Mideastweb: Middle East

Comments on Draft Palestine Constitution
March 25, 2003

Middle East



top stories









Under internal pressure for reform as well as pressures from the United States, the Palestinian Authority began drafting a constitution, based on the basic law enacted in 2002. The roadmap for middle east peace demanded a democratic constitution that includes separation of powers. Both internal pressures and quartet demands required creation of the post of Prime Minister. The draft constitution was revised accordingly. The available English translation of the revision is dated March 25.


The following comments are graciously provided by Dr. Sami Aldeeb. An english version of the constitution is  here at MideastWeb. The Arabic version of these comments is here.


Institut suisse de droit comparé

Schweizerisches Institut für Rechtsvergleichung

Istituto svizzero di diritto comparato

Swiss Institute of Comparative Law                                المعهد السويسري للقانون المقارن


Sami Aldeeb, Doctor of Law


1015 Lausanne (Suisse)

Téléphone: 021/692 49 11

Téléfax: 021/692 49 49

Lausanne, May 3, 2003‎

Commission Justice and Peace
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre
P.O. Box 20459‎


Report on the Arabic version of third draft of the

Constitution of the State of Palestine

Revised April 27, 2003

Dear Sirs,

 As a Palestinian Christian, it is a great honour for me to address you, upon request of your Commission "Justice and Peace – Jerusalem", this report on some articles of the Arabic version of the third draft of the Constitution of the State of Palestine, last revised on  April 27, 2003.

Personal indication

My remarks on the the aforementioned draft are based on:

- My study of Swiss Law and my participation in the translation of the 2000 Swiss Constitution  into Arabic[1].

- My study of the situation in Egypt, as my doctoral thesis presented to the University of Fribourg – Switzerland in 1977 was entitled: "Non-Muslims in countries of Islam: case of Egypt"[2].

- My experience as the responsible for Arab and Islamic Law at the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law – Lausanne, since 1980. During this period I published many books and articles, and gave many legal advises and conferences in the field of Arab and Islamic Law as well as on Human rights[3].

General introduction

1)  I received from the Commission Justice and Peace an Arabic version of the Draft of the Constitution dated April 26, 2003[4], containing 190 articles, and an English version dated April 2003 containing 193 articles [5]. It is not clear which one is the most recent. I will rely in this report on the Arabic version, comparing it with the English version when necessary. Both versions are quoted here.

2)  It is not my intention to comment on all the Constitution. My report will be limited to some remarks concerning the articles of the Constitution relating to religion, which is the field of my specialisation and interest as a Palestinian jurist.

3)  My remarks are not necessarily in conformity with the point of view of the Christian Religious Authorities that I highly respect. One should here notice that Christian minority gets acquainted with reality and accepts it even when unpleasant because this minority is afraid to expose its own opinion to the Muslim majority in the present tragic situation, opinion which may be interpreted as a thread to unity. On the other had, the majority cannot guess the problems of the minority, or may consider these difficulties as irrelevant if compared to the present situation of the Palestinian society. But as we are creating a modern Constitution and willing to establish a society undecayed by unrevealed religious sensibilities, we have to adopt the bath of sincerity for the general interest.

4)  A Constitution  is expected to be the fundamental text regulating the society and protecting the individual, and not only as a visit card presented to foreigners or a fig leaf to cover a nudity in front of others. As this Constitution is a modern one for a modern Middle-Eastern country, it should take into consideration the modern legal developments, be in conformity with the principles of human rights it their most modern formulation, and avoid the problems confronted by other Middle-Eastern countries instead of being a copy of the existing Constitutions with their defaults. I need here to mention that the Members of the Arabic Committee for Supporting the Palestinian Constitution is composed from Eminent Egyptian professors, all Muslims. It is well-known that the Muslim majority in Egypt rarely tackles the situation of the Christian minority; it ignores this situation or completely neglect it because of its sensitive nature. It would have been important that the members of the Constitution committee consult also Christian Egyptian Law Professors to see what kind of problem they have and how to avoid them, instead of copying articles from the Egyptian Constitution without  taking into consideration its defects in the field of the relation between the Muslim majority and Christian minority.

Remarks on some articles of the Constitution

Article 5

اللغة العربية هي اللغة الرسمية والإسلام هو الدين الرسمي في فلسطين. وللمسيحية ولسائر الرسالات السماوية قدسيتها واحترامها. ويكفل الدستور للمواطنين أي كانت عقيدتهم الدينية، المساواة في الحقوق والواجبات.

Arabic and Islam are the official Palestinian language and religion. Christianity and all other monotheistic religions shall be equally revered and respected. The Constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious belief


The mention of Islam as official Palestinian religion is taken from article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution. It has been sharply criticised by the Copts[6]. Such an expression in itself is meaningless. Islam has five recognised duties: shahadah, prayer, fast, zakat and pilgrimage. As the State does not accomplish any of these duties, it cannot claim to be Muslim, according to the saying of Professor Hamid Zaki in the meeting I got with him July 24 1977 in Cairo. Individuals can be Muslims. State is a moral person with administrative functions relating to the affaires of the society. State must have a neutral position in front of the religion, not a partial position in favour of one religion against the other. According to the Arab expression: "Religion is for God, and the homeland if for all"[7].

Those who like to maintain the expression "Islam is the official Palestinian religion" in the Constitution must tell us what it does mean and what its consequences are. If the purpose of this expression to take a partial position in favour of one group against other groups, it would be contrary to the last part of article 5 itself which says: "The Constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious belief". It is also contrary to article 19 which says: " Palestinians are equal before the law. They enjoy civil and political rights and bear public duties without discrimination", and to article 20 which provides: "Human rights and liberties are binding and must be respected. The state shall guarantee religious, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and liberties to all citizens on the basis of equality and equal opportunity". If those who would like to maintain this expression in the Constitution say that this article has no legal consequences, we find ourselves then in front of a chattering expression which has no place in the Constitution.

On the other side, we, Palestinians, suffered a lot from Israel which considers itself as a Jewish State and therefore discriminates those who are not Jews. For this reason, we have to learn from that crude experience and avoid falling in the same mistake we reproach to Israel. Furthermore, maintaining such an expression in the Constitution may be exploited by some fundamentalist people for purposes damaging peace and negating the rights of non-Muslims.

For all these reasons, and to avoid any temptation, I propose that this article be cancelled completely and that the mention "Arabic is the Palestinian official language" be added in the end of article 2.


Article 7

مبادئ الشريعة الإسلامية مصدر رئيسي للتشريع. ولأتباع الرسالات السماوية، تنظيم أحوالهم الشخصية وشؤونهم الدينية وفقا لشرائِعهم ومللهم الدينية في إطار القانون، وبما يحفظ وحدة الشعب الفلسطيني واستقلاله.

The principles of Islamic Shari’a are a major source for legislation. Civil and religious matters of the followers of monotheistic religions shall be organized in accordance with  their religious teachings and denominations within the framework of law, while preserving the unity and independence of the Palestinian people.


This article begins by giving priority to Islamic law over any other religious laws. This is a violation of article 5, 19 and 20 of the Constitution which guarantee equality and non discrimination on the basis of religion. This article may be one of the negative consequences of article 5 which considers Islam as the Palestinian official religion. Be this the case, it would be one more reason to cancel article 5 from the Constitution. To avoid discrimination between Muslims and non-Muslims in conformity with the Constitution itself, I propose that the first part of this article be changed as follows:

"Human Rights as well as the Principles of the monotheistic religions which are not contrary to Human rights are the major source for legislation".

The mention that the principles of monotheistic religions should not be contrary to Human rights is motivated by the fact that we should avoid adopting laws inspired by the religious norms which may discriminate because of religion or gender. Therefore, if we like to respect the Constitution, we have to abolish the religious impediment for marriage as well as polygamy because such religious norms are contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the principle of equality mentioned in the Constitution.

The second part of this article maintains Muslim and non-Muslim religious laws, as well as courts. This is very dangerous as it is an infringement to the legislative and jurisdictional sovereignty of the State. Egypt suffered a lot from the presence of the religious courts and ended by abolishing them in 1955, maintaining the religious laws. However this situation still creates anarchy and discrimination among the adepts of the different religions, and violates human rights. The religious impediment for marriage aforementioned is just one of the consequences of this situation. We need to raise also the problem of those who don't like to adhere to a particular religious community or who like to abandon their religion (apostasy). Their rights are lost. And this is contrary to articles 5, 19 and 20 of the Constitution and to the Universal Declaration of Human rights mentioned in article 18 of the Constitution, and more specifically the two following articles:

Article 16 paragraph 1: "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution".

