Palestinian lawyers ramp-up protest in Ramallah against PA's law amendments by decree
Palestinian lawyers observed a one-day strike on Monday, with hundreds of lawyers and other Palestinians participating in a protest in Ramallah, as part of the civil disobedience tactics called for by the Palestinian Bar Association against creating laws or amendments through decrees by the Palestinian Authority, most recently on the judicial procedures law.
In March, the PA modified by presidential decree three laws concerning penal procedures, civil and commercial judiciary procedures and executive procedures.
The amendments shorten the period for appeals on judiciary rulings, increase court fees, and grant special protection from judicial prosecution to members of the public force, except with written authorisation by the public prosecution.
The Palestinian High Judicial Council, representing the PA's judicial branch, had been in discussions dialogued with the Palestinian Bar Association, which opposes the amendments. Lawyers began a series of protests against the amendments in early July after the discussions hit a dead end.
"The entire method of making law by decree is unlawful, and these amendments, in particular, affect ordinary people's rights," Isam Abdeen, a Ramallah-based lawyer and human rights activist, told The New Arab.
"They make access to justice even more difficult to people with limited resources, and weaken the judicial system, giving even greater monopoly of power to the executive branch, the government and the president," noted Abdeen.
"The PA's judicial powers have tried to get around the matter by offering minor modifications to the amendment decrees, but what is required is the complete abolition of the amendment decree," he stressed.
The Palestinian High Judicial Council said last week that it had held a meeting, under instructions of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, with the president of the Bar Association representing Palestinian lawyers, including the Palestinian Justice Minister, and listened to the lawyers' objections to the amendments.
According to the statement, the Judicial Council decided, following the meeting, to suspend the implementation of part of the amendments until September and introduce modifications.
"What we as lawyers are demanding is to open the discussion on the amendments, and all laws by decree to public debate with the participation of all of the Palestinian society," remarked Abdeen.
"This is the current solution, in absence of a legislative body, but the real solution must be to hold elections to have an elected, active legislative council that would review all laws by decree and resume the normal law-making process," he added.
The Palestinian legislative council, the PA's legislative body for the occupied Palestinian territories, has been inactive since the Palestinian political split between Fatah and Hamas in 2007 and Israel's arrest of many elected lawmakers. In 2018, the Palestinian constitutional court officially dissolved the council.
Palestinians were scheduled to elect a new council in May 2021. Palestinian president called off elections a month before the due date until Israel allows Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote.