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Institute of Law holds legal encounter titled “Legal and Rights-Based Aspects of Enforcing Prepayment Electricity Meters in the Gaza Strip”

Institute of Law holds legal encounter titled “Legal and Rights-Based Aspects of Enforcing Prepayment Electricity Meters in the Gaza Strip”

With the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Institute of Law at Birzeit University organized a legal encounter under the title “Legal and Rights-Based Aspects of Enforcing Prepayment Electricity Meters in the Gaza Strip.” Held on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, the encounter featured Mohammad Al-Telbani as main guest speaker. The event was attended by a number of human rights activists, lawyers and individuals from the general public.

Al-Telbani initiated his presentation with an in-depth explanation of the international and national protection to the Right to Electricity. He discussed the legal framework regulating the electricity service in Palestine, which comprises a number of laws and decisions, some of which are old and others are modern, such as Law No. 12 of 1995, which established the Palestinian Energy Authority and defined its tasks and functions. In addition to the General Electricity Law and the Renewable Energy Law, other examples include the Palestinian Local Authorities Law No. 1 of 1997, one of the first laws issued by the Palestinian Legislative Council. It defined the functions of the Local Government Units, including supplying citizens with electricity and setting prices within Ministry limits. Additionally, Al-Telbani noted that the main objective of the General Electricity Law of 2009 is to regulate and develop the electricity sector in Palestine and to encourage local and foreign investment in the sector to provide sufficient energy at the lowest prices by establishing the Palestinian Electricity Regulatory Council, a legal entity with financial and administrative independence. Established by a decision from the Council of Ministers, he maintained, the Palestinian Electricity Regulatory Council protects the rights of consumers and prevents forging monopolies.

Al-Telbani then talked about the reality of the electricity sector in the Gaza Strip. He explained that electricity is supplied from three sources: the Israeli lines, which provide up to 120 MW; the Egyptian lines, which have the capacity of 20 MW; and the Gaza Power Plant, a diesel-fired power station that was established in 1999 in the South of Gaza City and commenced operation in 2002. Al-Telbani also highlighted the problems facing the electricity sector in Gaza, such as the insufficiency of energy supply to match the level of demand, the lack of development in the electricity sector and the decadence of the electricity infrastructure despite a 7% growth in electricity consumption due to the expansion of population as well as commercial projects in Gaza. He added that, for the past 17 years, the electricity sector has been operating according to a very restricted power supply schedule, while undergoing increasing hours of power cuts.

At the end of his intervention, Al-Telbani discussed different aspects of the installment of prepayment electricity meters in Gaza. He explained that, as an alternative to old traditional meters, these smart meters were installed by the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation for tens of thousands of families in the Gaza strip under the protection of the police. Despite a strong disapproval from the public, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation continues to install these meters across various areas and neighborhoods in Gaza. These new procedures raise a number of issues and challenges that violate individual rights but, at the same time, achieve some benefits, including reducing electricity waste by obliging citizens to conserve electricity and enhancing the financial capacity of the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation.

It also solves the longstanding issue of a significant portion of the public defaulting on electricity bills.

The legal encounter concluded with an open discussion that featured many interventions and recommendations, including the necessity of transparency in the electricity field; the necessity of curbing atmospheres that encourage monopolies, conflicts of interest and coercive measures in view of the lack of series attempts to match the increasing electricity demand; and the significance of pursuing comprehensive development that aligns with the citizen needs. This includes ensuring equal access to electricity to all citizens and safeguarding their basic rights in light of the absence of social justice and the deteriorating living conditions of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families in Gaza.


Institute of Law in Gaza holds a legal encounter on 'The Compatibility of the Draft Personal Status Law with Women's Rights in Gaza

Institute of Law in Gaza holds a legal encounter on 'The Compatibility of the Draft Personal Status Law with Women's Rights in Gaza'

On Wednesday 5 April 2023, the Institute of Law at Birzeit University organized a legal encounter with lawyers and representatives from women's institutions in Gaza entitled "The Compatibility of the Draft Personal Status Law with Women's Rights in Gaza." The speaker of the encounter was Ms. Zainab Al-Ghanimi, Director of the Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consulting.

The meeting was opened by Ms. Lina Al-Tunisi, administrative coordinator of the Institute of Law in Gaza, who welcomed the attendees and introduced the “legal encounters” program of Birzeit University.

