Palestinian judiciary and executive clash after arrest in Nablus court

A Palestinian protester carries a burning tire during clashes with Israeli forces following a demonstration on Friday against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2017
0

Palestinian judiciary and executive clash after arrest in Nablus court

AMMAN: A constitutional crisis between the executive and judicial branches of government is developing in the Palestinian territories after the violent arrest of a lawyer inside a Nablus court this week.
Palestinian intelligence service officers dressed in civilian clothing broke into the Nablus Court of First Instance at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, arrested advocate Mohammed Hussein and beat him in front of lawyers, judges and the court police.
The government claims that the arrest was made outside the court.
Advocate Azzam Hashlamon, legal adviser to the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, told Arab News that video evidence showed that the arrest was made inside the courthouse. “This is a clear violation of the independence of the judiciary and the principles of the rule of law.”
The arrest followed a protest march last week in the village of Deir Al-Hatab in the Nablus district against plans to build a sewage treatment plant within the village’s boundaries. Protesters are accused of damaging public property.
Advocate Hussein, representing the village council, had submitted a suit against the building of the plant.
The government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah accused the lawyer of inciting against the plant.
Hashlamon told Arab News that the plant will be funded with a grant of $40 million from the German government.
Hussein was taken to a prison in Jericho but the Bar Association, along with other civil society organizations, called on fellow lawyers to a protest outside the offices of the prime minister in Ramallah on Thursday. The Judicial Council, the attorney general’s office and the consortium of human rights organizations all issued statements condemning the extra-judicial actions inside the court house.
Izzat Ramini, a judge from Nablus who participated in the protest on Thursday, called on President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene. “The court’s jurisdiction was violated and a lawyer’s rights were trampled on, this is a violation of the basic law,” he said to a crowd of jurists made up of lawyers, judges, staff from the attorney general’s office and human rights activists.
Aziz Abu Hamad, deputy attorney general, said that the attack violated the independence of the judiciary. “We call on President Abbas to set up an investigation committee to hold those responsible to account.”
Bassam Salhi, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, also stated his support for the judiciary.
Majed Arruri, a legal affairs expert based in Ramallah, told Arab News that what had happened was a clear breach of the rule of law. “It is a retraction of the rule of law and represents the priority of security control in the absence of the law.”
The head of the Palestinian Bar Association, Jawwad Obeidat, who had helped to organize the protest, called for the resignation of the prime minister, saying that he made the order acting as minister of the interior.
Obeidat said that the attorney general had decided at 10:30 on Wednesday morning not to detain the accused lawyer because the charge against him was not serious. The judge let him continue his work at the courthouse in Nablus, Obeidat told the protesters and the attending press.
“One hour later civilian-dressed security barged in to the courthouse and beat and arrested our colleague.”
The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq issued a statement corroborating what the head of the Bar Association had said — that the arrest and beatings took place inside the courthouse.
Obeidat said that what had happened was a crime against the entire judicial system: Lawyers, judges and the attorney general’s office.
“We call on Maj. Gen. Hazem Atallah, the director general of the Palestinian police, to open an investigation into the failure of the judicial police to protect everyone inside the walls of the courthouse.”
Following the jurist protests, Mohammed Mansour, the director general of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, issued a statement saying that “the independence of the legal branch is guaranteed” and that the prime minister has ordered an investigation into the accusations.
He said “that the role of the judiciary and the court sanctity must be respected.”


