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Lawyers' strike paralyzes West Bank courts

Feb. 13, 2014 3:56 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 13, 2014 11:06 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- A general strike announced by the Palestinian Lawyers' Union paralyzed West Bank courts on Thursday despite the reported approval by the Higher Judicial Council of an initiative proposed by President Mahmoud Abbas to end a dispute between the union and the council.

Striking lawyers organized pickets on Thursday morning in front of court buildings across the West Bank urging the Higher Judicial Council to accept the unions' demands, threatening further protests if they failed to do so.

Speaker of the lawyers union Hussein Shabanah told Ma'an that the union had not been officially informed that the Higher Judicial Council accepted the initiative proposed by president Abbas' office.

"We will go ahead with protective moves until all disputed issues are resolved," he said, highlighting that some issues could take a long period of time to settle.

Demands related to amendments in the legislative system, said Shabanah, are among these. One of the major demanded amendments, he explained, is to have court hearings with one judge instead of a panel of three.

"This is a basic demand, and it will take time as it needs to be approved by the president."

A second demand is for the judges to "show respect to both citizens and lawyers" during court hearings, Shabanah said, highlighting that some judges treat citizens and lawyers disrespectfully.

A third and very important demand is to make amendments to the judges' working hours.

"It is unbelievable that judges work only from 10 in the morning to one in the afternoon, especially given the large numbers of pending lawsuits."

Shabanah mentioned several other demands an important one of which was that when the Higher Judicial Council appoints new judges, the union of lawyers should be consulted.

"Judges originally worked as lawyers and the union keeps files about their history, and so it's unacceptable to appoint them without consulting the union because some of them may have made mistakes."
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