Following Gisha’s activities: The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories begins publishing procedures and protocols on its website

The procedures and protocols followed by the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) shape the lives of residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and dictate to what extent they will be able to exercise their rights. This is why publicizing these procedures and protocols and making them accessible, especially to the people who must live by them, is paramount. Despite this, and despite the fact that Section 6(a) of the Freedom of Information Act reads, "A public authority shall provide the public access to the written administrative guidelines in accordance to which it operates and which are of concern or importance to the public", only some protocols and procedures are posted on the COGAT website (Hebrew) and it is doubtful that any would be posted at all if not for Gisha's work.

Gisha has been fighting to have COGAT procedures and protocols disclosed and publicized for a number of years. The following is a brief summary of the correspondence between Gisha and COGAT on this subject:

November 19, 2012 – In a letter (Hebrew) to Major Guy Inbar, the person in charge of implementing the Freedom of Information Act at COGAT, Gisha recommends creating a "procedures and protocols" tab on the COGAT website and posting all the unit’s procedures and protocols on it, in keeping with the law.

January 27, 2013COGAT’s response (Hebrew) to our letter included the happy news that a new tab where all protocols and procedures are posted had been added, but “at the moment, due to technical difficulties, they are not accessible”. The letter went on to promise that “the utmost effort will be made to correct the error as soon as possible”.

April 10, 2013 – After the error had not been corrected for more than two months, Gisha sent a reminder (Hebrew) about this promise. Immediately thereafter, a small number of procedures and protocols were posted on the website.

April 21, 2013 – Following the slight improvement, we sent another letter (Hebrew), reminding COGAT that now that the error had been corrected “all procedures and protocols in possession of the COGAT and whose publication is required under Section 6(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 5758-1998” must be posted on the website. In response, a few days later, the procedures and protocols disappeared and the tab was once again empty.

May 6, 2013 – We sent another letter (Hebrew), expressing our exasperation with the unnecessary chase: “It is inconceivable that posting procedures and protocols on one of the websites belonging to the military – which is lucky to have many skilled professionals among its ranks – would take so many months. Putting a small number of files on the website is not a complicated, sophisticated technological operation”. After this letter, a negligible number of procedures and protocols were put up on the website again.

May 23, 2013 – In view of the continued and exhausting foot-dragging, we sent another letter (Hebrew). This time, we attached a list of COGAT procedures and protocols we had received in the course of our work. With a certain measure of unease, we asked that these files be copied from our website, where they are accessible to all, and posted on COGAT’s website for the benefit of the public.

Currently, though more procedures and protocols are available on COGAT’s website than ever before, many that should be published according to the law have yet to be posted and are accessible to the public only on Gisha’s website.