Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Rule of Law in Action in the Palestinian Territories

Source: witsjusticeproject

Source: witsjusticeproject

by Myrto Hatzigeorgopoulos

Last week, ISIS Europe posted its first blogs on its recent visit to the EU’s Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS). The material and information gathered during the trip will serve to produce a series of blogs and papers on EUPOL COPPS’ work in the West Bank.

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A Comprehensive Approachto security in the Palestinian Territories

The EU’s approach to the security situation in the Palestinian territories is a comprehensive one. From policing through prosecuting, to the penitentiary structures, EUPOL COPPS is involved in all stages along the chain of the fight against criminality in the Palestinian Territories. In this context, beside the support of EUPOL COPPS Police Advisory section to the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP), the Rule of Law section of the mission is, fundamental. It is indeed clear that building up an efficient police which would be deprived of independent and sustainable justice structures and courts, is unlikely to produce any tangible improvement on the ground for the safety and security of the population. As mentioned by Kenneth Deane, Head of EUPOL COPPS, at a recent press conference at the Al-Tireh Compound, “the PCP should not run too far ahead of prosecution; these institutions have to move together”.

EUPOL COPPS’ rule of law section, initially limited to advising on police-related Criminal Justice elements, was fully expanded into the Criminal Justice System in September 2008, as a result of increasing understanding of it as an intrinsic component of law enforcement and security sector reform in general. The mission supports the Palestinian stakeholders in upholding the principles of rule of law throughout the judicial process, in terms of respect for human rights, compliance with procedures, anti-corruption, etc., in full compliance with international standards. Although, EUPOL COPPS provides advice and mentoring with respect to the judicial process it never intervenes on specific cases.

EUPOL COPPS’ mandate: advice and support

Working with the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office, the courts, the High Judicial Council, the Bar Association, and the Penitentiary System and Civil Society, EUPOL COPPS has an advisory and supporting role for the good functioning of the Palestinian justice sector. With no executive mandate, and through close cooperation, provision of expertise, and best practice sharing, EUPOL COPPS acts as a “mentor” for the various actors and institutions of the justice sector.

Working on advising, programme planning and project facilitation, EUPOL COPPS’ relationship with Palestinian judges and prosecutors is based on constructive cooperation, mutual trust, and confidence. As underlined by Lynn Sheehan, Deputy Head of Rule of Law Section for EUPOL COPPS, this is fundamental to ensure local ownership, which is also a key to success. 

The Palestinian Justice System: a work in progress

Progress in the restructuring of the Palestinian justice sector has been hampered by the absence of a functional parliament and the hence outdated legal instruments (the Penal code is from1960). Such elements have impeded the sector’s ability to address the emergence of new kinds of criminal activities. Support for the modernisation and update of this legislation is being provided by the mission to Palestinian authorities.

The mission assists in the drafting of some legal documents, such as the “Code of Conduct on the Use of Force and Firearms” for all the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, which is to enter into force. The mission also assists the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice in drafting criminal legislation such as the draft Police Law and the Criminal Procedure Code.

In terms of the structures of the sector, the need to clarify the institutional mandates of the respective justice sector institutions was identified by EUPOL COPPS Rule of Law section staff. As part of its cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the section provides advice on capacity-building and organisational structure of the ministry, as well as training of personel and working methods. Amongst other, EUPOL COPPS also initiated and is supporting activities of the Palestinian Bar Association so as to render it fully operational in supporting its members in their capacity as defence lawyers.


There are challenges ahead of EUPOL COPPS’ work. “We are now at a point that is full of challenges”, said Kenneth Deane at a meeting with Palestinian Minister of Interior, Saïd Abu Ali, “but EUPOL COPPS will stand behind the Minister to support him and advise him”. One of these challenges is the abovementioned need for clarification of roles and responsibilities of police and criminal justice actors for the sake of increased efficiency, accountability and transparency.

If this is important for the efficiency of each of the sectors itself, it is also fundamental in order to ensure effective cooperation and continuity from policing to justice. In particular, the need for improvement of Police-Prosecution structured cooperation and strategic planning was identified by EUPOL COPPS, which promoted the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chief of Police and the Attorney General in August 2010.

If improvement can be observed at the operational level in the districts, there is still a long way to go. As reminded by staff in the mission, this can also be said about the justice and police sectors of many Western countries…


2 comments on “Rule of Law in Action in the Palestinian Territories

  1. Pingback: EUPOL COPPS: success on quicksand |

  2. Pingback: EUPOL COPPS: one of the best civilian CSDP missions? |

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