Penalty for Wasta and favoritism is 3-15 years
June 20, 2010, President Mahmoud Abbas endorsed a special law to combat all forms of corruption. The Law will be referred to as "The Anti-Corruption Law” and will address all forms of corruption in the Palestinian society. This achievement was the result of several factors one of which appeals initiated by the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity AMAN and supported by Palestinian CSOs, parliamentarians against corruption, and public sector representatives. It was also in fulfillment to the requirements of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, unilaterally signed by the Palestinian Authority (PNA), which obliges States Parties to establish a special body/commission that addresses corruption in accordance with the law.
AMAN, being the sole institution whose specialty is combating corruption took the initiative to review the Illicit Gain Law, ratified in 2005 by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and modify it to include all forms of corruption. The Illicit Gain Law was not implemented until recently and after pressures from AMAN and supporters calling to assign a head for the Illicit Gain commission. In March 2010, Mr Rafiq Al-Natsheh was assigned for the job which will now be Head of the Commission for Combating Corruption.
The new law is a comprehensive law covering all issues of corruption to include criminalization of all forms of corruption, including Wasta, nepotism, and favoritism which were not considered criminal in previous laws. In addition, the new law expanded the powers and functions of the Commission to include investigation of corruption cases as well as given it authority to coordinate with the competent authorities to track, control, seize and recover funds and proceeds collected from criminal corruption acts.
Other responsibilities of the commission will include a public awareness agenda for the Palestinian society at all levels official and popular. It needs to ensure that Palestinians understand the risks of corruption and its negative effects as well as provide methods on how to prevent and combat it. It also has the task of drawing a national policy to combat it; develop plans and programs on the subject in cooperation with the relevant authorities; review and evaluate legislation; and cooperate with anti-corruption bodies and organizations, Arab, regional and international.
It is worthy to note that AMAN held several workshops while reviewing and amending the Illicit Gain Law to become the Anti-Corruption Law. The workshops included experts in legal aspects such as lawyers, a former judge, in addition to CS expert, and others. Several amendments were drafted before submitting it to the Council of Ministers. The final copy of the Law included most of the suggested modifications.
Al-Wasta is a criminal act punishable by law
The criminalization of Wasta and favoritism, as corruption crimes punishable by law, is considered a substantive and important amendment, especially since the penalty is from 3-15 years imprisonment.
Moreover, the amendment can also be considered a victory to AMAN’s repeated calls for criminalizing Wasta and favoritism since all its surveys and reports for the past ten years have illustrated that Wasta and favoritism are the most common among corruption acts in the Palestinian society especially among public sector officials and employees, mainly in the department of providing services and job appointments.
Applicability of the law on the heads and staff of Palestinian NGOs and international staff working in the Palestinian Occupied Territory:
One of the most substantive amendments adopted by the anti-corruption law is that it also applies to international personnel working in the Palestinian territory. It also applies to chairpersons and members of boards of charities and political parties, trade unions and NGOs and employees of these institutions.
The dismissal of the head of the commission by a court order:
It is important to note that the new law includes the dismissal and replacement of the head of the commission if he/she is convicted of a breach of duties assigned or if he/she has committed any act of corruption.
AMAN values issuance of the new law:
In light of the absence of the PLC due to several political factors imposed on Palestinians AMAN welcomed the issuance of the Anti-Corruption Law by the President hoping it will be approved by the PLC as soon as it resumes its duties officially. In the mean time, AMAN and its supporters will continue to call on the PA to amend and complete the specific legislations relating to combating corruption and to establish an independent body competent in combating corruption by providing all human, technical, and funds needed. AMAN also views the endorsed law as a prerequisite condition for the success of all anti-corruption efforts in Palestine.