Since JLAC’s inception over 35 years ago and since its transformation into a Palestinian civil organization governed by a Board of Trustees in 1997, JLAC has come to occupy a distinctive place in the realm of legal aid. The Center has gradually evolved towards the strategic direction of combining individual legal representation with the adoption of public interest cases. Many of the individual cases previously undertaken by JLAC indeed bear the stamp of public interest (i.e. legal reform/ activation, efforts concerning the matter of 'clearance’); for a case may be classified as a matter of public interest (even if involving only one individual) when the deliberation that arises in extension comes to affect persons whom are not case beneficiaries. Such cases are oftentimes related to discriminatory regulations and procedures that infringe upon the best interests of the population.
In 2009, JLAC tackled several matters which may be categorized as both individual representation or public interest, as in the case of the unfair dismissal of public sector employees under the justification of so-called 'security checks’ and suspicions of political affiliation. While JLAC’s efforts involved the adoption of individual cases aimed at revoking the various decisions to dismiss particular governmental employees (as for them to individually return to their posts), in principle JLAC served to defend the right of all citizen; for in adopting such cases, JLAC challenged that the security procedures being carried out (i.e. security checks) are illegal and litigated for their cancellation.
In 2010, JLAC intends to expand its public interest intervention as to include; the right of the poor and marginalized in accessing basic services, the role of monopolistic service providers, medical malpractice, among other issues of public concern. Such will involve research efforts, the recruitment of legal expertise of various kinds, and the formation of research teams and volunteers to conduct field work towards the collection and documentation of needed information. Moreover, public interest cases initiated during earlier periods (i.e. efforts to reform zoning and planning policies applied by the Israeli Authorities in Area C) will likewise be continued.
In 2011, JLAC followed up several prominent public interest cases in East Jerusalem, among them the case of re-opening the old Esawiyyeh road that runs through the village of Esawiyyeh. The road closure, which was made during the al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, has caused much hardship for the adjacent communities in terms of movement, commerce, education, access to health among other aspects. The road connects the village of Esawiyyeh with al-Tour and Wadi al-Joz, and is used by locals in reaching al-Makased Hospital and Hadassah Hospital.
In 2012, among the most notable case of public interest adopted by JLAC involved the discriminatory municipal services provided to the northern Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem (i.e. Kufur Aqab, Qaladia, and Samiramis), particularly
in terms of waste collection. Accumulation of waste which the citizens personally incinerated, had turned the neighborhoods into a health hazard, resulting in the spread of diseases and insect and rodent infestations. JLAC’s attorneys petitioned this case before the Israeli Central Court in April of 2012, seeking to oblige the municipality of Jerusalem to carry out its duties towards the residents of the affected neighborhoods (noting that these citizens pay their tax dues owed to the municipality, especially the Arnona tax). The first hearing to examine this case, after several postponements by the court, was scheduled for June. The hearing was concluded with court compelling the municipality
to increase its service provision to the neighborhoods, as follows
In 2013,JLAC likewise adopted a case of medical malpractice, involving a Palestinian woman suffering from malpractice during surgery. The case against the hospital is being brought before Palestinian courts. JLAC’s Legal Unit is also working on developing public interest interventions involving people with disabilities and the review of different types of taxes imposed on citizens by the Ministry of Finance and/or municipalities.
In 2014, In regards to violations made by the PA, JLAC , began undertaking cases of medical malpractice, and 5 cases of public interest. Additionally, 920 legal consultations were provided to beneficiaries in addressing violations by the PA.
The following are among JLAC’s key public interest interventions undertaken;
JLAC’s public interest interventions include ensuring the right of the poor and marginalized in accessing basic services and monitoring the role of monopolistic service providers. In this regard, JLAC (through funding provided by TIRI) is conducting a consumer protection study focused on legal and equitable water pricing. The objective of the study is to ensure consumer protection by analyzing existing public policies and practices towards; obliging regulatory bodies and water suppliers to fulfill their lawful obligations and responsibilities. The study involved the recruitment of research and legal experts, field work towards the collection and documentation of needed information, and sector roundtable discussions as to generate needed recommendations. A second phase of the TIRI project will involve the empowerment of citizens with knowledge of their rights as consumers, among other actions related to lobbing for policy reform.
Discriminatory Planning and Zoning Policies in Area C
JLAC has recently felt the need to intervene in reforming the Israeli Civil Administration’s discriminatory planning and zoning policies in Area C of the West Bank. JLAC sought to file a petition against the Civil Administration in an effort to expose the strategic nature behind such policies in Area C, an in turn alleviate the policies that perpetuate housing/displacement cases under the guise of building without a permit. The petition seeks to prove this claim through gathering pertinent information. This effort began two years back with correspondences sent by JLAC to the Head of the Israeli Civil Administration, requesting the number of building permit applications approved in the past 5 years. The correspondences also requested the activation of the Jordanian Law (Planning Law of 1966) which stipulated the involvement of local communities in the planning process. Failing to receive any response to its inquiries; JLAC decided to petition the Israeli High Court (in coalition with the following human rights organizations; Society of St Yves, Rabbis for Human Rights, and ICHAD) in demanding the cancellation of Israeli Military Order 418 which cancelled the Jordanian Planning Law of 1966 and restricted planning in Area C to the Civil Administration, and thus eliminating the role of the local community in planning. The petition also requested that current village master plans be expanded; with the involvement of the local communities. JLAC anticipates that this petition will take much time in deliberation, with the ruling dependent on such variables as political changes, outcomes of Israeli elections, among other external factors.