HU Represents Palestine in an International Law Conference in the University of Cambridge

Hebron University participated in an International Law Conference on “Legal Tradition in a Diverse World” organized by the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law  at the University of Cambridge, UK.  Hebron University was represented by Dr. Mutaz Qafisheh, Professor of International Law and Legal Clinic Director, who presented a paper entitled “The Coexistence of Diverse Legal Traditions in a Single Territory: The Case of the Freedom of Expression in Palestine”. The conference was attended by some 200 academics from all continents and some 50 papers were presented.

In his paper, Dr. Qafisheh argued that although the West Bank and Gaza Strip are recognized as a single entity (i.e. Palestine), legislation that regulates the freedom of expression differs in these two areas. In the West Bank, which inherited the Jordanian legal system, the continental law tradition prevails. Gaza retained most of the common law practices adopted by the British authorities during the mandate era. In the two parts of Palestine, certain rules derived from Islamic law. As both areas fell under Israeli occupation in 1967, a set of military orders were imposed. After its establishment, the Palestinian Authority launched a process aiming to modernize and unify the applicable law in the two regions of the country.

The paper examined the coexistence among the three legal traditions in Palestine (continental law, common law and Islamic law) by focusing on the law governing the freedom of expression and comparing it with international law. The paper proposed certain measures to reform the existing system, taking into account the assumption that Palestine is interested to become party to human rights treaties, particularly in the light of Palestine’s recent attempts to acquire full membership of the United Nations. The paper adopted a wider definition of the freedom of expression that comprises five components: privacy, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and press, right to peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

Dr. Qafisheh concluded that, notwithstanding the positive aspects embedded in the local law, the lack of clear and comprehensive regulation of the freedom of expression does not only contradict international law, but also gives rise to abuse various components of such freedom. Palestinian authorities (police, intelligence, ministries, and even courts) do not fully adhere to the international standards on the freedom of expression. With the recognition of Palestine as a state by the United Nations, an opportunity has arisen to unify and upgrade the legal system and corresponding practices. If it seeks modernization and democratization, the state of Palestine needs to embrace a reform process that should be based on universal human rights law. This mission can be accomplished if the political will towards change is available. Such will, in turn, should be translated into a parallel comprehensive strategy towards achieving that end.