The Condition of the Birzeit Land and Water Settlement Court Building Infringes on the Dignity of the Judge, Litigant, and Lawyer

2022-09-12

ًWest Bank

West Bank / position paper

MUSAWA addressed a memo to the head of the internal monitoring and complaints unit at the Palestinian Land and Water Settlement commission calling for the appropriate legal, administrative, and operational requirements to move the Court headquarters to a place that meets the requirements of the judicial work, and to quickly contact the high judicial council in order to provide the court with a sufficient number of judges. This ensures the rapid adjudication of the many files still on the court’s agenda, all in line with the citizens' constitutional right, and the implementation of the national plan to finalize the long-announced land settlement work. Delayed justice is justice denied.

Following is the memo,

Head of the internal monitoring and complaints unit at the Palestinian Land and Water Settlement Commission, Mr. Hasan Sharaka,

MUSAWA – The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession extends its best greetings, expressing that a written complaint was submitted by the lawyer Fadel Najajreh / Ramallah in regards to the inadequacy of the Land and Water Settlement court’s building, to which the land and water settlement court was moved from its former location in the regular courts complex in Ramallah, considering it is the competent court to hear and adjudicate cases of objections property and rights of disposal submitted to it in accordance with the provisions of the settlement law in force. Its jurisdiction includes the governorates of Ramallah and Jerusalem, and its court backlog exceeds 10,000 cases according to the complaint.

Many lawyers and visitors of the court in question have agreed with the complaint which indicated that the court building in Birzeit is made up of two rooms dedicated to two assigned judicial bodies, and a pathway connecting the two rooms with an entrance to the hallway. The size of each room is no more than 10 square meters. The hallway has 10 waiting chairs, a small table, and a small office chair for the bailiffs. There are no restrooms for lawyers or visitors, and no designated room for lawyers. Consequently, this has turned the courtrooms into a place where litigants, lawyers, and visitors are all gathered, in addition to the judge, clerk, and parties to the case. The headquarters is a basement below-street level that can be accessed via a steep staircase, which makes it inaccessible to the elderly and people with disabilities.

The complainant added that the number of daily visitors exceeds 100 people, and there are no waiting areas, forcing the people to gather in the courtroom which puts immense pressure on the judge and disturbs the proceedings of the litigation sessions. In addition, the lack of a designated room for lawyers causes them to carry their files and briefcases and gather in the courtrooms, which hinders their ability to carry out their mission and infringes on the dignity and humanity of their profession.

The complaint indicated that keeping the court in its current location in Birzeit distorts the public perception of justice institutions and is an infringement on the right of litigation, noting that only two judges are assigned to the headquarters. This requires your esteemed commission to demand the high judicial council to increase the number of judges assigned to the settlement courts in general, including the aforementioned court after its relocation to a more adequate place, that includes all the basic facilities and is suited to the nature of the judicial work to achieve justice and adjudicate disputes as swiftly as possible, in addition to providing one room for lawyers, one for visitors and another for litigants. This enables lawyers to carry out their mission and allows visitors to complete transactions and follow up on their cases in a manner that corresponds with the requirements of justice.

MUSAWA confirmed the validity of the facts contained in the complaint, as its monitory team conducted a field visit to the court’s headquarters, and received responses from lawyers who confirmed the validity of the complaint. They added that the building does not meet the safety and health standards, as one of them said, “The court is underground with no room to breathe, and the settlement commission promised us to move upstairs by the beginning of the current judicial year, the first of this September, but failed to keep its promise”. Not to mention the uncertainty whether moving upstairs meets the court requirements, and if the intended floor is the one used by the administrative body of the registrar, the reporting department, and the court treasury, which confirms that it does not meet the basic requirements as indicated in the complaint, and in MUSAWA’s monitoring report and the opinions of the lawyers who appear before this court.

Therefore, we ask your esteemed unit to instruct the officials of the Land and Water Settlement Commission to closely examine this memo and take the appropriate legal, administrative and operational procedures to move the court headquarters to a place that meets the requirements of the judicial work, and to quickly contact the high judicial council in order to provide the court with a sufficient number of judges. This ensures the rapid adjudication of the many files still on the court's agenda, in line with the citizens' constitutional right, and the implementation of the national plan to complete the long-announced land settlement work. Delayed justice is justice denied.

 

With respect,

12/09/2022

MUSAWA

 

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