Ms. Al-Ghanimi then spoke about the work of the Civil Coalition, which includes fourteen women's and human rights organizations and activists, in addition to a number of legal figures. Driven by community engagement and social responsibility, the coalition seeks to adjust the personal status law in Gaza, in order to overcome the challenges facing women’s rights and access to justice. These adjustments include raising the age of custody of children to 18 years, raising the age of marriage, and enacting the Khula law that grants women the right to terminate their marriage. The speaker explained that the draft Personal Status Law, which is awaiting approval by the Legislative Council, currently covers approximately 75% of the demands of the women's movement, but there are still issues that need to be amended or included.

With regards to the positive aspects of the Draft, she highlighted Articles 5 and 10, which outline the definition and conditions of marriage, indicating that it is the first time marriage laws have been defined in Gaza. She also said that the new regulations, whereby the court has to notify the first wife or wives if the husband signs a new marriage contract, constitutes “affirmative action” in favour of women. Other positive developments relate to separation due to harm, such as in cases where divorce is granted when the husband suffers from any defect - provided that the wife returns the dowry-, or when the husband is infertile, in which case women can obtain the divorce after five years of marriage. However, she noted that infertility should be proven by medical reports rather than being linked to a certain period of time.  

As for the problematic issues in the Draft, Ms. Al-Ghanimi pointed to the third chapter of the Draft Law, which requires maiden women, regardless of their age, to obtain the approval of their guardian in order to get married. This suggests women lack capacity and contradicts personal status laws in other countries, where the guardian’s approval is only required in the case of minors.


The meeting ended with a lively discussion in which many interventions and recommendations were made. The importance of the amendments was highlighted, including  the implementation of affirmative action in favour of women in separation issues, raising the age of child custody to 15 years, raising the age of marriage to 18 years, and khul' (divorce initiated by the wife) in exchange for financial compensation. Participants emphasized the need to have a societal discussion of the draft law with the participation of all women's and human rights institutions, as well as Family Courts, to ensure that there is consultation and awareness about the law before it is enacted.

The Reality of Working Women's Participation in Justice Facilities

On Wednesday, 18 May 2022, the Institute of Law (IoL) of Birzeit University held a legal encounter on The Reality of Working Women's Participation in Justice Facilities. Bringing together a number of lawyers, members of the legal community, and female police officers, the presentation was made by Dr. Mohammed Suleiman Shubeir, Associate Professor of Administrative Law at the Faculty of Law, Al-Azhar University.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Lina al-Tounisi, Coordinator of the IoL Gaza Office, welcomed the speaker and audience and made a briefing note about the Birzeit Legal Encounters Programme. Dr. Shubeir discussed the role and impact of female staff members of justice facilities in the Gaza Strip on maintaining the privacy of women when they listen and provide legal advice to these women. Dr. Shubeir stressed the importance and role of female lawyers in women’s access to justice.

Dr. Shubeir addressed three issues. Firstly, in relation to the reality of working women’s participation in police and security services, positive engagement with the cases of battered women requires the participation of women working in justice facilities of all kinds. This support starts with recruiting female police officers who could deal with women, both as complaints and defendants, ensuring their privacy, providing all comforts, giving confidence, and encouraging them to move forward to access justice. In this context, Dr. Shubeir highlighted that what was needed was not a women’s police force. Rather, the tasks and powers of the Family and Children Departments at police stations should be enhanced and promoted. He indicated that women’s representation in the police service was low.

Secondly, on women’s participation in the Public Prosecution, Dr. Shubeir showed that there were five or six female assistants to prosecutors. Compared to 75 male prosecutors, there is not a single female prosecutor. Female presence in the Public Prosecution is a key requirement for access to justice in gender based cases. This is a constitutional requirement, which has a positive bearing on women. The absence of female investigators, criminologists, and judicial officers will negatively impact female complainants and defendants. On the other hand, male investigators find it extremely difficult to understand women’s psychology. When they feel embarrassed in some cases, women’s psychological condition drives them to take a passive attitude without hesitation.

Thirdly, Dr. Shubeir explored the impact of women’s participation in the judiciary on women’s right to legal recourse and access to justice. There are only two female judges out of 70 judges in Gaza. Procedures for applications for judicial office have made it difficult for women to be appointed as judges. Women are absent from courts. Court proceedings are so critical as they culminate in decisive judgements, which put an end to disputes and cases. As a consequence, women are deprived of their rights in cases to which they are parties. Female judges may, therefore, provide a crucial factor to support women. Female judges have the skill of recognising body language as well as drawing statements and facts. Dr. Shubeir made clear that the very low presence of women in the justice sector components was attributed to the nature of the patriarchal society of Gaza and to the way advertisements for judicial posts are drafted. In addition to the religious nature of the community, the public have recourse to informal (tribal) judicial system in some cases in general, and in cases involving women in particular. This was one of the key reasons that cause women to refrain from applying for judicial posts at different legal facilities.

Many interventions and recommendations were made in ensuing discussion. Most importantly, the principle of women’s access to justice needs to be consolidated by putting in place mandatory constitutional provisions. Effective laws should be amended to preserve the rights of women, including complainants, addressees of complaints, litigants, and defendants. In addition to defending themselves as they desire, women will be enable to make statements in full freedom and without hesitation. To this avail, women will be strongly visible throughout justice sector facilities. In particular, when they defend themselves in certain cases, women need to be heard by fellow women in issues of privacy and gender.

Institute of Law at Birzeit University organizes legal encounter titled “The Impact of Recent Judicial Decisions on the Rights of Retirees Enrolled in the Palestinian Pension Agency in the Gaza Strip.”








 On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, the Institute of Law at Birzeit University with support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation organized a legal encounter titled “The Impact of Recent Judicial Decisions on the Rights of Retirees Enrolled in the Palestinian Pension Agency in the Gaza Strip.” The event featured Hazem Haniyeh, coordinator of the Monitoring of National Legislations and Policies Department at the Independent Commission for Human Rights, as a main speaker and was attended by a number of human rights activists, lawyers and retirees.

The event was opened by Lina Al-Tunisi, administrative coordinator at the Institute of Law in Gaza, who welcomed the attendees and introduced the Birzeit Legal Encounters program.

Haniyeh provided an overview of the laws issued by the former Palestinian Legislative Council and the Change and Reform Bloc in Gaza as well as the decree-laws issued by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

 He noted that 98 laws enacted by the Palestinian Legislative Council between 1996 and 2006 and 395 decree-laws enacted between 2007 and 2022 are implemented in the West Bank. On the other hand, Haniyeh explained, Gaza has enacted 82 laws issued by the Change and Reform Bloc in the Legislative Council from 2006 to 2021, emphasizing the multitude of legislations enforced since the Fatah-Hamas split.

He also touched on the recent judicial decisions issued by the Supreme Administrative Court in the Gaza Strip, which oblige the Palestinian Pension Agency to resume the payment of the pension to a number of retirees following its suspension after they obtained a new professional role (membership in the Palestinian Legislative Council) and received employee benefits. Haniyeh also addressed the Palestinian Pension Agency’s decision to suspend its services to all pensioners in Gaza, pending the implementation of these judicial decisions.

Haniyeh also elaborated on the role of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in following up with the cases and compliances of retirees and offering legal services, pointing out that the commission followed up with their cases, contacted relevant authorities in the Palestinian Pension Agency and arrived to a judicial settlement regarding pending issues.

He also addressed the system of laws that regulate the rights and duties of retirees, highlighting key amendments to these laws. Haniyeh elaborated on Article 14 of Decree Law No. 29 of 2018, amending the General Pension Law No. 7 of 2005 that provides for the inadmissibility of combining two pensions. The new amendment stipulates that the assets of the Pension Committee are administratively and legally separate from that of the Public Treasury. It also allows for combining the pension for the period admissible for retirement with any other salary, pointing out that the enforcement of these laws is selective, as not all these amendments are enforced in Gaza.

  In conclusion, he emphasized the role and position of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in asserting that retirees' rights are guaranteed by law, as long as the employee enrolled in the committee has met the legal requirements and contributed to the pension fund, it is incumbent upon the Palestinian Pension Agency or any relevant entity to fulfill their assigned role.  

 At the end of the legal encounter, an open discussion that featured many interventions and recommendations took place. They emphasized the significance of addressing the repercussions of the legal and administrative division, as it undermines the rights of individuals and employees. They also stressed the need to avoid conflating collective decisions with individual cases and to maintain the independence of institutions.

Protection of Palestinian Content on Social Media: Between Rights and Law

On Thursday, 25 October 2022, the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University held a legal encounter titled “Protection of Palestinian Content on Social Media: Between Rights and Law.” Bringing together lawyers, members of the legal community and interested persons, the presentation was organized by lawyer and human rights activist Sa’id Abdullah.

