All Parties Must Uphold the Civilian Judicial System, PCHR Warns against the Ramifications of the Current Crisis on the Judicial Authority in the Gaza Strip
Date: 23 June 2007
Time: 12:00 GMT
All Parties Must Uphold the Civilian Judicial System
PCHR Warns against the Ramifications of the Current Crisis on the Judicial Authority in the Gaza Strip
PCHR expresses grave concern over the continued deterioration in the state of the civilian judicial system in the Gaza Strip in light of the Hamas decision to resolve the issue militarily, and the subsequent takeover by its military branch of security establishments and effective control of the entire Gaza Strip. The Centre calls upon the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to take immediate steps to resume the work of the civilian judicial system, and to establish independence of the judiciary under all circumstances. These steps are essential for the welfare of the Palestinian civilians who are paying the price of the current crisis. In addition, these steps are needed to thwart any efforts to establish alternative judicial bodies if the civilian judicial system is ineffective.
The last few days have witnessed developments that have hindered the judicial system, especially in the Gaza Strip. The most notable developments after 15 June 2007 are:
1- Decision by the Director-General of the Police to suspend the work of the police force in the Gaza Strip. The decision suspended the work of key law-enforcement bodies including organizing traffic, pursuit of criminals, supervision of prisons and detention centers, and other key functions.
2- Suspension of the work of the Attorney-General, who is responsible under the law for public cases. According to the Amended Palestinian Basic Law, the Attorney-General is responsible for public cases in the name of the Arab Palestinian people. And the Attorney-General is responsible for investigating crimes and lodging and pursuing criminal cases.
3- Decision by the Palestinian Bar Association to suspend work in the Gaza Strip from 16 June 2007 till the end of the week.
These developments have effectively paralyzed the judicial system throughout the past week. Although lawyers resumed work on 23 June 2007, the judicial system only reviews civilian cases. However, all cases where the PNA, represented by the Attorney-General, is a party are suspended because of the suspension of work of the Attorney-General and his assistants. This has affected cases in the High Court where the PNA is a party as well as penal cases.
In light of these developments, PCHR:
– Calls for the regular functioning of the civilian judicial system, and stresses the necessity of its independence under all circumstances, especially the current crisis, in order to uphold the interests of the civilian population.
– Views the obstruction of the work of the judicial system as a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.
– Warns that stopping the work of the civilian judicial system will give an excuse to form alternative judicial systems in the Gaza Strip, which will be a severe blow to the civilian judicial system, civilian life, and the interests of the civilian population.
– Calls upon the Attorney-General to immediately resume the work of his office in the Gaza Strip regardless of the political situation. The Centre stresses that the Attorney-General’s post is not a political function, and must be kept out of the current political crisis in order to uphold the lives, interests, and properties of the civilian population.
– Calls for the return of the police force to work throughout the Gaza Strip as a law-enforcement body. It is noted that the police force was not a party in the crisis and maintained its professional function throughout the fighting.
– Strongly condemns the attacks against the buildings of the judicial system, including the Court Building in Khan Yunis and the Office of the Attorney-General that were vandalized by gunmen or civilians.