Year after Daesh lost Syria’s Raqqa, holdout hospital awaits recovery

Updated 15 October 2018
0

Year after Daesh lost Syria’s Raqqa, holdout hospital awaits recovery

  • The bullet-riddled complex looms large among the sea of destroyed buildings in the northern city
  • Inside, hospital rooms are charred black from fires after air strikes

RAQA, Syria: Shattered ultrasound machines and prosthetic limbs litter the hallways of Raqqa’s main hospital, still gutted a year after Daesh made its infamous last stand in its Syrian heartland.
The bullet-riddled complex looms large among the sea of destroyed buildings in the northern city, once the de facto Syrian capital of Daesh’s ill-fated “caliphate.”
On October 17 last year, US-backed forces overran the city’s final two militant holdouts — the National Hospital and nearby stadium — sealing the end of Daesh’s bloody three-year reign over Raqqa.
But a year later, as other parts of the city are being slowly rebuilt, the massive hospital remains in ruins, almost haunted.
The road leading up to the entrance has been cleared of the burned corpses lying there last October, but twisted car wrecks still make for an uncomfortable welcome.
Torn-up gurneys, filthy sky-blue hospital sheets and rusted gas canisters have been dumped in the courtyard.
Bullet-riddled doors are graffitied with the phrase “CLEAR, November 9, 2017,” apparently marking the day those rooms were checked for mines or lingering militants.
Inside, hospital rooms are charred black from fires after air strikes.
Paint is peeling off the ceiling and the walls are lined with sand bags piled by Daesh fighters defending their final bastion.
Making his way slowly through the abandoned medical ward was Mohammad Hussein, 37, in navy trousers and a striped shirt.
Hussein is now a member of the health commission of Raqqa Civil Council (RCC), the body governing the city since Daesh’s ouster, but he was once a nurse in the hospital.
“You don’t feel like you’re walking into a hospital. You feel like you’re walking into a mound of rubble,” he muttered.
The Raqqa native began working in the hospital in 2003 at the age of 22, and stayed on when Daesh captured the city 11 years later.
Hussein recalls Daesh members shoring up the hospital’s defenses last year, digging tunnels and setting up blast walls as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) closed in.
“They stockpiled medical supplies in huge amounts — serums, blood, water, power generators,” he said.
After days of besieging the hospital and stadium, the SDF made a successful, lightning-fast push for both.
Since then, tens of thousands of people have returned to Raqqa, but life is still dangerous in the city.
Daesh planted a sea of mines across the city that have maimed and killed returning residents, and guerrilla-style attacks against SDF positions indicate militant sleeper cells remain a threat.
“No one lost as much as Raqqa’s people when it comes to the destruction of this hospital, which used to serve hundreds of people on a daily basis,” said Hussein.
Khaled Abbud Al-Hassan was one of them.
One day last year, as artillery and air strikes pounded areas near his home, a piece of shrapnel tore into his building.
“It killed my four-year-old daughter and cut my hand, so I went to get treated at the hospital,” said Hassan, 60.
Inside were doctors from Azerbaijan, he recalled. Most of the Syrian staff was from Aleppo, west of Raqqa.
“They treated each other and us as well. I was there for about a week before the hospital was bombed and they told us to get out,” Hassan said.
After a recent visit to Raqqa, Amnesty International said the level of destruction was “shocking,” with schools, homes, and medical infrastructure still ravaged.
It has slammed the US-led coalition’s bombing of the city and said it should help rebuild Raqqa.
The coalition has removed rubble from main streets and demined some areas, but a rehabilitation of the hospital has still not been sponsored, said RCC co-chair Laila Mustafa.
“It needs huge funds to be restored, more than three billion Syrian pounds (almost $6 million). This excludes medical equipment, which would be high-quality and exorbitantly expensive,” Mustafa said.
She told AFP that the RCC was in talks with a foreign backer over funds to partially rehabilitate one hospital ward.
The stadium, whose underground locker rooms Daesh had transformed into a prison, has fared better.
The field was partly restored after the SDF’s takeover, hosting its first football match in April.
Now, laborers are building a platform and stadium seats have been painted white, with a crimson-red trim.
“We’re coordinating with the RCC and the Syrian Democratic Council to rehabilitate the national stadium,” said Imad Al-Himad, a contractor.
It has so far cost around 100,000 Syrian pounds.
“This was the ‘black stadium,’ and since it was repainted white, it’ll be known as the White Stadium,” said Himad.