Public Money, Political Games: A Report on the Gazan Salaries Crisis

In early 2015, around 250 employees of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza had their salaries indefinitely withheld, along with around 100 retirees in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jordan. Most of those affected are members of Fatah and work in the security services, although civilian employees have also been targeted. No legal process was followed and no explanation has been given to employees1.

Coming on top of the already extreme deprivation in the Gaza Strip and considering the severe lack of alternative sources of employment, as well as the high number of dependents on each salary-earner, the cuts confront those affected – not merely the salary-earners themselves, but entire families – with imminent destitution. Indeed, if not addressed, the mass withholding of salaries could contribute to further humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip and test an already fragile political stability.

There is also clear evidence of political motives behind the Palestinian Authority’s decision, which comes from the highest levels and seems intended to silence dissent from within the Fatah movement. It also appears certain that the withholding of salaries is in some way connected to the rift between President Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan, although it is less clear whether those affected do in fact support the latter, or if accusations to this effect are simply used as a pretext by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority leadership to target critics. Many of those affected were also members of the ‘Gaza, where next?’ movement, which emerged in the aftermath of the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas and was highly critical of Abbas’ leadership of Fatah and approach towards Gaza.

The manner in which the Palestinian Authority has blocked the salaries, without any prior warning, administrative or legal process, also raises concerns regarding the requirements of the Palestinian Basic Law and international human rights, particularly the right to a fair trial and self-defence in court. The apparently political nature of the targeting also suggests infringements of fundamental rights to freedom of expression.

Regardless of whether those affected have been targeted because they support Mohammed Dahlan or due to other acts of dissent, the withholding of salaries represents a severe crisis for all concerned, a violation of basic political liberties and a flagrant disregard on the part of the Palestinian Authority leadership for their legal obligations.

We urge the Palestinian Authority to observe its legal requirements and immediately resume salary payments. If the leadership has concerns regarding any employees, the latter should be tried in a court of law. We also urge foreign funders to pressurise the Palestinian Authority to take all actions necessary for the resumption and salary payments and ask international human rights groups to do what they can to publicise this issue.

Parts 1 and 2 of this report largely provide background context to the current crisis, respectively covering the broader political issues connected with public revenue and foreign aid (from which public salaries are largely paid) and the economic situation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories – especially the Gaza strip – and the consequent impact of withholding salaries on those affected. Readers familiar with this context may, therefore, wish to proceed directly to Part 3, which presents evidence of political targeting. Part 4 provides a basic overview of possible legal implications of the Palestinian Authority’s actions, drawing largely on the Palestinian Basic Law. Finally, Part 5 presents a series of recommendations to relevant parties.

© 2015 ForMENA

The full report can be accessed here.

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