Ref: 14/2016

For the 6th consecutive day, Dr. Najat Abu Baker, Member at the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from Fatah Parliamentary Bloc, has continued her sit-in inside the PLC headquarter in Ramallah in the West Bank after the Attorney General had issued an arrest warrant against her on grounds of statements she made accusing a minister of corruption. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) stresses that the arrest warrant was issued in violation of article 53 of the Palestinian Basic Law and calls upon the Attorney General to respect the law and revoke the arrest warrant.

In her statements to media, Dr. Abu Baker accused one of the ministers of corruption without mentioning his name. Following those statements, Prime Minister Dr. Rami al-Hamdallah asked Dr. Abu Baker to present all documents she had to support her accusations against one of the ministers, whom was involved in financial corruption. Although Dr. Abu Baker did not openly name the minister in question, Dr. Hussein al-‘Araj, Minister of Local Government, stated to media that he filed a complaint against Abu Baker and he would not drop it, requesting Abu Baker to present the documents she had to the judiciary.

Dr. Abu Baker had recourse to the PLC headquarter on Thursday, 25 February 2016, after she was informed by the Palestinian Police of the arrest warrant against her. As she has been on a sit-in in the PLC building, Abu Baker said to a PCHR’s fieldworker that she insists on her position as long as the case is not solved. Besides, she would not leave the PLC building unless the Palestinian Attorney General revokes the arrest warrant because it is unconstitutional. Abu Baker explained that the Palestinian security services deny news agencies access to the PLC and prevent interviewing her.

PCHR is concerned over this ongoing crisis and disregard for the Palestinian Basic Law, and stresses that:

Each of the PLC Members enjoys a procedural immunity, whereas no legal measure can be taken against him/her unless he/she commits a felony or after permission is given by the PLC. Moreover, PLC members cannot be censured for opinions they express regarding their parliamentary duties, as paragraphs (1) and (4) of article 53 of the Palestinian Basic Law provide:

“1. Council Members may not be questioned in civil or criminal proceedings due to opinions they express, facts they mention, their voting in Council sessions or committee meetings, or because of any action they undertake outside the Council in the course of performing their parliamentary duties.”

“4. No penal measures shall be taken against any Member of the Legislative Council unless a Member is found red-handed in the commission of a crime.  The Council shall be notified immediately about measures taken against a Member so that the Council may decide upon its proper course of action in the matter.  The Office of the Council shall assume this responsibility if the Council is not in session.”

PCHR denounces the Attorney General’s decision to arrest Abu Baker, and:

  1. Calls upon the Attorney General to immediately revoke the arrest warrant and abide by the Basic Law; and
  2. Calls upon the Palestinian President to intervene in order to ensure the PLC’s independency and the PLC members’ right to practice their parliamentary duties.