The telephone lines of the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) rang non-stop as the Palestinian Supreme Court of Justice announced its decision to reject the case that ICHR filed on behalf of dismissed teachers who had been dismissed because of their political affiliation. Hundreds of dismissed teachers called in to inquire about the decision as the news broke, providing them with no answers. The decision left employees disappointed and heated discussions took place between members of various teams and staff levels.
Earlier in the morning, the Supreme Court held its session in the court‘s premises in the city of Al Bireh and rejected six pending cases of public teachers who had been dismissed from civil service. The hearing was run by a panel of five judges, three of whom supported the decision and two who opposed it.
The courthouse atmosphere was filled with tension prior to the announcement of the verdict.
The ramifications of this decision go beyond the dismissed teachers as it paves the way for the dismissal of more civil servants under the pretence of "security clearance" as was confirmed by official sources at the ICHR.
ICHR‘s representative, Advocate Gandhi Al Rib’i, appeared upset by the resolution. He clarified that after the Court cited "lack of court‘s competent jurisdiction on the matter" as the reason for rejecting the case, ICHR is considering to initiate a series of actions in light of the court‘s decision.
In an exclusive interview for "Ma’an", Al Rib’i, who lit a cigarette in his office in contravention of ICHR‘s non smoking policy in its premises; stated: "We expected the court to decide on the subject of dismissal rather than recruitment, particularly because the teachers have sufficient documents to prove their appointment such as the letter of appointment issued by the Minister of Education and the letter to assume work at school in addition to the teacher‘s attendance sheets at work, and their files at the General Personnel Council". Regarding the steps that ICHR might take to pursue this case, Mr. Al Rib’i pointed out that ICHR will resort to using its legal right by filing a case of adversity against the judges, in accordance with the stipulations of the Civil Procedural Code. "This is one option under consideration", he said.
Mr. Rib‘i maintained that "We will work for the dissemination of the Court‘s opinion to a large number of legal experts in administrative law, share the case file and solicit their opinions for dissemination in the various media." He also stressed the need to call civil society organizations to a special meeting to brief them on the Court‘s decision and to examine its impacts at all levels, especially as this decision leaves the door open to dismissing a large number of civil servants under the pretext of security clearance without the Supreme Court having the required jurisdiction to consider such cases. All recruitment decisions were particularly included in the same case files presented to the Court.
Al Rib’i added, "If according to the Supreme Court the dismissed teachers are not considered public employees, there are some questions that must be raised. What were these persons doing at schools during regular work hours? And why they were paid their salaries? And what is the status of the school certificates they had signed as teachers?"
Al Rib’i also confirmed that ICHR received about 300 complaints from dismissed teachers of which 54 cases are being followed up before the courts.