Ramallah - The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, (ICHR) has launched legal action to challenge the legality of the "security clearance" practiced by ministries of the Palestinian National Authorty (PNA) prior to the approval of new recruitment into public office.
Yesterday, ICHR filed a case in the Supreme Court of Justice in Ramallah, in which it asked the judiciary to order the the practice of "security clearance" prior to the assumption of public office as invalid despite it originating in instructions issued by the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Council of Ministers. This appeal to the Supreme Court has come after ICHR exhausted all other means to which it usually resorts.
According to the aforementioned "security clearance" prerequisite, any candidate for public office must obtain the approval of the Palestinian security agencies (i.e. the Preventive Security and the General Intelligence agencies), as well as satisfy all conditions stipulated in the Civil Service Law. Since this condition was introduced towards the end of 2007, ICHR has received numerous complaints in this regard to the extent that such complaints exceeded a total of 250 complaints by the end of November 2009.
ICHR examined all the complaints it has received against the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and other ministries in relation to the cancellation of the appointment of complainants as civil servants. On the basis of information made available on this mechanism, ICHR believes that the ministers' decisions in this regard, and the subsequent measures, constitute a detraction from the basic rights of civil servants that are guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and the Civil Service Law of 1998 and its regulations.ICHR has also made some observations which are included in the Cause of Action as follows:
The ministerial decisions have violated the terms of appointment set out in Article (24) of the Civil Service Law, by the introduction of a condition that was not stated in the aforementioned article. With regard to the approval of the competent authority on the appointment, the competent authority has not been specified even if authority has actually been with the security agencies, more specifically the Preventive Security and the General Intelligence.
The aforementioned ministerial decisions have also violated the stated provisions of Articles (67-74) of the Civil Service Law pertinent to disciplinary procedures and actions. The decisions to cancel appointments have not established any reference to the conduct of disciplinary proceedings that require the termination of the services of any of the complainants.
Moreover, the decisions also contradicted the provisions of Articles (31 and 30) of the Civil Service Law pertinent to the probation period. The majority of complainants were fired after serving more than a year, which entails that they must have had completed their probation period successfully and they were not proven to be unqualified to assume the teaching profession.
ICHR expressed its concern that the complainants' dismissal or abolishment of their appointment to the civil service has in fact been made for political reasons. As demonstrated by the complainants' own statements, other civil servants have not been fired nor has their appointment been cancelled despite being recruited in the same circumstances. If their claims are confirmed, the decisions of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in this regard are an explicit discrimination and a violation of the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law, particularly with respect to the right to equality and non-discrimination in the assumption of public office.
It should be noted that ICHR has carried out several actions, including official correspondence with the ministry that cancelled the nomination for appointment. ICHR received replies stating that "security clearance" constitute an established procedure. The latest of this action is the Prime Minister's letter which refuted the illegality of the introduction of such a condition to the Civil Service Law and its Regulation. Given that various ministries have continued the adoption of this procedure, ICHR feels that it has the duty to challenge these decisions before the judicial system.