(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority Constitutional Court ruled on Sunday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas can revoke the immunity of Palestinian parliamentarians, affording him the authority to undermine his political opponents.
“PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not overstepping his authority in issuing legal decisions to revoke the immunity of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council while it is not in session,” read a copy of court’s decision published in Wafa, the official PA news site.
The Palestinian Legislative Council, the PA parliament, has not convened since 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.
The court also specified in its ruling that Abbas did not violate the law in revoking the immunity of Muhammed Dahlan, top Abbas rival.
“The Constitutional Court views the decision (4)-(2012), which was issued on January 3, 2012, and related to the revocation of Palestinian Legislative Council member Muhammad Yousef Shaker Dahlan’s parliamentary immunity... [to be] in accordance with the basic powers and authorities of the president,” the decision continued.
Abbas formed the PA Constitutional Court in April, a move that many analysts viewed as a power grab. Fatah members critical of Abbas and Hamas have condemned the court’s ruling.
Sufian Abu Zaida, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and an associate of Dahlan, said that the court is merely fulfilling the will of Abbas.
“The head of the Constitutional Court was invited [to join the court] especially after he wrote an article allowing the president to revoke the immunity of the members of the Palestinian Legislative Council,” Abu Zaida wrote on his Facebook page. “He did not disappoint, and did exactly what was expected of him.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas rejects the court’s decision. “The decision of what is called the Constitutional Court, that the PA president has full legal authority to revoke the immunity of Palestinian Legislative Council parliamentarians, is unacceptable and illegal,” Abu Zuhri remarked. “Hamas does not recognize the Constitutional Court or its decisions.”
Jihad Harb, a Palestinian researcher and analyst, told The Jerusalem Post the court’s ruling “grants the president executive power to hold a sword to the neck of parliamentarians, especially those who oppose his policies.”
Abbas has recently rebuffed pressure from the Arab Quartet, comprised of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, to reconcile with Dahlan. In a speech in September, Abbas said, “No one will dictate to us any position.”
The court’s ruling comes two weeks after the former chairman of the Judicial Council, Sami Sarsour, said that he was forced to sign an undated resignation letter before he assumed his seat as the top Palestinian judge in January.