09 March 2022, Nablus - In its capacity as the representative of the judicial authority, the High Judicial Council, in cooperation with UN Women opened a specialized court for violence against women cases at Nablus Court. The new court, established under the UN Women portion of the Sawasya II Joint Programme is the first court of its kind in the State of Palestine. The event marked the national campaign to celebrate 2022 International Women's Day under the theme "She is inspiring! It's time for change".
The opening ceremony was attended by Governer Ibrahim Ramadan, Head of the Gender Unit Judge Imad Maswadeh, Head of Nablus Court Judge Saeda Wld Ali, as well as Ms Maryse Guimond, the Special Representative of UN Women Palestine, Ms Laura Bill, Deputy Representative of UNICEF and Mr Chris Decker, Sawasya II Joint Programme Manager and accompanying delegations, as well as several representatives of the international community.
The opening is the culmination of joint efforts made during 2020 and 2021 through interventions to renovate and ensure the Nablus Court building is able to deal with cases of violence against women and survivors. The aim is to enhance women's access to justice by ensuring a safe and responsive environment that facilitates access to justice, respects privacy, confidentiality, and dignity of women survivors of violence and strengthens the capacity and public confidence in rule of law institutions, as well as improving access to justice, security and protection services, especially for women and girls.
In this context, Head of the Gender Unit Judge Imad Maswadeh highlighted, "We all work in partnership, and as a team. Therefore, I thank all the partners in the justice sector first, in the police, the Public Prosecution, the Bar Association, the Ministry of Justice, and all the jurists and academics who support this work. I also thank the partners in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and I extend my sincere thanks to the Sawasya II Joint Programme, the delegations representing donor countries, and the United Nations Entity for the Empowerment of Women and Gender Equality.”
The court’s rehabilitation process included improving its side entrance to be available only for use by women who have been subjected to violence or survivors of violence, including women with disabilities. Dividers have been placed at all entrances, reception and waiting rooms to maintain women’s privacy and ensure that they do not have to be in the same court room as other courthouse users.
The new court was implemented as part of the Sawasya II Joint Programme which is the UN’s primary vehicle for promoting rule of law, gender-based justice and human rights in the State of Palestine from the year 2018 to 2023. The Programme brings together the main United Nations bodies working in this field -- UNDP, UN Women and UNICEF -- as part of an integrated programme in which support is provided to the Palestinian Government to arrive at a system of rule of law that is progressively applied, increasingly inclusive which protects, respects and promotes human rights, gender equality, peace and security.
Mr Benjamin Anker, Deputy Head of Mission of the Netherlands Representative Office referred to this project as a textbook example of where the implementation of SDG 16 (on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG 5 (on Gender Equality) meet and create synergy. He emphasized the importance of this project for improving the Access to Justice and expressed gratitude for the fruitful cooperation between the court and the international community.
Space within the court has also been allocated and rehabilitated, including both the Conciliation and First Instance Courts, each providing privacy access and allowing partners, particularly the Public Prosecution Office, the Ministry of Social Development through its social worker, to be present and accompany women during the litigation process including during court hearings and appearances before a judge.
The required systems such as access control, surveillance, fire alarm and fire safety equipment, air conditioning, ventilation, public announcement, voice alarm, etc. have also been installed. In addition, the ground level (parking lot) has been rehabilitated by using about 150 m2 for use as archive rooms.
On her part, UN Women Special Representative Ms Maryse Guimond affirmed that the opening of the specialized court is considered as a critical milestone in the journey of the justice sector in the Palestinian State in promoting women’s access to justice. Ms Guimond added that the establishment of a specialized section in the court to manage and adjudicate violence against women cases is a sincere translation to the core elements of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women committee’s concluding recommendation on women’s access to justice.
It should be noted that future efforts will focus on the completion of the draft procedure manual on violence against women cases, which is currently being reviewed by the judges specialized in processing violence against women cases.
About the Sawasya II UNDP, UNICEF, UNWOMEN Joint Programme:
Sawasya II is the UN’s primary vehicle for promoting rule of law, gender-based justice and human rights in the State of Palestine from the year 2018 to 2023. Sawasya II aims to work on the challenges that arise from the provision of justice and security services. Justice and security institutions are supported to enhance the quality and efficiency of the services they provide to the Palestinian people. Sawasya II supports all relevant Palestinian governmental institutions and civil society organizations in their endeavours to provide legal assistance to the Palestinian people. This support is being developed and allocated to meet the specific needs of each area of the State of Palestine (West Bank, including Area C, Hebron 2, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip).