In September 2013 Jeffrey Jowell carried out a scoping visit to the Palestine Authority, sponsored by the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy Mission in the Palestine Authority on the West Bank (EUPOL COPPS). The purpose of the exercise was to develop a coherent framework which better clarifies the respective mandates, roles and responsibilities of the different actors in the justice system.. Mandates and the respective role of criminal justice institutions are currently outlined in the Law on Judicial Authority, the Law on the Formation of Regular Courts and the Criminal Procedure Code. However, the current laws outlining the legal framework, separation of powers, and relationship between the institutions, as well as their respective roles are vague. Therefore, areas of responsibility of the Palestinian Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Palestinian High Judicial Council (HJC), and the Palestinian Attorney General's Office (AGO), as well as the relationship between them remain unclear resulting in a diminished ability to ensure the primacy of the rule of law in Palestine.
Also part of the initial visit were Sir Henry Brooke and Sir David Latham representing the Slynn Foundation, who are involved in the judicial training part of this project, with the Bingham Centre concentrating on institutional design, in particular the balance of responsibilities between the Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice, the High Judicial Council and the Prosecution Service. This balance must secure judicial independence, yet allow effective and efficient administration of the justice and court system more generally.
Jeffrey returned to Palestine in March, where he held discussions with all parties. Since that time the West Bank and Gaza administrations have unified, the Minister of Justice has been appointed Chief Justice and a new Minister of Justice appointed from Gaza. Jeffrey visited the West Bank again from 17-20 June, accompanied by Chris Ball, Head of HR of HM Courts and Tribunal Service. In advance of our visit we sent all parties a comparative survey, drafted in the Bingham Centre, of how 5 countries divide functions between the executive and the judiciary.
A round table was held, attended by the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and representatives of the Minister of Justice (who was himself unable to leave Gaza for the West Bank but participated in a video link with Jeffrey the following day). All parties agreed that further work on the division of functions compatible with the rule of law should take place.
Having completed this stage of this project with the support of EUPOL COPPS, the next stage will involve a continuation of this exercise, the work now sponsored by the Foreign Office and involving too a study visit by the relevant Palestinian authorities to London.