During a coordination workshop on "Mechanisms for access to justice through alternative means of dispute resolution"
An Agreement to Formulate a Roadmap to Strengthen the Partnership of Palestinian Justice Components by using Alternative Means of Conflict Resolution
On Tuesday 08.11.2022 in Ramallah, The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development - REFORM partnered with the Ministry of Justice to hold a coordination workshop on the "Mechanisms for Strengthening Access to Justice and Alternative Dispute Resolution". The workshop included the participation of representatives from the Supreme Judicial Council, Sawasya Program 2 and the General Directorate of Professional Affairs and Alternative Means of Dispute Resolution in the Ministry of Justice, as well as several partners and experts in the field of arbitration.
The Programme Officer at REFORM, Mr. Nadim Qandil, opened the workshop by welcoming the attendees and stressed the importance of coordinating efforts in order to reduce the judicial burden existing in courts.
Mrs. Mayssa Hamarsheh, Director General of the General Department of Alternative Dispute Resolution at the Ministry of Justice, emphasised the role of the Ministry in enhancing knowledge of alternative means of dispute resolution among citizens. She added that its role includes supporting the judiciary in light of the accumulation of cases by developing the capabilities of alternative means of dispute resolution practitioners and preparing lists of accredited arbitrators to share with the judiciary.
His Excellency Judge Ahed Touqan of the Supreme Judicial Council stressed the importance of coordination between the various parties to reduce the volume of cases before the courts. He also mentioned the judicial council’s openness to cooperate with multiple parties for the purpose of serving the citizens' right to sue.
Mr. Majed Al-Arouri, the workshop facilitator, presented an overview of case blockages before the courts. He focused on the blocked cases and the long duration of litigation before the courts by highlighting the importance of alternative means in reducing the annual case rotation of about 15,000 cases.
According to the Supreme Judicial Council data, the number of cases filed with all courts at the end of last year reached 104,167. The distribution is as follows: The number of cases filed with the courts at the first Instance reached 70,260 cases which constituted 67% of the rounded cases. The number of cases filed with the courts of appeal reached 3,329 cases, including 3% of the round cases. The number of cases filed with the court of cassation reached 4,429, constituting 4% of the court.
The workshop focused on arbitration as an effective means in reducing the length of litigation and arbitration practice in Palestin. It also discussed the importance of empowering and raising the capabilities of the judiciary through alternative means and the impact of this on prompt justice.
In this regard, Dr. Muhammad Abu Rumaila, the expert in the field of arbitration, presented the problems related to the practical and applied aspects of the arbitration profession. On the topic of empowering and raising the capacity of the judiciary through alternative means, Dr. Muhammad Amarneh explained the impact of the weak capacity of the judiciary through alternative means on access to justice.
Alternatively, the workshop discussed arbitration and the rule of law in areas outside the jurisdiction "C", its contexts and influences. Mr. Majed Al-Arouri reviewed the problems related to the legal aspect, security control and the enforcement of the rule of law. This is important because it increases the volume of cases and disputes and the impact on the access of vulnerable and marginalised groups, especially women, to justice.
Mr. Muhammad Hadia, Executive Director of ACT Dispute Resolution, spoke on the importance of arbitration in bridging the judicial gap such as the case in Jerusalem. He discussed the importance of working with alternative means in areas outside the Palestinian jurisdiction and resorting to alternative means in the Jerusalem governorate to strengthen citizens' existence in these areas.
Law deficits in Jerusalem were presented by Dr. Abu Rmaila. He especially discussed the Arbitration Law No. 3 of 2000 and relevant Jordanian laws enforced in the Palestinian territories. He also cited practical experiences in the Jerusalem governorate in arbitration and dispute resolution.
Attendees discussed the advantages of arbitration in choosing the law and arbitral tribunal concerning the importance of enhancing awareness among citizens of the matter and the benefits of arbitration.
Mr. Nashat Tahboub, President of the Palestinian Arbitrators Association, presented procedures and mechanisms applied in alternative means of dispute resolution. He focused on contentious issues, experiences and disputes related to construction contracts. It was determined that the highest amount of disputed parties resort to arbitration in cases related to engineering centres. Also, practitioners of alternative dispute resolution and adjudicating construction issues highlight the importance of specialisation in arbitration and types of arbitration; primarily commercial and financial disputes.
At the end of the session, the attendees agreed on a set of essential recommendations related to the need for integration between the various parties to reduce the rotation of cases in the regular courts, especially arbitration cases. This would be done by strengthening the work by official alternative means. There is a need to enhance the awareness, culture and confidence of the Palestinian community of the importance of arbitration and prompt mediation. This is especially the case since the number of cases before the regular judiciary is large and does not match the number of judiciaries for that arbitration. There is a necessity to amend the executive regulations of the arbitration law in line with international conventions. The attendees also pointed out that the work of the tribal Jjdiciary sometimes negatively affects society's acceptance of the culture of arbitration and mediation. This creates a state of confusion between them and the need to rehabilitate the tribal judiciary. They need to make their practices legal while recognising the importance of their role in defusing the conflict.
Requesting the judiciary to facilitate the ratification of arbitration decisions by the law is on the basis of a request and not lawsuits. Criteria related to arbitration must be reviewed to clear any confusion between arbitration and the expertise. Training courses should be implemented before issuing the arbitration license.
The attendees stressed the importance of the chambers of commerce and their role in gaining a qualitative shift by establishing arbitration chambers that must be built properly. Some work in areas should be strengthened outside Palestinian legal jurisdiction and there is a necessity to use arbitration in them.
To deal with the arbitration decision as a definite where the case can’t be transferred to the court as an appeal. There must be a coordination between the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary in order to refer the outstanding cases to the arbitrators. The State of Palestine's accession to the 2018 Singapore Convention on Mediation is quite important in this case.
A comprehensive paper resulting from the workshop will be presented as a road map for strengthening the partnership of the various parties to work through alternative means to enhance the state of Palestinian civil peace.
This workshop comes as part of the “Enhancing access to justice in Hebron, Bethlehem, Salfit, Nablus and Qalqilyah through promoting ADR and early response mechanisms” – Phase II project, which is implemented by The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development—REFORM, in partnership with the General Administration of Professional Affairs and the Alternative Means for Resolving Disputes in the Palestinian Ministry of Justice and supported by Sawasya II: UNDP, UN Women and UNICEF Joint Programme: Promoting the Rule of Law in the State of Palestine. This project aims to enhance the access to justice for vulnerable and marginalized groups by enabling the institutionalization and strengthening of ADR mechanisms within the formal and informal justice systems, promoting human rights and gender justice. It also seeks to contribute to bridging the jurisdictional gaps and enhance the employability of conflict transformation tools within the ADR.