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Ongoing Bar Association strike elicits solidarity of Palestinian society

Jerusalem24 – The Palestinian Bar Association refused to attend court today as part of ongoing measures protesting the enforcement of judicial amendments issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Association says the amendments carry “risks to justice and citizen dignity.”

Several hundred lawyers attended a protest in front of the Ministers’ Cabinet in Ramallah today. Riot police cordoned off the streets around the building, though no violence has been reported.

The strike comes as a continuation of measures initiated by the Association weeks ago, which also included a march to the Palestinian presidency headquarters in Ramallah, a sit-in in front of the Courts Complex in Ramallah, along with boycotting the courts on multiple occasions over the past few weeks.

The Association says that its activities constitute a refusal to “enforce decisions in the laws amending the procedural laws and the implementation law” issued by Abbas earlier this year.

The Association is protesting, amongst other legislative measures, allowing a court hearing to proceed without the presence of the defendant.

According to the Association, the essence of the problem in the amended procedural laws lies in the absence of guarantees of the right to litigation.

The defendant’s presence before a judge is paramount, so that the judge can not only monitor the integrity of the procedures, but also monitor the defendant’s safety from being subjected to torture, abuse or harsh punishment.

The new text essentially paves the way for political or “security” detainees to be transferred to Jericho’s Magistrate Court (where most prisoners are political detainees arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security Services) without a legal basis.

The new amendment facilitates preventing the defendant from appearing in court under different pretexts. The Association worries that if the detainee showed visible signs of torture, the amendments could be invoked to prevent the detainee from attending a court session.

The Association revealed earlier this month further measures they intend to take as part of their ongoing strike, including the “extreme measure” of engaging in civil disobedience and refusing to abide by the amendments, as well as issuing a general call for lawyers to collectively and voluntarily transfer to the registry of non-practicing lawyers.

Solidarity from Palestinian media and civil society

An increasing number of institutions have been expressing solidarity with the movement, including human rights organization Al-Haq.

Al-Haq says the closure of certain courts to lawyers engaging in peaceful protests, as well as the deployment of riot police around peaceful sit-ins, constitute “a violation of the constitutional right of lawyers and citizens in general to access justice and a violation of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and a violation of the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed for all in Palestinian Basic Law.”

Al-Haq says the amendments “have seriously affected the guarantees to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.”

A total of 15 Palestinian radio stations (including Jerusalem24’s sister station 24FM), as well as other media outlets, committed to continuous coverage of the sit-in taking place today in front of the Ministers’ Cabinet.

A poster announcing the initiative reads:

“As an Initiative by Palestinian journalists that have signed a statement in support and solidarity of the movement of the Palestine Bar Association against the implementation of the laws. A unified radio wave in support of the lawyers’ movement.”

A poster announcing the continuous media coverage in solidarity with the Bar Association’s ongoing strike. [Source: 24FM]

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