About AL-Muqtafi

Introduction to AL MUQTAFI
The Palestinian Legal and Judicial System (AL MUQTAFI) is the first legal databank in Palestine. For over ten years, scores of legal researchers and IT programmers at the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University have contributed to designing, developing and upgrading this unique legal databank .

Most importantly, AL MUQTAFI houses the Legislation Database and Court Judgements Database.

The Legislation Database
This Database accommodates all pieces of legislation enacted in Palestine since the mid 1900s until nowadays. The Legislation Database features all items of legislation, which were enforced in Palestine under the Ottoman rule until 1917; legislation under the British Mandate until 1948; legislation under the Egyptian Administration in the Gaza Strip as well as the Jordanian rule over the West Bank until 1967; and military orders issued by the Israeli occupation authorities from 1967 onwards. In addition, the Legislation Database contains recent pieces of legislation enacted by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which have been published in the Palestinian Official Gazette since 1994. The Database is further upgraded on an ongoing basis.

So far, AL MUQTAFI includes approximately 13,000 pieces of legislation, collated from over a period of 150 years of Palestine's contemporary history. More than 50,000 pages of legislation are accessible to users, either to view online or to print out. Moreover, full texts of about 1,200 regulations published in the Palestinian Official Gazette are now provided on the AL MUQTAFI Databank.

The Legislation Database comprises several linked databases. At the forefront of these is the Referential (or Bibliographical) Database that includes basic information about every piece of legislation. Regulations can be linked to one another through legal relations of reliance, amendment, repealing, consolidation, etc. As such, users can track the development of any legal topic over various years and periods. In addition, the Legislation Database includes PDF versions of regulations as they are published in the Official Gazette, as well as a database that displays the full texts of all new regulations published in the Palestinian Official Gazette by the Bureau of Legal Counsel and Legislation at the PNA Ministry of Justice (MoJ). To the user, these databases form an integral unit that enable search for needed materials or topics through an advanced, computerised system. Results appear on the computer screen, whereby users can print pieces of legislation out.

After they are saved on CDs, items of legislations can then be distributed to various bodies (including public institutions and civil society organisations). An IoL staff IT programmer and legal researcher upload these CDs on computers at the relevant institutions and organisations. The IoL programmer and researcher also identify the CD, explain how to use it, provide respective training, and express IoL's readiness for further continuous support.

Recently, IoL has started consolidation of the pieces of legislation in force in Palestine in order to create a new legislative unit that comprises the original legislation, which is consolidated with the amendments introduced thereto. As such, a piece of legislation as well as its respective amendments will ultimately be read as one integral unit.

The Legislation Consolidation Project is restricted to the consolidation of effective legislation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or in any of these areas. A list of 5,540 pieces of legislation was compiled and consolidated. Excluding secondary legislation, legislation means the primary laws, which were promulgated over various historical periods preceding establishment of the PNA. On the other hand, PNA-enacted legislation has all been consolidated, including both primary and secondary items of legislation.

Using the Document Type Definition (DTD), components of the general structure of legislation are consolidated in accordance with the technical division of legislative documents. These are 4 basic components that compose the structure of legislation as well as have their own specific locations therein: (i) title of legislation; (ii) preamble; (iii) body; and (iv) closing section. Moreover, an item of legislation might consist of an additional component – namely annexes. Furthermore, a number of other distinctive facilities have been introduced to the legislation consolidation process: Hyperlinks are created within items of legislation to connect them with other regulations through a total of 11 various relations (including legal basis, repealing, amendment, reference, referral, secondary legislation, etc.) As such, a final image of a particular piece of legislation would be displayed, along with an option to access any version of the consolidated piece of legislation at any point in time, which a user wishes to view. It should also be noted that necessary documentation on the process of legislation consolidation are furnished on the database. In addition to all these versions, users can access the hyperlinks and relations mentioned above.

Court Judgements Database
This Database encompasses all court judgements issued forth by the Palestinian high courts since 1994. These include judgements entered by the Court of Appeals between 1994 and 2001, as well as the Court of Cassation and the High Court of Justice from 2001 until today.

Recently, the Court Judgements Database has been connected with AL MUQTAFI. So far, the Database contains 23,000 judicial judgements issued forth by Palestinian high courts since 1994. The Database will be further developed as well as accommodate all judicial judgements issued by Palestinian high courts in the future. Recently, the Court Judgements Database has been connected with AL MUQTAFI. So far, the Database contains 23,000 judicial judgements issued forth by Palestinian high courts since 1994. The Database will be further developed as well as accommodate all judicial judgements issued by Palestinian high courts in the future.

Through the Court Judgements Database, users can access any court judgements they wish to view, using several research techniques: Users can enter the number, year, type or date of adjudication of a certain action. Alternatively, users can search through the name of the court which entered the judgement in question. In addition, users can conduct their search through the Legal Controlled Vocabulary System – a system that converts the expressions and terms used in court judgements into pure legal expressions. In other words, the Legal Controlled Vocabulary System provides access to the terms and expressions which it contains, as well as enables users to select those terms which they search for. Furthermore, users can track the proceeding of an action from the lower courts until it reaches the Court of Appeals or Court of Cassation in line with the grade of court where the action is.

The Court Judgements Database also displays a set of legal principles of a total 1,000 court judgements. Legal researchers at the IoL Case Law Department have extracted these legal principles from a range of distinctive court judgements. Such principles were also thoroughly scrutinised and edited by a select committee of legal experts in Palestine. Moreover, the Court Judgements Database provides comments on a chosen set of 200 court judgements. Legal experts from Jordan, including academicians, judges and lawyers, compiled these legal comments. Finally, full texts of all 3,200 judgements entered by the Palestinian High Court (including both the Court of Cassation and the High Court) are provided on the Court Judgements Database.

In essence, the IoL Court Judgements Database aims to provide relevant referential information on the current comprehensive body of court judgements, develop electronic versions, and save them on AL MUQTAFI. As such, users can easily access court judgements. In addition, full texts of a significant number of judgements, along with their respective legal principles and comments, are all housed on the Database.

Furthermore, the Case Law Project aims to file judicial judgements issued by Palestinian courts as well as to maintain and safeguard the Palestinian judicial heritage.

Commonly termed as 'legal informatics' the AL MUQTAFI Databank denotes a legal information system. Basically, legal information systems refer to the use of advanced information technology as well as updated systems in the storing, processing and retrieving of various forms of data, both locally and distantly, in order to create comprehensive legal and judicial databanks. The databanks include various legal documents that can be saved and accessed feasibly and efficiently in order to locate required data. As AL MUQTAFI was designed, experiences in some Arab and foreign countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, France and Britain, were viewed. Experts were also invited and consulted. AL MUQTAFI is further developed and upgraded on a permanent basis. Contents are also updated continuously and supplemented with information necessary for the relevant legal community. This information features judicial principles (precedents) as well as court judgements and decisions. Additionally, users can launch a direct online search into the Court Judgements Database and into legal references available at the IoL online Library. Other legal sources will also be furnished in the future.

Over years of operation, several organisations have supported the development of AL MUQTAFI. Most notably, the World Bank, under the supervision of the Palestine Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR), Ford Foundation, French Government, the German Conrad Adenauer Stiftung, Australian Legal Resources, Belgian Consulate in Jerusalem, European Union (European Commission Office for Technical Assistance – West Bank and Gaza Strip), have all contributed a great deal to sponsor this endeavour. With the support of the MoJ Bureau of Legal Counsel and Legislation and under auspices of the Danish Government and its Representative Office to the PNA, AL MUQTAFI has been disseminated to Palestinian official institutions.

In addition, AL MUQTAFI entails a detailed guidebook on how to use the Legislation and Court Judgements Databases.