Judges Association said on Wednesday that the justices of the Supreme Court of Palestine had submitted collective resignations in protest against proposed legal amendments deemed to be "undermining the independence of the judiciary." The president of the Association revealed that only 14 out of the 27 justices have resigned.
The Supreme Court of Palestine, the highest judicial authority in the country, is based in the West Bank and includes 27 justices.
The Association stated in its official Facebook page that "the Supreme Court justices held a meeting today in Ramallah, in the centre of the West Bank, and asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to consider the recommendations of the Judiciary Development Committee (for the amendment of the Judicial Authority Law). The justices consider such propositions as a threat to the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. "
The justices described the committee's recommendations as "an easy way to tightly control the judiciary and fully subject it to the executive branch."
The justices pointed out that they had put their resignations at the disposal of the chairman of the Palestinian Judges Association, Osama Al-Kilani, to be presented to the Chief Justice Chancellor Emad Saleem in case the amendment of the Judicial Authority Law was announced.
The recommendations proposed to amend the law by making the appointment and removal of the President of Palestine's Supreme Judicial Council in the hands of the President of the Palestinian National Authority, in addition to reducing the retirement age of judges from 70 to 65 years, and recommending the formation of a committee called the Judicial Purge Commission.
The current law stipulates that the appointment of the President of Palestine's Supreme Judicial Council shall be made by the Council itself and submitted to the President of the country only for ratification.
Osama Al-Kilani said that only 14 of the Supreme Court justices have resigned, while 15 justices attended today's meeting. The chairman of the association did not explain the absence of the other members.
Al-Kilani clarified that the justices were surprised that one of the members of the Judiciary Development Committee, which was formed by President Abbas earlier, said through media outlets that "the work of the Committee has been completed and the recommendations to amend the law of the judicial authority were passed." The Committee's propositions included reducing the age of pension and the formation of the Judicial Purge Commission, in addition to the new rules of appointing and removing the president of Palestine's Supreme Judicial Council.
Al-Kilani indicated that "14 out of the total number of justices who attended the meeting today think that these recommendations constitute a violation of the judiciary and the independence of the judiciary authority. The justices decided to submit their resignations in protest against the amendment of the law."
According to Al-Kilani, more than a year ago, a dispute began between the justices and the executive branch over the amendment of the Judicial Authority Law. The Palestinian president then proposed the formation of a committee in charge of the development of the judiciary, and such committee was the one to introduce the controversial recommendations.