The Department - Background
The Department for International Agreements and International Litigation was formed by a Government decision, in order to ensure the State's capacity to deal with the rapidly changing international realm.
The State of Israel, like other countries, is exposed to the impact of international law and supranational law on a vast range of issues. This exposure can emanate from international agreements to which Israel is a party, customary international law, norms created in regional groups, norms created by international conventions, norms created by international organizations, by large trading blocks, and more. Many issues previously dominated solely by domestic law, may be regulated or affected today, to a certain extent, by international law, supranational law, or otherwise. Furthermore, due to globalization, in some circumstances it may even be advisable for the State to seriously consider norms created in the international arena, to which it is not a party. There is a need for comprehensive professional attention to these issues, as they may affect many aspects of law and policy today.
The proliferation of international "Black Lists", monitoring mechanisms, verification committees, reporting obligations, NGO involvement, as well as the involvement of multilateral corporations, all create a reality which spotlights states in the International arena, with respect to many issues previously considered domestic. These issues must also be considered and addressed.
And while in the past, countries were generally reluctant to subject themselves to an agreed upon international dispute resolution mechanism, the last two decades have witnessed dramatic changes in this area as well. The last two decades have not only witnessed a proliferation of international dispute settlement mechanisms, but also a change in the attitude of states towards their application, whether voluntarily or not. As a result, today many international agreements contain not only monitoring mechanisms, but also strict, binding dispute settlement mechanisms, some similar in their nature and procedures to courts of law. These mechanisms require very careful attention at the negotiations stage. In addition, awareness of case law, procedures and evolvement are necessary at later stages.
This changed reality in the international arena necessitates a change in the way states deal with these matters. A new approach is required on a wide range of issues, from the beginning of negotiations towards international agreements, to participation in decision making bodies, to monitoring the international arena for current changes, or representation in international disputes.
The extraordinary development of international law and its direct ramifications on countries, as well as increased international enforcement in the civil and criminal fields, have forced countries to contend with these issues. It has become clear that countries need to form a serious, up to date approach to: international law and its ramifications, conducting negotiations in matters of international law, and representation of the state in disputes involving foreign parties. Countries have found the need to establish professional units able to deal with the explosion of issues arising today in the international arena. These professional units must work together with all government ministries since today, all government ministries are affected in one way or another by international developments and international law, and each ministry bears its share of responsibility, whether directly or indirectly, for some of these matters.
The department formed by the Israeli government at the Ministry of Justice, was designed to meet the aforementioned challenges in the area of international law. It is headed by Dr. Shavit Matias, Deputy Attorney General, and consists of professional lawyers, all holding an SJD or an LL.M. in a specialized area of International Law. The department is divided into two main divisions: The general international law and human rights division of the department is headed by Mr. Boaz Oren. The international economic law division of the department is headed by Mrs. Hila Echerman.
v The Department's Mandate
The department is predominantly responsible for the following matters:
· Providing ongoing advice on international law and policy matters.
· Legal counsel and participation in negotiations towards bilateral and multilateral agreements.
· Participation in relevant international forums.
· Representation of the State in all stages of a dispute, including before international dispute resolution mechanisms.
· Inter-ministerial coordination regarding proposed international obligations, to ensure they are compatible with internal Israeli law and overall policy.
· Coordination of the examination of a proposed agreement's compliance with international law, and examining the agreement's significance from an international law perspective.
· Coordination of internal legislation procedures, to the extent required, with regard to international aspects of law, in order to fulfill the obligations of an international agreement.
· Coordination, drafting, compilation and submission of reports that the State is required to submit to international organizations, bodies, countries and others.
· Presentation of Israel's reports before UN human rights bodies, as required by various international human rights instruments.
· Monitoring breaches of other countries' obligations towards the State of Israel, and coordinating legal recourse against such breaches.
· Comprehensive legal counseling, from the initial stage of an international dispute.
· Offering legal counsel to the different government ministries, on a regular basis, on any matter relating to negotiations and dispute resolution with international bodies.
· Inter-ministerial coordination when negotiations or disputes relate to several ministries simultaneously.
· Overseeing relations with foreign law firms, and supervising their work in connection with international disputes.
· Organization of seminars for legal advisers and employees of the legal departments of the government ministries, on topics including the drafting of international agreements, methods of negotiation with foreign entities, methods of international dispute resolution (including mediation and arbitration), decisions of international panels and foreign legal systems.
· Cooperation with other bodies in Israel and abroad for the development of international dispute resolution mechanisms.