Palestinian lawyers protest against “rule by decree”

Palestinian lawyers protest against “rule by decree”
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The new leadership of the Palestinian Bar Association seeks to put pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas

In a rare show of civil disobedience, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in the occupied West Bank. The protest was organized and led by the Palestinian Bar Association. According to a report by Al Jazeera English, the Association’s President Suheil Ashour told the AFP news agency that his body would stand firm against legislation delivered by presidential decrees that curbed Palestinian rights and freedoms.

Our demand is either to stop their implementation now or to cancel restrictive laws

Ashour has been pushing for reforms since he was elected as the association’s president earlier this year. 

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) has been inactive since 2007. The body was created under the Oslo Accords with Israel. Abbas was elected President of the Palestinian Authority in 2005 following the death of the iconic leader Yasser Arafat. This means that Abbas has led Palestine without a functioning parliament for nearly almost all of his tenure.

The draft Palestinian constitution allows for presidential decrees “if necessary,” in cases where the PLC cannot act. But the lawyers that took to the streets say that Abbas has gone too far. They attempted to march to the office of Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Riot police prevented the lawyers from doing so.

Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, dealing a huge blow to Abbas’ secular Fatah movement. The fallout from that vote resulted in a split in Palestinian governance – Fatah retained control of the occupied West Bank while Hamas took over control in Gaza in 2007 following clashes between PA security forces and the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Abbas officially disbanded the inactive PCL in 2018 and promised to hold new elections. They were supposed to take place last year with the participation of Hamas but were canceled due to Israel refusing to allow voting in annexed East Jerusalem.