Victory for Gisha and transparency: Civil Administration compelled to publish all protocols within six weeks
May 10, 2016. At the end of a hearing held last week by the Jerusalem District Court sitting as the Court for Administrative Affairs, Justice Moshe Sobel issued a judgment compelling the Civil Administration to publish dozens of procedures and protocols guiding the work of the Civil Administration in the West Bank. The documents are to be published on the temporary website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories within six weeks. The protocols, which the Civil Administration has never published despite an obligation to do so under the Freedom of Information Act, are to be posted in both Hebrew and Arabic.
Gisha petitioned the Jerusalem District Court in late 2014, demanding that the Civil Administration be compelled to disclose all procedures and protocols it follows. These protocols pertain to substantive matters with impact on the daily lives of Palestinians, including the protocol on entry of Palestinians to Israel, the work of international organizations in the West Bank, contacts between the Civil Administration and Israeli organizations and more.
Following the submission of Gisha’s petition, the Civil Administration presented the court with a schedule for publication of its many protocols in four phases, a schedule it then failed to meet. Nearly a year-and-a-half after the petition was filed, only 41 protocols had been published, and only after severe delays. Several were not translated into Arabic, contrary to the undertaking made by the Civil Administration. The Civil Administration also committed to conclude publication of the procedures in September 2015, and though the court granted it four extensions, it still failed to publish the relevant documents.
In a hearing held this week (Hebrew), Justice Sobel endorsed the undertaking made by the Civil Administration to publish the hitherto unpublished protocols, within six weeks, giving it the validity of a judgment. There are apparently 25 protocols awaiting publication in both Arabic and Hebrew. Gisha made it clear that if the Civil Administration fails to meet this final deadline, it would file a motion for contempt of court.
Justice Sobel also ruled that the Civil Administration must pay Gisha 30,000 NIS in legal costs, an unusually high amount in Freedom of Information petitions.