PCHR welcomes the Minister of Justice’s recent decision to abolish state security courts
PCHR welcomes the decision
taken by the Palestinian Authority Minister of Justice to abolish state
security courts and transfer their authorities to regular courts. PCHR believes that this step will contribute
to the promotion of the independence of the Palestinian judiciary and calls
upon the Palestinian President to issue a decree to entirely abolish the courts
and cancel presidential decree 49 (1995) which established the courts.
On 27 July 2003, the
Palestinian Minster of Justice ‘Abdul Karim Abu Salah issued a decision
abolishing state security courts and prosecution, transferring the authority to
regular courts and the Attorney-General.
Also according to the decision, state security court records will be
transferred to the Attorney-General. The
decision came into effect on the date of issuance and was published in the
Palestinian Authority’s official gazette.
The State Security Courts
constituted an obstacle to the efforts made to promote independence of the
judiciary and institutional reform within the Palestinian Authority. Procedures followed in these courts
contradicted the principles of fair trials and appropriate legal procedures.
Among other things, the trials were summary, the accused were not given
adequate time to prepare their defense and technical reports issued by
independent bodies, such as criminal or forensic laboratories, were not
permitted. State security courts also undermined the principle of separation of
authorities, since they were established by the executive and its judges were
members of Palestinian security services.
The state security courts were
established in February 1995, by Presidential Decree 49; a move that was
strongly criticized by PCHR and other human rights organizations. Since the
establishment of the courts, PCHR has consistently called for their abolition,
receiving strong support from all segments of Palestinian civil society.
In November 1999, instead of
abolishing these courts, the Palestinian President decided to appoint a state
security court attorney general, which undermined the powers of the Attorney
General in the Palestinian Authority.
As part of the process of reform
in the Palestinian Authority, on 26 December 2002, the Palestinian President
issued a decree that acted, inter alia, to merge the state security
prosecution office with the general civilian prosecution office. PCHR considered that the decree was not
enough, recommending that what was actually required was the total abolition of
the state security courts due to their inherently un-constitutional nature.
PCHR welcomes the decision
taken by the Minister of Justice to abolish state security courts and considers
it a triumph for the rule of law and a step towards promoting the independence
of the judiciary. PCHR reiterates its
call upon the Palestinian President to issue a decree abolishing these courts. PCHR also calls for the Minster of Justice to
reconsider the sentences handed down by these courts and transfer the cases to
the civil courts.