Article 18: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance".

It is useless to insist on the defects of the religious systems as it exists now in Palestine. Therefore, the State should create public state courts, abolish all the religious laws, promulgate a unified personal statute law respecting human rights which does not discriminate among people because of their religion or their gender,  and establish an obligatory civil marriage with the possibility to conclude religious ceremonies after the civil marriage for those who wish so.

We need to mention here that the Arab League has prepared a unified personal statute law which violates human rights. To the opposite, the  draft prepared by a group called "Collectif 95 Maghreb Egalité", under the title "One hundred measures and provisions: for a maghrebian egalitarian codification of the personal statute and family law", does not. This Draft is based on a modern interpretation of Islamic law in conformity with Human rights. This is the Draft that the Palestinian State should adopt.


Article 8

النظام السياسي الفلسطيني، ديمقراطي نيابي برلماني، يقوم على التعددية الحزبية السياسية، وكفالة حقوق المواطنين وحرياتهم ومنها حرية تكوين الأحزاب وممارستها لنشاطها على أساس القانون. وتلتزم الأحزاب مبادئ السيادة الوطنية والديموقراطية والتداول السلمي للسلطة عملا بالدستور.

The Palestinian political system shall be a parliamentarian representative democracy based on political pluralism. The rights and liberties of all citizens shall be respected, including the right to form political parties and engage in political activity without discrimination on the basis of political opinions, sex, or religion. The parties shall abide by the principles of national sovereignty, democracy and peaceflul transfer of authority in accordance with the Constitution.


This article recognises the right to form political parties. We have here to take into consideration the situation in the Middle-East where religious groups, either in Israel or in the Arab countries, create discriminatory political parties. What happens among Jews and Muslims could also happen among Christians who may request the creation of a state for the Christian minority as do Jews and Muslims. Therefore, the Constitution must insist on the necessity that political parties should respect the principle of non-discrimination in their programmes and membership. The Constitution must forbid the creation of discriminatory religious political parties which threaten the security of the country.


Article 18

تلتزم دولة فلسطين بالإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان. وتسعى للانضمام إلى المواثيق والعهود الدولية الأخرى التي تحمي حقوق الإنسان.

The state of Palestine shall abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and shall seek to join other international covenants and charters that safeguard human rights.


It would be necessary to add to this article "without any reservation", because the Arab countries presented so many reservations on many international documents related to human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and so they emptied these documents from their actual content. They pretended that these documents are contrary to Islamic law. As a result, these countries maintained legal norms which do not respect the principle of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of religion or gender. Such a situation would be contrary to articles 5, 19 and 20 of the Palestinian Constitution. 

Article 19

كل الفلسطينيين سواء أمام القانون، وهم يتمتعون بالحقوق المدنية والسياسية، ويتحملون الواجبات العامة دون ما فرق أو تمييز في ما بينهم بسبب العرق أو الجنس أو اللون أو الدين أو الرأي السياسي أو الإعاقة.

Palestinians are equal before the law. They enjoy civil and political rights and bear public duties without discrimination.


The Arabic version is larger than the English one. It says: "Palestinians are equal before the law. They enjoy civil and political rights and bear public duties without discrimination for reason of race, gender, colour, religion, political opinion or handicap". The order of the motives of discrimination is  inspired by the international instruments. Since Middle-East represents a special case, I propose that this order be changed as follows: " They enjoy civil and political rights and bear public duties without discrimination for reason of religion, gender, race, colour, political opinion or handicap".


Article 20

حقوق الإنسان وحرياته الأساسية ملزمة وواجبة الاحترام، وتعمل الدولة على كفالة الحقوق والحريات الدينية والمدنية والسياسية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية والثقافية لكل المواطنين، وتمتعهم بها على أساس مبدأ المساواة وتكافؤ الفرص.

لا يحرم شخص من حقوقه وحرياته الأساسية أو أهليته القانونية لأسباب سياسية.

