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Husband pleads guilty to murder as probe slams police
Published Friday 21/12/2012 (updated) 02/01/2013 16:37
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Police officers stand guard in Hebron. (Reuters/Ammar Awad, File)
By Soraya Al-Ghussein and Hannah Patchett

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A man pleaded guilty to murdering his wife on Thursday in a case that sparked outrage and prompted a presidential inquiry into institutional failures to protect victims of domestic violence.

The prosecutor charged Shadi Ubeidallah, 33, with fatally slashing the throat of his estranged wife Nancy Zaboun outside her workplace, a shop in Bethlehem's Old City, on July 30.

Zaboun, 29, was killed half an hour after attending a court hearing with Ubeidallah to decide custody for their children, aged 3, 6, and 8. An autopsy revealed she suffered 13 stab wounds in the attack.

Although Ubeidallah pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, he told the court that "it's not all true," without elaborating. The judge postponed the trial to Feb. 21 to allow the defense to call witnesses.

The night before her death, Zaboun told police Ubeidallah had attacked her at her workplace and threatened to kill her.

Zaboun had repeatedly complained of domestic violence to police, the Ministry of Social Affairs and three women's organizations but Ubeidallah, a former police officer, was arrested for the first time at the scene of her murder.

The public nature of Zaboun’s killing provoked outrage and demonstrations. President Mahmoud Abbas responded by forming a committee which, in October, criticized police and women's institutions for failing to protect Zaboun.

"The police must work with complaints in a swift and serious manner, and follow all legal steps required of them by the law," the committee recommended in a confidential 40-page report seen by Ma'an.

Zaboun started divorce proceedings, a lengthy process in Palestinian courts, on June 26. The judge in the case postponed two hearings because Zaboun's lawyer, provided by the Mehwar center for women, was not licensed to practice law in the Palestinian religious court that deals with divorce.

The Ministry of Social Affairs twice referred Zaboun to women's organizations, finally to a counseling center run by Khawla al-Azraq, a women's rights activist, on June 27.

The ministry passed responsibility to the center "because they didn't work seriously with these cases, because they didn't have a clear plan to deal with such cases," al-Azraq told Ma'an. "They don't like to hear these words but this is the fact."

Zaboun told al-Azraq that Ubeidallah had beaten her since their wedding day 10 years earlier; she spent the first 10 days of married life in hospital.

In an interview, al-Azraq criticized the police, noting that Zaboun had presented them with medical reports detailing broken bones, cigarette burns and strangulation attempts.

"This man, he tortured her and he hit her all the time. Even he broke her arm sometimes, and there were signs on her body. And he also tortured the children, not only Nancy. But they never arrested him. He never went to jail," al-Azraq said.

The inquiry found that only one of Zaboun's five complaints was transferred to the public prosecution. It was never pursued.

Instead, police asked Ubeidallah to sign "pledges" not to attack Zaboun again, most recently the night before she was killed.

Police often ask men to sign "pledges" in cases of domestic violence, a practice the minister of women's affairs says should be scrapped.

"One day a pledge is signed, the next day something else happens. This is clearly flawed and needs to be stopped because it can sometimes lead to further killings of women," Rabiha Diab told Ma’an.

Ministry of Interior official Haitham Arrar says police must be trained not to seek compromises in cases of domestic abuse.

"When a woman goes to the police station to complain about violence, the police think of culture and not the law and try to make some kind of compromise between the woman and the abuser," said Arrar, who heads the ministry's human rights and democracy unit.

"Mostly these compromises are promises but he will do a different thing," she said.

Despite these concerns, the Palestinian Authority is showing no signs of change: The president's legal adviser says "pledges" encourage reconciliation between spouses.

"This is what the police do, they reconcile social disputes. In (Zaboun's) case, there was a murder but in the majority of cases the outcome was positive," Hassan al-Ouri, the legal adviser, told Ma'an. Domestic violence "was present from the time of Adam and will be around until the Day of Judgment."

In an interview at the president's compound in Ramallah, al-Ouri spoke of "instances where a husband hits a wife but he really, truly loves her and they continue the rest of their lives together until they die."

'Silent violence'

Nearly 90 percent of married women in the West Bank say they have been sexually abused by their husbands, and 78.6 percent say they have been physically abused, according to a 2011 survey.

Police records show that 339 women reported domestic physical assaults in the West Bank between January and June but Arrar, the interior ministry official, says the real figure is likely to be higher.

"I think the number of women living under domestic violence is more than official statistics available: this is a silent violence," she said.

Zaboun was unusual: Just 1.2 percent of abused women in the West Bank go to the police, according to the 2011 survey, which was conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

"She dreamed to have a small house, to live with her children and to find work. And she said, 'just help me in this to live with my children,'" al-Azraq says. "She was dreaming about life."
1 ) Reader / from Edmonton
22/12/2012 00:15
Will Shadi Ubeidallah face the death penalty?

2 ) Duty for police? / EU
22/12/2012 12:07
"This is what the police do, they reconcile social disputes. In (Zaboun's) case, there was a murder but in the majority of cases the outcome was positive," Hassan al-Ouri, the legal adviser, told Ma'an. Domestic violence "was present from the time of Adam and will be around until the Day of Judgment." "This is what the police do" ?? No, police is supposed to protect citizens and help putting the criminals (this includes people who attack and torture other people) into jail!

3 ) Mitri I. Musleh / Canada
22/12/2012 15:54
To the reader from Edmonton: The punishment can never justify the crime. This problem is well rooted within the cultural and religious values of the Palestinian people. Not unless the law makers of the country establish a law that forbids such actions and puts into place concrete steps to protect the Palestinian women, then this situation will continue on occurring for generations to come.

4 ) southparkbear / usa
22/12/2012 16:08
i am sure under pressure to understand the 'poor' husband she'll be found guilty

5 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
22/12/2012 17:17
Will the PA join the 21st century and make their society safer for women and girls. All indications are that Hamas will eventually take over the PA, meaning Palestinian women who fear their abusive husbands will have no choice but to abandon their children and move to countries where they are safer. Their other choice is to stay and face abuse and/or death. Ma'an readers should use their heads and realize what a Hamas takeover of the PA means for human rights in Palestine.

6 ) Nancy cohen / Alquds
22/12/2012 18:20
90% BS , So 90% 0f palestinians are rapests, lol Maan reports funny at times Brian cohen hahaha reads maan everyday, comments are anti palestinian Why brian cohen reads maan everyday??? Paid propagandist

7 ) Robert Haymond / Israel-Gush Etzion
22/12/2012 18:32
Ma'an Readers do not "use their heads", Brian. Their one and only interest is to excoriate the Jewish nation. That's all!

8 ) carine / UK
22/12/2012 21:19
Why single out Palestinians? Abuse and domestic violence occurs in all societies. It occurs in the upper, middle and lower classes - there is no distinction. I see Haaretz is running an article on Israeli women who are experiencing or have experienced abuse and domestic violence in their own homes. So please look to your own society before looking down your nose at others...

9 ) ian / australia
23/12/2012 01:20
A horrible story and a big problem for Palestinian law and society, rooted in archaic ideas and behaviour in Palestinian (Islamic) culture...which HAS to be reformed...but not too horrible for southparkbear (#4) and Brian Cohen (#5) to use for some cheap political shots (or in southparkbears's case, just cheap). Brian's sudden concern for "human rights in Palestine" is a howler given the greatest abuser of those rights is Israel and its 45-year-old Occupation (something Brian, tireless, scuzzy,

10 ) ian / australia
23/12/2012 01:22
(contd.) fear-mongering Likud agit-propagandist, living in a state of perpetual (cynical) denial, is incapable of acknowledging. (Southparkbear's offensive idiocy is no surprise.)

11 ) Reader / from Edmonton
23/12/2012 02:55
Well President Abbas, here is another challenge for you. Action is required now: delay is not an option. Women deserve equal protection under the law. We await your reply.

12 ) ian / australia
27/12/2012 07:22
#7 "Their one and only interest is to excoriate the Jewish nation. That's all!" Earth to Robert. Outside your Zionist bubble, with its mix of braggadocio and paranoia, the "only interest" for most of us is some kind of justice for the Palestinians. You inhabit Brian's world of denial: Israel is never at fault and Palestinians have NO valid grievances. Criticism of Israel (which is blameless) is therefore an anti-Semitic attack to "excoriate the Jewish nation"...not for how it behaves, but

13 ) ian / australia
27/12/2012 07:25
(contd.) because it is "the Jewish nation"! Robert, brother, look in the mirror. I mean REALLY look in the mirror: Israel behaves like a lunatic, rogue state. It is a pariah. A monster.

14 ) ShirleyS / Australia
30/12/2012 16:16
#8 asks, ''Why single out Palestinians?'' No one is, we are singling out Moslems and their culture, you have to look no further than Jordan’s attitude to honour killings. We are actually talking about murders and murderers, not abuse and domestic violence to Israeli women in their own homes.

15 ) carine / UK
05/01/2013 05:52
#14 - Just caught your post. What's Jordan and honour killings got to do with the article? And why single out Moslems? It is about a Palestinian woman who suffered from domestic violence and died as a result, which happens in every society. I'll bet it even happens in Australia! BTW - my response was directed at #5 and his ilk, but I accidentally omitted that part of my post.

16 ) Edithann / USA
17/01/2013 09:28
Domestic Violence is endemic in every culture, Arab and Jews.. and just about on the same scale...

It's endemic in the 'male psyche'...and sorry to say I don't see it ever easing unless women demand equal rights in the courts and men risk to lose more then women...

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