The current situation in Palestine is to a large extent shaped by the Middle East conflict, ie the conflict between the Palestinian and Jewish people over the territory of the British Mandate Palestine, a conflict that began in the 1880’s and continues to this day.
History & State
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly decided to partition Palestine. The 1,364,000 Palestinians were granted 42.88% of the total area of the British Mandate, and the 608,000 Jews 56.47% of the land. The international zone of Jerusalem should make up 0.65% of the area.
According to Article 84 of the Constitution, the Palestinian security forces and the police are bound by the law and have to respect civil rights and freedoms. However, this is not always the case. Palestinian Authority security forces arrested hundreds of people, mostly Hamas supporters, in the West Bank in 2007/2008. On the other hand, the security forces of the Hamas administration in Gaza have arrested hundreds of alleged Fatah supporters. Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas- Forces seldom comply with Palestinian law that arrests must be reviewed by a prosecutor within 24 hours and a judge within 72 hours. Prisoners’ right to immediate access to legal counsel is regularly ignored. There are political prisoners who are held in custody for several weeks or even months. In addition, inmates report torture and ill-treatment in Palestinian prisons.
Time and again, Palestinian security forces disregard the right to freedom of expression and assembly. On June 13, 2018, they used violence – some in civilian clothes – against peaceful demonstrators who were demonstrating against the sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza Strip. Journalists were attacked and forcibly prevented from reporting. Dozens of people were arrested, including a worker from Amnesty International’s Jerusalem office who was there to monitor the protests, and beaten in custody.
According to CANCERMATTERS, on March 12, 2017, peaceful demonstrators were attacked by Palestinian security forces with batons, pepper spray and tear gas. At least 21 people, including four journalists who covered the event, were injured. Seventeen people were treated in the hospital.
However, the work of the Palestinian security services and the police is also hampered by the Israeli army, for example during the Gaza war in December 2008 they bombed all prisons and detention centers in Gaza.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian police are only responsible for security in the A areas, ie in 17.2% of the area, but only during the day. Between midnight and 6 a.m., the Israeli military is in charge there. The very limited competence of the Palestinian security forces means that numerous Palestinian villages in areas B and C organize night vigils themselves to protect themselves from the actions of violent Israeli settlers.
Legal security is made more difficult in Palestine by the fact that elements of Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Egyptian, Israeli (Israeli military regulations) and Palestinian law (since 1994) still coexist. In addition, common law and religious law (particularly family law) are applied in Palestine. In addition, tribal justice is used again and again.
It is also the case that the decisions of the Palestinian Supreme Court are not always implemented.
In July 2019, President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the West Bank High Judicial Council (HJC) on the grounds that it had failed to halt the decline of the judiciary and replaced it for one year with a High Judicial Council for the transition period.
The HJC appoints the judges for approval by the President of the Palestinian Authority and oversees the judicial system. It was created in 2002 to improve the independence of judges, to ensure the transparency and efficiency of their work, to optimize processes and to facilitate the handling of cases.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned the dissolution of the HJC by the Palestinian President as blatant interference in the affairs of the judiciary and its independence and as a violation of the principle of separation of powers, which is codified in Article 98 of the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003.
The dispute between Fatah and Hamas also affects the judiciary. After the split, the Palestinian Authority banned former members of the judiciary (and also the security forces) from working for the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip. Instead, they were paid by the Palestinian Authority without working. Hamas hired replacement prosecutors and judges, who often did not have the appropriate training and qualifications for the tasks.
On February 8, 2016, President Mahmoud Abbas signed the long-awaited Youth Protection Act, which meets modern international standards and focuses on the protection and reintegration of minor offenders rather than their punishment. It also provides for the establishment of juvenile courts and special units in the police, public prosecutor’s office and judges to deal with young people who have come into conflict with the law.