In his opening statement, Rami Murad, Administrative Assistant at the Centre for Development Studies, made a briefing note about the Birzeit Legal Encounters Programme. After he made clear the definition of social media content, Abdullah explained the objectives of social media users, including increasing followers, self-marketing, commercialising products, raising issues of interest to the public, making new friends and communicating with others. Abdullah highlighted the importance of Palestinian content on social media networks. Like other users, particularly those who value freedom around the world, social media became a turning point in the lives of Palestinians. In 2021, outward interaction with Palestinian issues reached a peak during the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip.

Turning to the right to opinions and expression under international human rights conventions and Palestinian regulations, Abdullah stated that Palestine could now approach various international instruments after it was granted United Nations non-member observer state status in 2012. These instruments include core international conventions on human rights and optional protocols. Accordingly, Palestine is under additional national obligations to ensure respect, protection and full realisation of fundamental rights and freedoms provided by these international conventions. Abdullah also provided an overview of key international conventions that emphasise freedom of opinion and expression. Also, under the Title on Public Rights and Freedoms, Palestinian Basic Law lays the legal foundation for exercising freedom of expression.

Abdullah presented on violations of Palestinian content rights by the Israeli occupying authorities. Israel persecutes Palestinian social media users. Israeli high-tech digital surveillance views every Palestinian as both a suspect and a target. Palestinian activists are also affected by publication bans effective immediately after posting news stories or use keywords related to Palestinian resistance. As a result, some activists have lost their years-old accounts. At the same time, Israel operates 27 surveillance corporations. At the end of his presentation, Abdullah stressed the need to challenge digital surveillance and ensure protection of Palestinian content on social media.

Many interventions and recommendations were made in the ensuing discussion. Most notably, it was noted that corporations should be aware that international law is the global standard guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression. This right is not safeguarded by individual interests, laws or states. Laws that maintain digital rights need to be respected. States and corporations will be held responsible for the violations they commit. Palestinian civil society organisations, digital rights activists and media representatives must step up efforts, monitor impingements on Palestinian digital rights online and report violations to independent oversight mechanisms and social media corporations


The Health Rights of Gaza Patients and Patient Transfers

On Thursday, 21 April 2022, the Institute of Law (IoL) held a legal encounter on The Health Rights of Gaza Patients and Patient Transfers. Bringing together members of the legal community, academics, and interested persons, the presentation was made by Mr. Ala’ as-Skafi, Director of the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights, and Dr. Osama Bal’awi, a health consultant.

In her opening statement, Ms. Lina al-Tounisi, Coordinator of the IoL Gaza Office, welcomed the speakers and audience and made a briefing note about the Birzeit Legal Encounters Programme. As-Skafi explained the definition of the concept of health in International Humanitarian Law and right to health under Palestinian laws. The Palestinian Basic Law does not address the right to health directly. Instead, Article 10 of the Basic Law provides for compliance with fundamental human rights and freedoms. Accordingly, the Palestinian Authority will work without delay to accede to international conventions and declarations, which provide protection to human rights. As-Skafi demonstrated that the Palestinian Public Health Law No. 20 of 2004 assigns a set of tasks to the Ministry of Health (MoH), particularly maternal and child care, control of diseases and pandemics, quarantine, hospital, and clinic services. However, the law does not address important aspects, including the provision of health insurance and issues relating to the older population and people with disabilities.

As-Skafi elaborated on the 2000 General Comment No. 14 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The interpretation of the right to health comprises interrelated and essential elements, namely, availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of health care services. Finally, As-Skafi stressed the continuing complexities and obstacles, which face patients, constitute a violation of the right to health, run counter to the principle of progressive realisation of the right to health under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and contradict the Palestinian National Health Strategy 2017-2022.

In his presentation, Bal’awi addressed the concept of specialised treatment and department of service purchase (treatment outside MoH facilities). The MoH is committed to working jointly with all partners to scale up and improve performance, and ensure professional management, of the health sector. The Palestinian government has put in place the patient transfer system to make up for shortfalls at governmental health facilities as well as the lack of medical experience, devices, and equipment, including specialties of the medical profession and ability of medical facilities to accommodate patients. This way, gaps are bridged by the purchase of medical services from local health providers outside the MoH, including private, civil society, or charitable health institutions. Also, medical services can be purchased from other countries in case they are unavailable at local health centres.

