PA not immune from Israel justice system

Foreign Ministry ruling cites PA not being sovereign state; decision may lead to dozens of terror trials.

Abbas Fayad 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Fayad 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Jerusalem District Court will now be able to hear 55 lawsuits filed by victims of terror against the Palestinian Authority, after the Foreign Ministry issued certificates in every case declaring that the PA did not enjoy judicial immunity. About one-third of the lawsuits were filed between 2000 and 2002 and have thus far been waiting to be heard in court. Among those who sued the PA were the families of two Israelis killed in a restaurant in Tulkarm; a border policeman killed by a Palestinian policeman near Kalkilya at the beginning of the intifada; an Israeli killed when he brought his car for repairs to a garage in Bidiya; and two reserve soldiers detained in a Ramallah police station who were lynched. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs included Roland Roth, Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, Micha Kirsch and Nadav Ha'etzni. As the first lawsuits against the PA were being filed in the Jerusalem District Court, court president Judge Vardi Zeiler decided to establish a special panel of three judges to deal with all the suits en bloc. Attorney Yossi Arnon, who represented the PA in these cases, claimed that the PA enjoyed the same immunity from judicial procedures that Israel accorded all foreign states and added that the district court was not empowered to decide on diplomatic and political matters involving upholding the international agreements which established the PA. On March 30, 2003, the court rejected these arguments and the PA appealed to the Supreme Court. It took the Supreme Court more than four years to rule on the appeal. On July 17, 2007, it rejected the portion of the appeal that sought to prohibit the district court from hearing the lawsuits. However, in sending the lawsuits back to the Jerusalem District Court, it ordered the court to obtain a certificate from the Foreign Ministry declaring in each individual case whether or not the PA enjoyed immunity. In the meantime, more lawsuits against the PA had piled up in Jerusalem District Court. Today, there are a total of 55. In each case, the Foreign Ministry decided on Sunday, the PA could be sued. One of the earliest plaintiffs is Eliezer Dayan, whose son, Motti, was one of two Israelis executed by terrorists in Tulkarm in January 2001. "I'm satisfied that at long last the government has made a decision that will help us in our legal actions," he told The Jerusalem Post. "If we can't weaken the PA in other ways, at least we can hurt them financially. Other ways don't seem to help." Dayan, however, was critical of the courts. "The judicial system didn't act with the necessary speed," he said. "If they had, some of the terrorist attacks could have been prevented." He also criticized the Foreign Ministry for taking too long to issue the certificates.