Human rights and liberties are binding and must be respected. The state shall guarantee religious, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and liberties to all citizens on the basis of equality and equal opportunity.

Persons are not deprived of their legal competence, rights and basic liberties for political reasons.


I see no reason to maintain the second paragraph which repeats what has been provided for in the first one. Where there be a special reason to maintain it, then it should be formulated as follows:

Persons are not deprived of their legal competence, rights and basic liberties for religious, gender or  political reasons.

It is well-known that in the Middle-East discrimination is mainly based on religion and gender.

 Article 21

لكل فلسطيني، من الجنسين، يبلغ من العمر ثمانية عشر سنة ميلادية حق الانتخاب، وذلك وفقاً للشروط المنصوص عليها في القانون.

ولكل من يحمل الجنسية الفلسطينية أن يرشح نفسه لرئاسة الدولة أو لعضوية المجلس النيابي و/أو أن يولى الوزارة، أو القضاء. وينظم القانون السن وسائر الشروط اللازمة لتولي هذه المناصب.

Every Palestinian who has reached the age of eighteen years shall have the right to vote in accordance with the provisions of the law.

All those who bear Palestinian nationality shall have the right to enter presidential elections and/or House of Representatives membership and/or assume a ministerial or judicial position. The law regulates age and other prerequisites to accede to those posts.


I propose to add at the end of the second paragraph the following sentence: "without discrimination based on religion or gender". It is well known that some Muslim countries, including Kuwait, refuse the vote and the candidacy of women.

Article 22

للمرأة شخصيتها القانونية، وذمتها المالية المستقلة، ولها ذات الحقوق والحريات الأساسية التي للرجل وعليها ذات الواجبات.

Women shall have their own legal personality and independent financial assets. They shall have the same rights, liberties, and duties as men.

I see no reason to maintain this article as it is a repetition of what is said in article 19. Need we maintain it for a specific reason, then we should add at the end of this article: "including the field of family law and the access to public function". It is well-known that the deprivation of women's rights happens mainly in these two fields. Many Arab and Muslim countries did reservations on international documents relating to women's rights, pretending that equality in rights is contrary to Islamic law. Let us mention here that only this year women could be nominated as judge in Egypt.


Article 23

للمرأة الحق في المساهمة الفاعلة في الحياة الاجتماعية والسياسية والثقافية والاقتصادية، ويعمل القانون على إزالة القيود التي تمنع المرأة من المشاركة في بناء الأسرة والمجتمع.

حقوق المرأة الدستورية والشرعية مصونة ويعاقب القانون على المساس بها، ويحمي حقها في الإرث الشرعي.

Women shall have the right to participate actively in the social, political, cultural and economic aspects of life. The Law shall strive to abolish restraints that prevent women from contributing to the building of family and society.

The constitutional and legal rights of women shall be safeguarded; arid any violation of those rights shall be punishable by law. The law shall also protect their legal inheritance.


The English version is different from the Arabic one. Paragraph two in Arabic refers to "constitutional and Islamic rights" and "Islamic inheritance". In English, it is said: "constitutional and legal rights" and "legal inheritance". There is a great difference between the two versions. It is well-known that Islamic law, according to some interpreters, - and they are many -, deprives women from their rights to access judiciary function, equality in the court as witness and in inheritance, etc. On the other side, Palestinian society is composed also of non-Muslim women. Why, then, use the term "Islamic"?  Therefore, we propose to cancel this word from the Arabic and English version, in order to avoid bad surprises in the interpretation or application of the Constitution.

We mention here a similar problem in the Personal statute law of Tunisia. Article 5 provides in Arabic: "The two partners should have no Islamic impediment for marriage". The French version says: "The two partners should have no legal impediment for marriage". If we sustain article 5 in its French version, this means that the impediments concerned here are those mentioned in articles 14 to 20, which do not forbid marriage between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman. To the contrary, if we sustain the Arabic version, this means that such a marriage is forbidden according to Islamic law. Such an interpretation would violate articles 5, 19 and 20 of the Palestinian Constitution.

 Article 24

للطفل سائر الحقوق التي كفلها ميثاق حقوق الطفل العربي.