Simple cases are transferred to local hospitals in the Gaza Strip as well as to national hospital, which require that patients cross the Beit Hanun (Erez) crossing point. These include the An-Najah hospital in Nablus and Al-Makassed and Augusta Victoria hospitals in Jerusalem. Patients whose treatment is not available in the Gaza Strip are transferred to hospitals inside the Green Line, including the Hadassah Ein Karem, Tel HaShomer hospitals, etc. Bal’awi made an overview of the total number of annual patient transfers. In 2019, patient transfers totalled 104,881. Representing a decrease of 23.7 percent, 80,020 patients were transferred to health centres outside MoH facilities in 2020.

Bal’awi indicated that the period required for the approval of a patient transfer application ranges from two to three weeks. In the meantime, an appointment is made, taking into account the availability of medical services or procedures. The cost of patient transfers is mostly covered by 100 percent. On the other hand, patients contribute 5 percent to the cost of other services. Patients and their families cover indirect costs, including companions, transportation, and accommodation.

Many interventions and recommendations were made in ensuing discussion. Most notably, an integrated set of health services needs to be provided, including medical specialties for which patient transfers are needed most, such as cancer, heart surgery, and cardiac catheterisation, at MoH or private hospitals. The Palestinian health system will be improved and capacity building provided to medical institutions. Qualified medical staff will be recruited to train physicians in the Gaza Strip. Medical teams will be dispatched on external missions for rehabilitation and then return to work at local hospitals.

Workshop at Birzeit University’s Institute of Law Explores Legal Aspects of Information Technology

Workshop at Birzeit University’s Institute of Law Explores Legal Aspects of Information Technology

Birzeit University's Institute of Law (IoL) held a workshop on Wedenesday, May 10, 2023 on "Law and Information Technology." The workshop was a key event within the IoL’s Legal Encounters programme and the Master's programme in Law and Information Technology. Its primary objective was to illuminate the intersection between technology usage and legal principles. Distinguished experts, including academics, advisors, researchers, and students actively participated in this gathering.

The workshop commenced with an opening address by Ms. Reem Al-Butmeh, Director of the Institute of Law. Al-Butmeh warmly welcomed the speakers and attendees, underscoring the workshop's significance in tackling a novel topic: the legal dimensions of technology usage. The workshop sought to delve into prominent legal issues arising from the practical application of technology, such as digital evidence, e-government services, access rights, privacy, and the freedom of digital information exchange. Ultimately, it aimed to provide a comprehensive and multi-faceted perspective on the legal challenges posed by technology in Palestine.

Facilitated by Jamil Salem, the workshop's first session centered around the criminal justice system and the role of digital evidence in electronic crimes. Attorney Sufyan Abu Zuhairah, Head of Public Prosecution: Cybercrime Prosecution Unit, shed light on accessing digital evidence in electronic crimes. He emphasized the Cybercrime Prosecution's crucial role in the investigation process and the presentation of digital evidence to the court, in accordance with existing legislation.

Mr. Samir Al-Hindi, Director of the Police Cyber-Crimes Unit, delved into the technical aspects of identifying digital evidence in electronic crimes. He highlighted the procedures for handling digital evidence and illustrated real-life cases handled by the E-Forensic Laboratory. Furthermore, he addressed the primary challenges encountered when dealing with digital evidence in Palestine.

Dr. Mohammed Khanafsa, a lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at Birzeit University, discussed standard procedures for processing and preserving digital evidence. He expounded upon the fundamental rules governing the handling of such evidence and elucidated the software and technologies that facilitate its processing, preservation, and presentation. Khanafsa also delved into the main challenges and issues faced by professionals dealing with digital evidence.

Facilitated by Ahmed Hamu, the second session focused on the current landscape of e-services and e-government in Palestine. Fadi Marjaneh, General Director of e-Government at the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, discussed the Ministry's role in digital transformation. He emphasized the policy and technological aspects of implementing "My Government" for e-services and underscored its significance in expediting the provision of electronic services to all citizens. Ibrahim Al-Qadi, General Director of Consumer Protection at the Ministry of National Economy, addressed consumer protection in electronic service supply contracts in Palestine. He elaborated on the means and regulations aimed at safeguarding Palestinian consumers in their interactions with advertisements and electronic transactions.

Mr. Mohammed Khadir, a researcher at the Institute of Law, delved into the local and comparative legal framework governing e-services and e-government. He highlighted the general principles that guide the use of technology in comparative legal systems, while explaining the local legislative reality and the legal issues stemming from the absence of essential legal rules that should serve as a reference framework for technology usage, regulate its applications, and address its various facets.

