A statement was issued by the office of the Public Prosecutor on Wednesday, 24 February 2016 stating that Dr. Najat Abu Baker, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), is to be brought before the Public Prosecutor for "criminal offenses under the penal code". This was followed by an arrest warrant issued against Dr. Abu Baker, as well as an attempt to arrest her from in front of the PLC headquarters in Ramallah on 25 February. Dr. Abu Baker has started a sit-in in the PLC building in Ramallah since 25 February and plans to remain there until the arrest warrant against her is revoked by the Public Prosecutor.
The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) and the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) affirm that parliamentarian constitutional immunity must be respected in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law and the PLC law on duties and rights of PLC members, which constitute one of the main constitutional principles and guarantees for PLC members to carry out their tasks of monitoring the executive authority's actions, seeking and ensuring accountability, as well as promoting public rights and freedoms.
PHROC and ICHR condemn the Public Prosecutor's actions of issuing an arrest warrant against Dr. Abu Baker, in contravention of the Basic Law and the Criminal Procedures Code. The arrest warrant also constitutes a blatant violation of parliamentarian constitutional immunity enjoyed by PLC members.
The case of Dr. Abu Baker comes within a context of deteriorating public freedoms in Palestine as the executive authority's approach has disregarded the rule of law. This is exemplified in the teachers' strike, cases related to freedom of media and expression, instances of arbitrary arrests, as well as restrictions imposed on civil society and non-profit organizations. If these are not tackled wisely by the executive authority, i.e. ensuring the implementation of law, institutions will be weakened and the rule of law will be eroded.
In light of this, PHROC and ICHR demand the following:
- The Deputy Public Prosecutor should review its recent decisions and end the implementation of procedures that infringe upon parliamentarian constitutional immunity enjoyed by members of the PLC.
- The political sphere, represented by the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, should put an end to the current deteriorating human rights and freedoms situation; find solutions for the current crisis through dialogue and observing the rule of law.
- Call on the PLC to convene and carry out its constitutional tasks of legislation and monitoring the executive authority and its apparatuses, which will contribute to restoring unity amongst institutions, until public presidential and parliamentary elections take place, as soon as possible.
Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)
The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC)