The Public Prosecution – Jericho: under the auspices of H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas, the public prosecution opened its three-day sixth annual conference entitled "The Public Prosecution… Reality and Ambition" in Jericho on Thursday in presence of the president's legal advisor Hasan Al-Ouri, the Minister of Justice Dr. Ali Abu Dyak on behalf of Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah, Chief Justice Sami Sarsour, President of the Anti-Corruption Commission Mr. Rafiq Al-Natsheh, the Sharia Chief Justice Dr. Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the Chairman of the Palestinian Bar Association Hussein Shabaneh, the Director of the Palestinian Civil Police Major General Hazem Atallah, the President of the Jordanian Public Prosecutions Dr. Akram Al-Masa'deh, the representative of the UNDP general Secretary Marisa, the Acting Attorney General Dr. Ahmad Barrak, as well as representatives of donors, consul generals, governmental institutions and civil society organizations.
Following is the Acting Attorney General Dr. Ahmad Barrak's speech:
Mr. Hassan Al-Ouri/ the President's Legal Advisor/ on behalf of the PLO executive committee chairman/President of the Palestinian Authority
Mr. Ali Abu Dyak/ Minister of Justice/ on behalf of Prime Minister Dr. Rami Al-Hamdallah
Chief Justice Sami Sarsour/ President of the High Court
Mr. Rafiq Al-Natsheh/ President of the Anti-Corruption Commission
Dr. Mahmoud Al-Habbash/ Sharia Courts Chief Justice
Chairman of the Palestinian Bar Association/ Mr. Hussein Shabaneh
Major General Hazem Atallah/ Director of the Palestinian Civil Police
President of the Jordanian Public Prosecutions/ Dr. Akram Masa'deh
Ms. Marisa/ representative of the UNDP general Secretary
Ladies and Gentlemen representing donors, ambassadors and consul generals
Ladies and Gentlemen representing governmental institutions and civil society organizations
Ladies and Gentlemen representing donors and projects supporting the justice sector
Peace Be Upon You
It is my pleasure to stand here and address you in the opening of the public prosecution's sixth annual conference entitled "the Public Prosecution... Reality and Ambition", in presence of the elite in the justice sector, including prosecutors from the southern districts, here in the historic city of Jericho just a few kilometres away from the occupied city of Jerusalem, the Capital of our state Palestine. We will address the public prosecution's achievements throughout the past year in the framework of our contribution towards building state institutions.
I would also like to extend my best wishes to Arab Christians and public prosecutors and I wish you happy holidays, and hopefully the Palestinian people's ambitions to have freedom, independence and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital become true.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Guests
I would like to take this opportunity to stress on our commitment to maintaining the protection of the Independence of the Judiciary principle, due to its importance in promoting justice considering it being a key aspect of the justice guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law. The president and prime minister have always been keen on stressing on the importance of this matter. In fact, we started noticing a development and better understanding of the concept of independence in the mentality and practices of many individuals and institutions.
Therefore, we must focus on the importance of complete and serious coordination and complementation between justice sector institutions, particularly in the Bar Association's as well a civil society organizations' role towards reaching recommendations that contribute to drafting of crime prevention strategies and policies as and the proper application of the law.
This conference is held under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances at local, regional and international levels. At the local level, the Israeli violations of all aspects of Palestinian people's lives have greatly increased in the past few months, particularly the Israeli practices in Jerusalem in terms of Judization, confiscation of land, and removal of residents of this city. The current state of instability around the world, particularly in neighbouring Arab countries, and the effect it has on all aspects of life; crime has increased and become more complex, and it has become cross-border. This poses a great challenge before the public prosecution in prosecuting criminals and bringing them to justice.
A year ago, in this place in particular, the public prosecution held its fifth conference through which several issues of mutual interest to prosecutors were discussed. Prosecutors reached a number of important recommendations to improve performance. Since I was duly appointed as acting attorney general, I have worked on implementing the majority of such recommendations in accordance with the available resources and capacities.
