Use of Arabic in Israeli Courts.

HCJ 792/02, Adalah v. The Director of the Courts, et. al.

A petition was filed in 1/02 against the Director of the Courts, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General. The petition asked the Supreme Court to nullify instructions given by the Director of the Courts to the District, Magistrate and Labor Courts that they could no longer charge the state for translation expenses of proceedings and documents in civil cases. Adalah argued that this instruction is illegal, as Arabic is an official language of the state. The petition also demanded: (i) that the state provide a professional translation system, which will ensure prompt and accessible translation services for Arabic speakers during civil court proceedings; (ii) the establishment of a new court rule by which litigants may submit supporting documents to the court in Arabic; and (iii) that judges be required to inform litigants of their right to use Arabic during proceedings.

Result: As a result of the filing of the petition, in 2/02, the Director of the Courts rescinded the instruction, and issued a new one that provided that only in cases of clear need and when there was no other way of managing the hearings, courts could charge the state for translation expenses. At a hearing in 6/03, Adalah argued that the new instruction does not answer the petitioner’s demands, as it treats Arabic as a foreign language and not as an official language of the state. Adalah submitted affidavits from lawyers as well as court decisions proving that judges refuse to appoint translators and to charge these expenses to the state, but require the litigants in civil cases to pay for these services. The Supreme Court emphasized that in response to the petition, the Director of Courts had changed the original instruction, and that if Adalah wishes to challenge the new instruction it must first address the respondent with its arguments. Based on this, Adalah withdrew the petition. In 7/03, Adalah sent a letter to the Director of Courts requesting that the new instruction be rescinded.

(H.C. 792/02, Adalah v. The Director of the Courts, et. al., petition withdrawn).