Introduction
" Publish Date : 2012/10/02 "

Protecting the CSOs’ Right to Freedom of Association.

 

Introduction :

 

The right to form charitable associations and community organizationsis one of the most important forms of political and social participation for individuals and groups in their countries as stipulated by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and national legislations. Article (20) ofthe Universal Declaration of Human Rights stresses the importance of thisright while Article (22/1/2) of the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights perceives the right to form associations as a genuine expression of commitment to the values of democracy, equality and freedom. Palestinian national legislation addresses freedom of association particularly in Article (26/2)3 of the Basic Law. The Law of Charitable Associations and Community Organizations No.(1) of the year 2004 is considered the highest and the mostcomplex andpractical expression that aims at regulating the exercise of this right in theterritory under the control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).According to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)in Palestine, the formation of associations in the Palestinian-Controlled Territory became increasingly politicized especially after Hamas took control over theGaza Strip by military force on 14/6/2007. The issue of forming associations has been subject to political considerations by both sides of the divide, whichforced a decline in the exercise of rights and public freedoms, especially with regards to the right to form and join associations. Both parties have targeted Palestinian associations through a multitude of violations that weakened the exercise of this right. Both parties have given primacy to the security considerations and measures over the exercise of rights which in itself is an unprecedented violation of the stipulations of the Basic Law and the Law of Charitable Associations and Community Organizations No. (1) of 2000. The level of violation has been unprecedented and contradictory to provisions ofthe law and has manifested itself in the creation of several policies, decrees, regulations, and instructions issued by the official authorities after 17/6/2007in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.In a paper about this issue the ICHR sheds light on a number of violations regarding the restriction of the right to form associations by both parties of the political divide in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and as a direct product of the many decrees, decisions and measures taken by the Ministry of the Interior (MoI)of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and its counterpart ministry run by the Deposed government in the Gaza Strip.

 

 

 

 

Relevance of the action:

 

After Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip by military force in 2007, the formation of associations in Palestine has become increasingly politicized. Each party is trying to dominate civil society organizations without paying attention to legal considerations and systems of public rights and freedoms. All violations documented in the ICHR reports, reflect that the exercise of the right to form and join associations is in jeopardy.

A proactive measure was taken by PNGO in 2007 through establishing the National Campaign to Protect Public and Individual Freedoms. The ongoing campaign consists of several civil society organizations, PLC members, academics, and political parties. During 2011 the campaign succeeded in unifying the position of all parties (including Fateh and Hamas ) to stand against all violations against public and individual freedoms, and a position paper was issued in this concern.

Palestinian national legislation addresses freedom of association particularly in Article (26/2)1 of the Basic Law and in the Law of Charitable Associations and Community Organizations No.(1) of the year 2002.However the law is violated in many cases.

 

The PNGO and all Palestinian parties and international partners welcomed the reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo during May2011, which is one of the  major goalsof all Palestinians that we hope will lead to national unity. However, we donot envisage that these violations will vanish as a result of the agreement without diligent advocacy and lobbying by civil society. We believe that the role of civil society organizations becomes even more significant in contributing to a real implementation of the agreement, a role that needs to be protected by a proper implementation of the Charitable Societies and Associations Law No (1) of the year 2000.  PNGO played a momentous role in initiating this law. At the time being, PNGO is effectively participating in developing the detailed procedures of the law, where it brings to the attention of the MoI civil society’s concerns and recommendations.

 

Through PNGO’s work on building the capacities of its member organizations, it observed a lack of knowledge of the Charitable Societies and Associations Law. On the other hand, most of the member organizations tackle the violations on an individual basis, where direct contact and negotiations takes place between the organization and the MoI. We believe that the implementation of rights which are protected by the law, shouldn’t be negotiated, but defended.

As a Network whose mandate is to protect the autonomy of the Palestinian civil society organizations, we believe that immediate action should be taken to; protect the right to Freedom of Association and to restore the confidence between two major players- judicial systems and civil society -working towards protecting the right to association and thus contributing to establishing the rule of law.

 

In 2012 PNGO established the  legal programme « SCOs Right to Association » aiming at strengthening the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform.

 

 

 

 

Overall Objective :

 

The overall objective of the action is strengthening the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform.

 

 

1)     Enhancing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries and regions where theyare most at risk

2)     Strengthening the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform, in supporting the peaceful conciliation of group interests and consolidating political participation and representation.

 

The activities related to the overall objective will be to:-

 

  • Train PNGO member organizations on the Civil and Charity Organizations’ Law

Develop a joint mechanism for monitoring violations withvarious human rights organizations to support severe cases or problems faced by weak non-member organizations that do not have the capacity for defending their rights or need advice / consultation from the PNGO coordinators who are lawyers.

·         Provide legal consultations to PNGO members

·         Hold meetings with the PLC members and political parties’ representatives to discuss the violations and the steps required for supporting organizations.

  • Carry out a legal review of existing national legislation addressing/related to freedom of association will be commissioned
  • Carry out dialogue Sessions with Decision-Makers
  • Publish a freedom of Association Manual:
  • Carry out a comparative study on the laws on freedom of association in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan as compared to Palestine
  • Legal Review of existing national legislation addressing/related to freedom of association will be commissioned, highlighting inherent gaps therein, and raising recommendation of the needed changes in becoming in line with the respective international standards.

·         Dialogue Sessions with Decision-Makers: Throughout the duration of the proposed project, PNGO will engage with officials from relevant bodies of the PA in raising their awareness of the significance of freedom of association in the democratic process and violations being posed therein.

 

·         Freedom of Association Manual: A ’Know Your Rights’ manual will be developed, compiling the rights of association as vested by existing national legislation. This reference will aid associations, unions, NGOs, coalitions, etc. in knowing what rights they are entitled to and how to respond with actions