The third and final session delved into digital rights in Palestine, with a particular focus on ensuring access, privacy, and the freedom of information exchange. Lawyer and journalist Ma'mar Arabi tackled the topic of digital expression freedom and content censorship in Palestine, underscoring the practical challenges related to violations of digital

Facilitated by Ola Omar, the third session, titled "Digital Rights in Palestine: Ensuring Access, Privacy, and Freedom of Information," had three speakers. Mr. Ma'mar Arabi, a distinguished lawyer and journalist at Watan Media Network, delved into the critical topic of digital expression freedom and content censorship in Palestine. His presentation shed light on the practical challenges surrounding violations of freedom of expression, unveiling the multitude of barriers and censorship faced by digital content providers and the Palestinian writers across various levels.

Following this presentation, Ms. Catherine Abu Amsha, the Director of Local Advocacy at the Arab Center for Social Media Development, focused her presentation on electronic transformation and data privacy in the Palestinian context. She outlined the legal framework for safeguarding data privacy and elucidated the emerging practical issues that arise due to the absence of regulatory laws governing data privacy and protection in the Palestinian context.

It is worth mentioning that this workshop is part of the series of legal encounters organized by the IoL at Birzeit University with support from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, which aims to provide an academic knowledge framework that plays a fundamental role in enhancing discussions and addressing emerging legal issues.


The Supreme Criminal Chamber in the Gaza Strip: Problems and Reality

On Wednesday, 15 June 2022, the Institute of Law (IoL) of Birzeit University held a legal encounter on The Supreme Criminal Chamberin the Gaza Strip: Problems and Reality. Bringing together a number of lawyers, members of the legal community, and interested persons, the presentation was made by Dr. Samia al-Ghusein, Associate Professor of Public International Law.

In her opening statement, Ms. Lina al-Tounisi, Coordinator of the IoL Gaza Office, welcomed the speaker and audience and made a briefing note about the Birzeit Legal Encounters Programme. Dr. Al-Ghusein stated that developed countries showed great interest in establishing and expanding specialised courts. These courts play an effective role in promoting independence, unity, and efficiency of the judicial system, achieving full justice, and ensuring summary disposition of cases. Proceedings used to take a long time before court, delaying or sometimes denying citizens’ access to their rights.

Dr. Al-Ghusein made a review of legal provisions on the formation of regular courts under the Palestinian law. According to the Law No. 5 of 2001 on the Formation of Regular Courts, the High Judicial Council (HJC) is vested with the power to establish specialised chambers or panels in the Conciliation Courts, Courts of Appeals, and High Court only. However, the Law does not authorise the HJC to create specialised chambers or panels in Courts of First Instance with either civil or criminal jurisdiction. Interpretative judgment shall not be resorted to wherever an explicit, unobscured and unambiguous provision is provided. Hence, based on the explicit provisions of the Law on the Formation of Regular Courts, the HJC may not put in place specialised panels or chambers in the Courts of First Instance, whose criminal jurisdiction is limited to relevant crimes and misdemeanours. Pursuant to Article 10 of the Law by Decree No. 30 of 2020 on the Formation of Regular Courts, “[t]he Court of First Instance shall establish a judicial chamber to hear civil cases and another judicial chamber to consider criminal cases.” Each chamber will consist of one or more panel(s) as determined by the presiding judge of the Court of First Instance and according to need. In the event the proper functioning of a court so requires, the presiding judge of the Court of First Instance is entitled to set forth a specialised panel within each civil or criminal chamber in the relevant Court of First Instance or Conciliation Court. In addition, Article 10(3) of the Law by Decree prescribes that “[t]he Chairman of the High Judicial Council shall be entitled to establish other specialised judicial chambers in the Court of First Instance in case the functioning of the judicial processes thus requires, provided that he specifies the subject-matter jurisdiction (jurisdiction ratione materiae), jurisdiction of value (amount in controversy jurisdiction), and territorial jurisdiction (jurisdiction ratione loci) for each in accordance with a regulation.”

