UN Women and the State of Palestine High Judicial Council opened today in Amman an Expert Group Meeting on the adjudication of violence against women cases. During 3 days, 30 judges from Palestine, MENA region and farther abroad are discussing methods, challenges and opportunities for specialization of services, as well as restorative justice and reintegration for survivors of violence as a way to improve women’s access to justice and deter gender-based violence in society.
The Expert Group Meeting represents the starting point of the High Judicial Council and UN Women’s partnership in Palestine towards the specialization of judges on family violence. The judicial system plays a central role in combating violence against women but often inadequate laws, lack of trust and confidence in justice and security institutions, stigma and pressures from community and family stop victims from seeking justice, and create challenges and pressures on the adjudication of cases.
“The whole justice chain must be prepared to deal with violence against women cases” noted Mr. Ziad Sheikh, UN Women Country Representative in Jordan who opened the event on behalf of UN Women. “The police can accept reports and the prosecutors can investigate and prosecute, but if judges are not sensitive to the special dynamics of these cases and the pressures and stigma victims face, then they will not adjudicate cases in a sensitive manner and there will be no justice for victims.”
The State of Palestine Chancellor Chief of Justice, Sami Sarsour, said that “It is important to have an efficient, effective, transparent and truthful justice system for women to navigate the chain of justice” adding “that courts bear the ultimate responsibility for case outcomes, and as such represent the most important body that has the power to ensure safety for victims and accountability for perpetrators.”
The State of Palestine has taken one of the leading positions on women’s access to justice in the MENA region. A few examples of Palestine’s commitment are the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) with no reservations, the establishment of 11 Family and Juvenile Protection Units under the Palestinian Civil Police and the appointment of 20 prosecutors specialized on family violence. UN Women, through “Sawasya” UNDP/UN Women Joint Programme “Strengthening the Rule of Law: Justice and Security for Palestinian people” (2014-2017), has been working closely with Palestinian justice and security institutions on enhancing gender sensitivity and responsiveness to women’s rights, and more particularly has supported the establishment and strengthening of specialized units within the police and prosecution on domestic and family violence cases, and is now pleased to also extend its support to the High Judicial Council.