In this framework and towards achieving the public prosecution's strategic goals, we have had several important achievements in the previous judicial year in terms of specialization in work, participating in the drafting of modern laws that correspond to the Palestinian society's needs and challenges such as the anti-narcotics law and the Law on Juveniles. In terms of human resources development, several assistant prosecutors and administrative staff were appointed and specialized prosecution offices were supported. The public prosecution's infrastructure was further developed. Two MoUs were signed with Al-Najah and Birzeit Universities. In terms of the recommendation on international cooperation in prosecuting all forms of crime, a chief prosecutor has been assigned to work and communicate with the committee investigating international war crimes committed by the occupation in Gaza Strip, and we have several procedures in this regard.
Given the public prosecution's responsibility towards the Palestinian public and state, we have established and activated several specialized prosecution offices that have a great role in developing the public prosecution's work, such as the technical office, where its mandate and duties have been identified and members of the office have been appointed; providing special attention to certain categories in the society, mainly the juveniles prosecution and the family protection from violence prosecution, where prosecutors have been assigned for these offices in all districts; the government cases prosecution has been established in order to protect and collect public funds, this prosecution's work falls in line with the already established economic crimes prosecution. There are other specialized prosecution offices that have been established before such as the appeals prosecution, the high court and cassation court prosecution, the seconded anti-corruption prosecution working at the anti-corruption commission. This shows that our institutions is keen on improving its work towards achieving its mission and building a Palestinian state in partnership with the other Palestinian institutions.
Moreover, a complaints unit has been established at the Attorney General's Office, and an internal financial and administrative control unit has been established at the public prosecution. In this framework, I hope that the activation of the joint judicial inspection between the HJC and AGO is accelerated.
We are certain that specialization in the public prosecution's work will lead to quick improvement of performance in all aspects, and will also lead to speed in closing files which will result in reducing backlog.
We at the public prosecution have a great responsibility in providing Palestinian public with justice services and in protecting and respecting their basic rights, given the effect this has on the progress of justice in the country. The Palestinian public prosecution has the power to charge and investigate, and this leads to a great responsibility given the enormous role given to the prosecution in the law; it acts on behalf of the society and represents it in order to maintain its security, defend it, maintain its safety, as well as to combat and investigate crime, prosecute perpetrators and refer them to the competent courts. The public prosecution is also the body that represents public right before the judiciary, and it has the exclusive power to file penal actions and prosecute them before the courts until a final decision is made. It has the power to investigate, charge and litigate before the competent courts as well as to supervise the enforcement of penal decisions. This makes our role unique compared to other prosecutions in neighbouring countries. All these powers are given in the Palestinian laws, therefore we work strenuously towards properly performing our tasks and duties.
We at the public prosecution do all in our power to speed the litigation process in all penal, civil and administrative cases in which we are a party. We always seek to improve our performance to promote the rule of law and maintain human rights and freedoms in our country. This is realized through building the capacity, skills and performance of prosecutors and administrative staff through trainings and workshops in accordance with plans that reflect actual needs. We are also currently working with the Canadian funded Sharaka Project on developing the prosecutor's guidelines, which aims at unifying procedures and setting policies that should improve the handling of cases. We have already drafted and finalized the public prosecution clerks manual with the Dutch funded Mateen Project, and we are currently working on implementing and evaluating it at district prosecutions in cooperation with JSAP Project. We have a continuous direct line of communication with all partner institutions in the justice and security sectors due to our belief in the complementary nature of work between these sectors and institutions.
Last but not least, I stand here before you extending my appreciation to public prosecutors for all the work and efforts they have provided and are still providing under these difficult circumstances, limited resources and dangers they face towards protecting rights and enforcing the law. I also extend my appreciation to the public prosecution's administrative staff for their work and support to prosecutors. Moreover, I thank all the committees who worked effortlessly on organizing the sixth annual public prosecution conference. I also thank all former attorney generals.
Dr. Ahmad Barrak
Acting Attorney General