Children shall have all the rights guaranteed by the Charter of the Rights of the Arab Child


It is not clear why this article mentions the Charter of the rights of the Arab Child[8], rather than the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Is it because the Arab countries did so many reservations concerning this convention - pretending that it does not respect the Islamic law - and that the Palestinian state is not willing to abide to this convention?[9] Therefore, this article should be modified as follows:

"Children shall have all the rights guaranteed by the Charter of the Rights of the Arab Child and by the Convention on the Rights of the Child".


Article 25

الحق في الحياة مصون يحميه القانون.

The right to life is guaranteed by the Constitution.


In conformity with international instruments on Human Rights which promote the abolition of death penalty, it is necessary to confirm such abolition in this article, whose formulation should read as follows:

"The right to life is guaranteed by the Constitution. Death penalty cannot be applied".


Article 26 paragraph 1

لكل إنسان الحق في سلامة شخصه.

Individuals shall have the right to personal safety.


We propose that this article be formulated as follows:

"Individuals shall have the right to personal safety. No infringement of physical integrity can be allowed except for compelling medical reasons and with the consent of the person concerned or of his or her representative".

This modification implies the prohibition of surgery operations which have no medical effective reason, such as male and female circumcision[10]. Furthermore, this means that it would be unacceptable to promulgate norms inspired by the Islamic penal law which foresee cutting a thief's hand or foot or the application of the lex talionis, as it is the case in some Arab and Islamic countries and as it is provided in the Egyptian draft of Islamic criminal law of 1982, or in the Draft of the unified criminal law prepared by the Arab league in 1986.


Article 36 paragraph 1

حرية العقيدة وممارسة شعائر العبادة مكفولة وفقا لأحكام الدستور.

Freedom of religion and religious practice is guaranteed by the Constitution.

 It is well-known that in the Muslim society, including Palestine, conversion to Islam is encouraged, but the conversion from Islam to other religions is forbidden and punished by the dissolution of the marriage, deprivation of the inheritance and guardianship, etc. Some even foresee death penalty for such conversion. This is contrary to articles 5, 19 and 20 of the Constitution and international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentioned in article 18 of the Constitution. Therefore, it is important to add here that the freedom or religion means changing one's religion without any legal consequences. It would be good if the Constitution adopts the formulation of article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Furthermore, for the respect of human rights, the following paragraph should be added:

"Parents choose the religion of their children under sixteen. After this age, every person has the right to choose freely the religion he is willing to adopt". 


Article 42

التعليم حق للفرد وللمجتمع، وهو إلزامي لكل مواطن حتى نهاية المرحلة الأساسية. وتكفله الدولة في المدارس والمعاهد والمؤسسات العامة حتى نهاية المرحلة الثانوية.

ينظم القانون طرق إشراف الدولة على أداء التعليم ومناهجه.

Education is an individual and social right. Education is compulsory at least until the end of the elementary level. Education shall be guaranteed by the state in public schools, institutions, and other establishments until the end of the secondary level.

The law shall regulate the state’s supervision of its performance and curricula.

It is well-known that the governmental education programme in Palestine as well as in the Arab countries is saturated by Islamic texts, not only in religious courses, but also in the Arabic language and History courses. In general, the Christian texts are neglected. Christian students get acquainted with Arab and Islamic culture, which help him knowing his Muslim fellow. On the other side, Muslim students ignore every thing about the culture and the religion of his Christian fellow[11]. This is contrary to articles 5, 19 and 20 of the Constitution. It is also contrary to the necessity of getting to know each other in the society. Moreover, Schools should respect the religious freedom of all the citizens and should not impose a particular religion to students. Therefore, we propose adding the following two paragraphs to this article:

"The education programmes must offer texts appertaining to the cultural and religions heritage of all the communities without discrimination and equally. These programmes must be prepared by common commissions representing the different communities. The programmes must develop mutual acquaintance and approach among the different groups".

"Religious education must be provided in the schools by the representatives of the different communities. Parents have the right to dispense their children under 16 from religious courses. Afterwards, children have the right not to follow these courses. The grades of the religious courses are not taken into consideration for success".


Article 43

التعليم الخاص حر وينظم القانون إشراف الدولة على نظمه ومناهجه.

Private education shall be respected, provided that schools, institutions and private educational centers. The law shall regulate the state’s supervision of its curricula.