Dr. Al-Ghusein elaborated on the High Criminal Court in the West Bank. After it had been promulgated, the Presidential Decree No. 20 of 2007 on the Formation of a High Criminal Court was repealed by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). While a high criminal court was not needed at the time, the Decree was in contravention to the Law on the Formation of Regular Courts. The Law by Decree No. 24 of 2017 and Law by Decree No. 9 of 2018 on the High Criminal Court were passed. Later, the Law by Decree No. 14 of 2019 on the Repealing of the Law by Decree No. 9 of 2018 on the High Criminal Court was enacted. Dr. Al-Ghusein explained that the Law by Decree on the High Criminal Court was met with strong opposition across the West Bank for several reasons. Most importantly, the formation of a high criminal court by a law by decree was in violation of the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law, particularly Article 97 thereunder. The law by decree also contravened many fair trial guarantees, which should be provided to the accused under Palestinian national legislation and international conventions, which the State of Palestinian acceded to.

By a decision of the Chairman of the High Council of Justice (HCJ), in January 2022, a supreme criminal chamber was established in the Courts of First Instance in the Gaza Strip. The Supreme Criminal Chamber is competent of hearing crimes and serious offences committed in Gaza over the past few years. The chamber has jurisdiction over the crimes of murder, narcotic drugs (acquisition and trafficking), and corruption (civil servants). Affiliated with the Court of First Instance, formation of the newly established Supreme Criminal Chamber in Gaza was clearly and directly contrary to the provisions of Articles 10, 21, and 28 of the Law on the Formation of Regular Courts in force in the Gaza Strip. The Law does not give the HCJ any power or authority to establish a specialised supreme criminal chamber or panel in the Courts of First Instance nor any competence that falls under the civil or criminal jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance.

Dr. Al-Ghusein also reviewed the nature of rulings entered by the Supreme Criminal Chamber in the Gaza Strip. In a summary trial that lasted no more than a month and a half, by consensus, the chamber handed down several sentences to death by hanging. The fact these death sentences were made in a short span of time was disquieting. It raised concern over compliance with guarantees of fair trial and whether the accused had the legally prescribed terms to be able to defend themselves against the charges imputed to them. This is particularly the case when a penalty as serious as death punishment is rendered.

Many interventions and recommendations were made in the ensuing discussion. Most notably, the establishment of a supreme criminal chamber in the Gaza Strip requires that judges specialising in criminal justice be appointed. These will have relevant experience in substantive and procedural matters of national penal laws as well as in international conventions and treaties, which the State of Palestine acceded to. Such a requirement is now lacking, however. The State of Palestine must fulfil its international obligations and abolish the death penalty under the domestic Palestinian legislation. To this end, needed legislative amendments will be introduced without delay. 

Students, legal researchers explore impact of amendments on procedural law in Palestine

Students, legal researchers, and faculty members discussed the changes introduced by laws by decree on Palestinian procedural law in a symposium organized by Birzeit University’s Institute of Law on March 31, 2022.



The symosium, part of a series organized by the Institute of Law in the West Bank and Gaza, featured legal experts that included judge Fateh Hamarsheh, lawyers and previous judges Raed Asfour, and Daoud Darawi. The speakers focused on recent amendments on the procedural law, evidence, execution, penal acts, and the commercial and civil code.


Mohammed Alkhader, an academic researcher, chaired the session, emphasizing in his opening remarks the destabilizing effects that laws by decree have on court proceedings as well as the system of rights and duties in Palestine.

Hamarsheh, who began the discussion, highlighted the consequences of amending procedural law through laws by decree, arguing that such amendments have an adverse impact on enforcing rights and the rule of law in Palestine. As an example, he discussed the 2022 amendments of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure No. 2 of 2001, arguing that such changes as the electronic serving of legal notices or changing the purview of conciliation courts undermine the guarantees to a fair trial and impede the swift administration of justice.


Along similar lines, Raed Asfour discussed the 2022 amendments to the   2005 Law of Execution, noting that they were redrafted from the Jordanian execution law without regard to their relevance to the 2005 execution law or  the Palestinian context. Among the more problematic effects of these amendments, Asfour noted, were that enforcement judges no longer handle substantive disputes and an apparent contradiction in how defendants can appeal verdicts ruled in absentia.


Daoud Darawi, the final speaker in the session, criticized the amendments to the 2001 Penal Procedure Law, noting that they’ve hampered the protection of human rights in Palestine. The amendments, Darawi explained, severely restrict how and in what form suits can be brought against public officials, requiring the written approval of the prosecutor general.

At the end of the legal encounter, the speakers gave the floor to attendees for questions, and a group discussion was held regarding how best to address the shortcomings of the law-by-decree amendments.