Gaza City, 12 November 2018 — Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has held an expert discussion on justice reform and unification in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The discussion was organized at Al Mezan’s main office in Gaza City and via video conference at the office of the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies (Masarat) in Ramallah. Participants were lawyers, academics, and civil society experts.
Mr. Basem Abu Jrai, from Al Mezan’s Technical Assistance and Advocacy unit, welcomed the participants and shared the objectives of the discussion. “Our goal is to explore the challenges to a reformed and unified justice system in the oPt,” Mr. Abu Jrai explained. “The internal division withstanding, we wish to discuss the role of the National Committee on Justice Sector Development (NCJSD) in driving effective reform, especially in light of the recommendations set forth in the Committee’s report on 5 September 2018.” Mr. Abu Jrai also expressed hope that the discussion would result in an agreed-upon vision of a reformed and unified judiciary in the oPt.
Mr. Alaa Al-Skafi, from Al Mezan’s Legal Aid unit, briefed participants on the current state of division within the Palestinian judicial authority, with one judicial council and one public persecution service in the West Bank and another in the Gaza Strip, each operating separately on its own with no joint coordination. “Justice reform and unification has not been listed on the internal Palestinian reconciliation agenda,” Mr. Al-Skafi explained. “Bilateral talks have not involved any discussion of the justice system nor of any of its elements. As such, instead of having a justice system that is strengthened, unified, and independent, it is left prone to politicization and exclusionary agenda.”
Mr. Al-Skafi went on to share critical points regarding the recommendations set by NCJSD: Failing to include representatives from the Gaza Strip, to meet the minimum justice reform needs demanded by civil society organizations, to address rulings and laws made during the period of internal division, and to discuss or propose practical solutions to the paramount challenge of division within the Palestinian judicial authority.
Next, participants discussed their ideas on the division within the justice system and on the work of NCJSD. All the participants agreed that the justice sector remains challenged, especially as it continues to be influenced by the executive authority. At the end, the following recommendations were set to improve the Palestinian judiciary:
The expert discussion is part of Al Mezan’s efforts towards a unified justice system in the oPt. Recalling the importance of the justice system as a means of protecting people’s rights and freedoms and of preserving public order and security as well as a basis for the rule of law and separation of powers, Al Mezan stresses that all stakeholders should collaborate in ensuring the Palestinian justice system is unified, independent, transparent, and effective.