The English translation is defective. It should read as follows: "Private education shall be respected. The law shall regulate the State’s supervision of its curricula".

There is a problem which should be avoided in the field of private education. In Egypt, primary, preparatory, secondary schools as well as universities which are appertaining to Al-Azhar are open only for Muslims. Such a system is dangerous for the national unity and should be forbidden. Therefore, I propose to add to this article the following paragraph:

"Private education must respect the principle of non-discrmination based on religion or gender, and the programmes must respect the two paragraphs added to article 42".



Article 54 (in English version, article 55)

لكل مواطن الحق في المساهمة في النشاطات السياسية بصورة فردية أو جماعية. وله على وجه الخصوص الحقوق والحريات التالية:

المشاركة في تشكيل الأحزاب السياسية و/أو الانضمام إليها، و/أو الانسحاب منها وفقا للقانون.

المشاركة في تشكيل النقابات والجمعيات والإتحادات والروابط والمنتديات والأندية والمؤسسات، و/أو الانضمام إليها، و/أو الانسحاب منها وفقا للقانون. وينظم القانون إجراءات إكسابها الشخصية الاعتبارية.

All citizens shalt have the right to partake, individually or collectively, in political activities, including:

The right to form political parties and/or subscribe thereto, and/or withdrawing there from in accordance with the law;

Formation unions, societies, associations, fraternities, assemblies, clubs, and institutions and/or subscribe thereto and/or withdraw there from in accordance with the law.

The law shall govern the procedures for acquiring its legal personality.


Concerning the creation of political parties, please refer to my comments on article 8. On the other side, concerning the creation of associations, one should notice that there are two systems:

- Permission system: As it is the case in Egypt. It means that before creating an association, it is necessary to request the permission of the state. This explains why the civil society is very week in Egypt.

- Legal system: As it is the case in Switzerland. It means that whenever the conditions of the civil code are respected, the association is considered as legal. No state permission is requested.

Therefore, if we want to develop the civil society, the Constitution should indicate clearly that the system for the creation of the association is the legal one, and not the permission one[12].


Article 71 and others (in English version, article 72)

قبل أن يشرع المجلس النيابي في القيام بمهامه الدستورية وفي أول جلسة انعقاد له، بعد انتخاب هيئة رئاسة المجلس النيابي، يؤدى الأعضاء القسم التالي:

" أقسم بالله العظيم. أن أكون مخلصاً للوطن، وأن أحافظ على حقوق الشعب والأمة ومصالحها، وأن أحترم الدستور والقانون، وأن أقوم بواجباتي حق القيام، والله على ما أقول شهيد ".

In the first meeting of the House of Representatives, after the election of the body of the presidency of the House of Representatives, but before the commencement of its constitutional duties, the members shall take the following oath:

"I swear by Almighty God to be faithful to the Homeland, to safeguard the rights of the people, the Nation and their interests, to respect the Constitution and the Law, and to fulfil my duties rightfully and may God be my witness".


This article, as well as others (see articles 115 and 136 of the Arabic version), indicates the oath which must be taken: "I swear by Almighty God … and may God be my witness". This oath is contrary to articles 5, 19 and 20 of the Constitution. As we accept the freedom of religion and guarantee equality without religious discrimination, how can we ask a Buddhist or an atheist to swear in the name of God? Therefore, if we are willing to maintain such an oath, we have to provide an alternative for those who do not believe in God or do not like to swear in the name of God. Otherwise, we violate the Constitution. The same must be respected by other laws as the one relating to the nomination of judges (see article 163 of the Constitution) or to the witness before the court.


Article 79 (in English version, article 80)

تتولى الحكومة عقد الاتفاقيات والمعاهدات الدولية التي تبرمها دولة فلسطين أو تنضم إليها، أما الاتفاقيات التي تُحمل خزانة الدولة نفقات غير واردة في الميزانية أو تُحمل المواطنين أو الدولة التزامات خلافاً للقوانين السارية فتستوجب موافقة أغلبية مجموع أعضاء المجلس النيابي.

ويناقش المجلس المعاهدات التي يترتب عليها مساس باستقلال الدولة أو سلامة أراضيها، توطئة لقيام الحكومة بطرحها على الاستفتاء الشعبي العام.

