Court hearing reveals that 50% of the COGAT’s procedures have not been published
On November 19, 2014, the Tel Aviv District Court, sitting as the Court for Administrative Affairs, held a hearing (Hebrew) in a freedom of information petition filed by Gisha. The Court had been asked to instruct the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to make the proceduresprocedures governing its operations available to the public.
During the hearing, counsel for COGAT admitted that COGAT had not published all of the procedures, in breach of the duty stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act 5758-1998. Though the Act’s requirements have been binding on COGAT since 2000, staff work for the publication of all procedures began only in 2014. During the hearing, COGAT officials told the Court that some 90 procedures currently in effect have not yet been posted to the COGAT website. Given that, as of November, 95 procedures are posted on the website, this notice signifies that the COGAT has thus far published only about half of the procedures governing its operations. Counsel for COGAT committed to translating procedures pertaining to the Arabic speaking public into Arabic.
The Court granted COGAT 14 days to submit a work plan that would include the exact number of missing procedures, a timetable for completion of the publication of all procedures in effect and the number of staff positions allotted for this purpose. The Court also required a detailed description of the staff work carried out prior to the hearing. The Court noted that the publication of all procedures should not take more than six months, as opposed to the period of one year requested by respondents’ counsel.
The operations of COGAT and the procedures governing them impact the civilian lives of some 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and 1.7 more living in Gaza. The duty to publish the procedures is anchored in the Freedom of Information Act. It is also critical for the ability of 4.5 million Palestinians, whose lives are affected by these procedures, to exercise their rights.