In a solemn ceremony bearing the name of Human Rights Activist and Freedom Fighter Bassam al-Aqra’a, on Tuesday, 10 April 2018, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a graduation ceremony for young lawyers in the field of human rights and trial advocacy before Sharia courts. The ceremony, which was attended by 174 female and male lawyers from different cities in the Gaza Strip, organized a ceremony in Rashad al-Sahawa Cultural Center Hall in Gaza City with the participation of 300 figures from civil society organizations; political parties; national and Islamic factions; journalists, academics and human rights activists in addition to the family of late Bassam al-Aqra’a.
Dr. Riyadh al-Za’noun, Chairman of PCHR’s Board of Directors, opened the ceremony and welcomed the audience. He appreciated the pioneering role of Bassam al-Aqra’a during his career in the field of disseminating and promoting the culture of human rights.
Lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, introduced Bassam as a human who had struggled against the Israeli forces from the very young age by volunteering to accompany press and solidarity delegations visiting the Gaza Strip so they convey the real image of the Palestinian human’s suffering under the Israeli occupation and expose the systematic practices, measures and violations of the basic human rights against the Palestinian human, particularly during the First so-called “Stone” Intifada in 1987. A Japanese journalist then decided to film a 3-hour documentary on the family of Bassam al-Aqra’a, setting an example for the Palestinian People’s suffering under the occupation. Through the documentary, he monitored the daily suffering and documented the Israeli measures and violations against workers, peasants, students, and all society’s segments in the period from 1986 and 2003.
Sourani added that in 1993 Bassam al-Aqra’a started his activism in the field of defending human rights within Gaza Center for Rights and Law where he worked as a fieldworker monitoring and documenting the violations against the Palestinian human. Sourani said that in 1995, he worked along with lawyers and fieldworkers to establish PCHR where he worked first as a fieldworker but then became the Head of PCHR’s Training Unit until he died. He added, “Bassam worked on more than one level and place and was the engine of PCHR for 25 years. I disagreed with Bassam but was never upset with him and that was very rare. He was known for his high morals and famous beautiful smile. He had unprecedented human tolerance.
In his speech on behalf of friendly human rights and civil society organizations, ‘Issam Matter, Director of al-Mezan, said that, “death has many meanings, but this time was different. It is difficult to find words to mourn a friend, colleague and bother in past tense. Bassam was always active, vital and committed; spreading joy and giving wherever he went; and was stubborn when defending the right and those oppressed in a time many gave up their principle and changed their positions. Bassam devoted his life, time and efforts for the service of our people and steadfast in the field.”
On behalf al-Aqra’a Family, Ghassan al-Aqra’a, brother of Bassam, praised PCHR’s role in exposing the Israeli crimes, emphasizing Bassam had the honor to be a staff member of this organization. He added, “About the human Bassam, who lived in Jabalia refugee camp, was always a good companion, friend and brother. He was an idol to me and to all his family members.” At the end of his speech, Ghassan stressed that right is neither given nor begged but grabbed, calling upon all Bassam’s students whom he taught this principle to pursue his path of exposing Israeli crimes until the Palestinian people enjoy their right to self-determination.
In his speech on behalf of the graduate lawyers, Mahmoud Mohammed appreciated PCHR’s distinctive role in improving the efficiency of those participants in the field of human rights and trial advocacy before Sharia courts. He added that the training courses he organized were distinguished with their rich topics, thanking PCHR for its role and calling upon it to hold further similar courses which enhance and enable young lawyers in all legal fields.
During the ceremony, a documentary was screened on the life journey of late Bassam al-Aqra’a in the field of defending human rights for 30 years.
Raji Sourani then handed PCHR’s honorary shield to the family of late Bassam that was received by his children, ‘Ali and Carmel. Moreover, his brother Ghassan received another shield, noting that PCHR grants this shield to honor those who left an indelible mark in the service of society.
At the end of the ceremony, 174 graduate female and male young lawyers received their certificates.
It should be mentioned that PCHR is the first human rights organization in Palestine that hold such kind of courses as PCHR has accumulated great experience of long years in the field of Personal Status Law and trial advocacy before Sharia Courts to defend women who are victims of violence.