The House of Representatives allows the government to enter international agreements and treaties which the State contracts or joins. Those agreements, or treaties which impose on the state treasury expenses unaccounted for in the budget, or impose on the citizens commitments contrary to current laws should be approved by majority of the members of the House of Representatives.

The House discusses agreements that involve state independence or the integrity of its territory in prelude to its presentation for referendum.


The adhesion to international organisations as the United Nations, the Arab league and the Islamic conference organisation involves also state independence. One should notice that the Arab countries entered the United Nations without consulting their population. And if they consulted them today, the majority, if not all, would quit this organisation. This means that the Arab governments do not represent their populations and do not take their interest into consideration. This fact should be avoided by the Palestinian State. Therefore, the following paragraph should be added to this article:

"Adhesion to regional or international organisations must be decided by referendum".


Article 159 (in English version, article 162)

السلطة القضائية مستقلة، وهي صاحبة الاختصاص الأصيل بالوظيفة القضائية، والفصل في جميع المنازعات والجرائم.

يحدد القانون هيئات السلطة القضائية، وينظم هيكليتها ويحدد أنواع المحاكم ودرجاتها واختصاصاتها وإجراءاتها.

ولا يجوز إنشاء محاكم استثنائية.

The judicial branch shall be independent. It shall have original jurisdiction to perform the judicial function, and shall be entrusted with deciding all disputes and crimes.

The law shall define the institutions of the judicial branch, and regulate their structure and the types of courts, and their levels, jurisdictions and procedures.

Exceptional courts may not be formed.

 According to what I said in my comment on article 7, we must add the following paragraph to this article:

"All religious courts are abolished".


Article 169 (in English version, article 172)

يحدد بقانون شروط تعيين القضاة ونقلهم وندبهم وترقيتهم وتنظيم شؤونهم، ولا يجوز الجمع بين مهنة القضاء وبين أية مهنة أخرى، أو عضوية المجالس النيابية أو الأحزاب السياسية.

ولا يجوز للقاضي -أثناء توليه مهنة القضاء- حمل جنسية غير الجنسية الفلسطينية.

A law shall determine the conditions of appointment, transfer, delegacy, promotion, and regulation affairs of the judges, combining judicial work with any other profession or membership in the representative councils or political parties shall be prohibited. A judge shall not be permitted, while assuming a judicial profession, to carry any citizenship other than the Palestinian citizenship.

 It is not clear whether this article forbids binationality for the judiciary function. If this is the meaning, this article is to be considered as utterly severe measure, many Palestinians having two or more nationalities.


 These are the remarks on the Draft of the Constitution. I preferred to write them with full sincerity in such a way that their meaning will be clearly understood. I consider the draft unacceptable in its present form and content.

 With my best regards.

 Sami Aldeeb, doctor of laws

Responsible for Arab and Islamic Law

Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, Lausanne

Homepage of my institute: http://isdc.ch

Private homepage: http://go.to/samipage


[1] You find the Arabic translation in: http://www.admin.ch/ch/itl/rs/1/c101ARA.pdf

[2]  The title in French is: Non-musulmans en pays d'Islam, Éditions universitaires, Fribourg, 1979, XVI-405 pages.

[3] See the list of my publications in http://www.lpj.org/Nonviolence/Sami/resume.html

[4] Arabic version in: http://www.jmcc.org/documents/palestconstitution.pdf

[5] English version in: http://www.jmcc.org/documents/palestineconstitution-eng.pdf

[6] See on the position of the Copts, my  thesis, p. 126-131.

[7] See on the position of this professor, my  thesis, p. 130.

[8] See English translation in: http://www.geocities.com/joelmermet/arabcharter.html

[9] See the reservations in: http://www.hri.ca/fortherecord2000/bilan2000/documentation/reservations/crc.htm

[10]   See my book: Male and female circumcision among Jews, Christians and Muslims: religious, medical, social and legal debate, 2001, 400 pages. A reduced version of this book is published in Arabic in Bet-Jala, 2002.

[11]   See my article about the religious education in Egypt and in Switzerland: http://www.lpj.org/Nonviolence/Sami/articles/frn-articles/enseignement.html

[12]   See on this topic my article: http://www.uia.org/uiata/aldeeb.htm



Middle East Gateway