Court to rule if PA immune from lawsuits

Foreign Ministry to state to court if Palestinian Authority enjoys "sovereign immunity."

Livni 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
Livni 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
Attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner filed a request in the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday to declare Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in contempt of court for having failed to respond to a decision ordering her to declare whether the Palestinian Authority enjoyed "sovereign immunity." However, Foreign Ministry legal adviser Ehud Keinan told The Jerusalem Post that the certificates had already been prepared and would be presented to court "in the next few days." The certificates will state whether or not the PA is immune from being sued in an Israeli court. Darshan-Leitner is representing 16 plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against the PA for damages, on the grounds that it was responsible for terrorist attacks that caused them personal or financial suffering. These suits are among a larger number filed in the Jerusalem District Court over the years since the PA's establishment. Then-court president Judge Vardi Zeiler established a special panel to hear the cases en bloc. Meanwhile, the PA hired Jerusalem lawyer Yossi Arnon to represent it. During the hearings, Arnon raised several arguments against the lawsuits, including that they were not justiciable because the PA bore the status of a state or "near-state" and therefore enjoyed "sovereign immunity." The district court rejected the PA's arguments, and Arnon appealed to the Supreme Court against the lower court decision. In its verdict, issued on July 17, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuits should be heard individually in the district court and added that the court should ask the Foreign Ministry for a certificate in each case, according to its own merits, as to whether the PA enjoyed immunity. The court ordered the ministry to present the certificates by December 25, 2007. Darshan-Leitner charged that the ministry had not presented the certificates by that date and had not asked for an extension beforehand. The court then ordered the ministry to present the certificates by February 2, 2008. Almost six weeks have gone by since then, and the ministry has still failed to present the certificates, she charged in her brief to the court. Keinan pointed out that the Foreign Ministry had previously issued five certificates regarding lawsuits filed against the PA and that in all of them, it had declared that the PA did not have immunity.