For the first time, Palestinian Authority courts are going to look at cases filed by Palestinian citizens related to violations alleged to have been committed by Israeli settlers, Wafa news agency has reported.
Minister of Justice Mohammed Al-Shalaldeh said that the PA will "facilitate the task of victims whose rights have been violated by settlers." The courts will cooperate with other government agencies and civil society institutions, he added.
According to Palestinian Basic Law, any citizen whose rights are violated has the right to file a lawsuit in the local courts. However, this will be the first time since the PA was established in 1994 that its courts will be looking at cases against Israeli citizens, none of whom have ever faced charges in a Palestinian court.
"Work is underway 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," explained the minister.
The Palestinian cabinet, he pointed out, has decided to form a national team to hold accountable and prosecute settlers who commit crimes against the Palestinian people before the Palestinian courts following the decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to forgo the Israeli and American agreements and understandings.
In May, Abbas declared an end to all agreements signed between the Palestinians and both Israel and the US, including security cooperation, in response to the then imminent threat of Israeli annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank.
"According to the national legislation in Palestine, and based on the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, there are provisions for the prosecution of a foreigner, which applies to the settlers who reside within the Palestinian territorial jurisdiction over the occupied land," said Al-Shalaldeh. "As such, we have the right to charge them based on the fact that settlements are a war crime, punishable by law in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention, and based on the statute of the International Criminal Court."
In closing, the Justice Minister noted that the issue is not only limited to settler attacks, but also to issues such as the Israeli authorities withholding the bodies of Palestinians killed by their soldiers and security services.