PA: Palestinians can sue settlers in Palestinian courts

No Israeli citizen has ever been sued in a PA court.

The Palestinian High Court in Ramallah  (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian High Court in Ramallah
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority courts will soon begin looking into cases filed by Palestinians against Israeli settlers, PA Justice Minister Mohammed al-Shalaldeh announced on Wednesday.
This would be the first time since the establishment of the PA in 1994 that Palestinian courts look into cases against Israeli citizens. No Israeli citizen has ever been sued in a PA court.
According to agreements signed between Israel and the PLO, including the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Agreements, the PA’s territorial and functional jurisdiction does not apply to Israeli citizens, including those living in the settlements.
Shalaldeh told the PA’s official news agency Wafa that the Palestinian Justice Ministry, in cooperation with other government agencies and civil society institutions, “will facilitate the task of victims whose rights have been violated by settlers.” He said that according to the [Palestinian] Basic Law, any Palestinian “whose rights are violated has the right to Palestinian national judge.”
He said that work is under way “to collect criminal evidence and to file the first case against settlers, whose names are known, for committing crimes and violations against citizens in the Old City of Hebron and the town of Burin, south of Nablus.”
The PA government has decided to form a “national team to prosecute settlers and hold them to account before Palestinian courts for their crimes against the Palestinian people,” Shalaldeh said, noting that the decision was taken in accordance with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to renounce agreements and understandings with Israel and the US.
In May, Abbas declared an end to all agreements signed between the Palestinians and both Israel and the US, including security cooperation. Abbas’s announcement came in response to Israel’s since-shelved plan to apply its sovereignty to portions of the West Bank.
The Palestinian courts, the minister added, will look into “civil liability” lawsuits for financial compensation filed by Palestinians settlers.
Shalaldeh warned that if the Palestinian courts’ rulings are not implemented and respected by Israel, the Palestinians would bring the decisions before countries whose citizenship the settlers hold. In addition, Israeli failure to carry out the PA court decisions will allow the Palestinians to bring them before the International Criminal Court, he said.
According to the PA minister, Palestinian law permits the prosecution of a foreigner, including settlers “who reside within the Palestinian territorial jurisdiction over the occupied land. Therefore, we have the right to sue them based on the fact that settlements are a war crime punishable by law in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention and the statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Shalaldeh said that the Palestinian “victims” would first file their cases against settlers before Palestinian magistrate courts. “The Israeli side will be notified as an occupying power to appear before the Palestinian court,” he explained. “If the [Israeli] side refuses the jurisdiction of the Palestinian courts, formal procedures will be followed and in absentia rulings will be issued, in accordance with Palestinian laws.”
He said that Palestinian judges, “when deciding on victims’ files, will not rely solely on Palestinian legislation, but also on international agreements and treaties to which Palestine has acceded, and which the occupying power has signed.”