Following the tragic death of a citizen in Gaza, MUSAWA Demands Cancelling Municipalities' Power to Remove Encroachments or Restricting It by Requiring Prior Court Approval
MUSAWA—The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession—looked into the accident that claimed the life of Shady Abu Quta, a 48-year-old married father of two from the city of Khan Yunis. The incident occurred on Thursday morning, July 27, 2023, when Khan Yunis Municipality’s bulldozer arrived with two police officers to remove part of the perimeter wall of the victim’s house, claiming it was trespassing on the public street. When the municipality crew arrived at the victim's two-story house, surrounded by a 2.5-meter-high, eight-meter-long concrete wall about 2 meters from the house, the bulldozer began demolishing the northern side of the wall while the victim stood in front of it facing the street. One officer tried to push him out of the way of the bulldozer just as the other officer signaled to the bulldozer driver to demolish the wall, causing it to collapse and fall on the citizen. The bulldozer, municipal police, and their employees all immediately fled the scene. A few minutes later, the ambulance arrived on the scene and transported the citizen to Nasser Medical Complex, where he died despite efforts to save his life. This is according to MUSAWA's Monitoring Team's reports that are based on witness testimony and the reports of the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). Eyewitnesses have reported that the victim's family as well as the residents of the area, were completely furious by what had just happened.
MUSAWA believes the issue is that municipalities have the authority to remove encroachments by using excessive force without prior court approval, and that preventing citizens' deaths, serious bodily harm, and severe property damage necessitates canceling or restricting this authority by requiring municipalities to obtain a court order authorizing Removal. This should be accomplished through a trial in which citizens can present their defense and confront the municipality's representative, with the court deciding whether to allow the removal, deny the municipality's request, or temporarily suspend it until the dispute is resolved, ensuring fair trial guarantees. Its implementation will be monitored by the judicial police and the public prosecution, if necessary, to ensure that the municipality employees do not use excessive force or abuse their power, particularly given that this tragic incident is not the only one involving a complaint against municipal employees and police officers for removing violations by force. Thus, MUSAWA calls for the results of the investigation into today's tragedy be made public, ensuring that all those involved, directly or indirectly, face criminal and administrative accountability and are forced to pay fair compensation to the victim's family.
MUSAWA reiterates its demand for free and fair elections for all municipal and local councils in Gaza, under the supervision of the Central Elections Committee, in order to ensure citizens' right to choose their representatives in local and municipal councils, as well as holding elections in universities and various trade unions.