Hebron – Under the auspices of His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas, the High Judicial Council, the Representative Office of Canada and the United Nations Development Programme marked the inauguration of the Hebron Courthouse and Prosecution building today. The courthouse, funded by the Government of Canada for CAD $32 million, will enhance access to justice for approximately 359,000 people from Hebron and surrounding areas.
In his opening remarks, His Excellency Chief Justice Issa Abu Sharar thanked the Government of Canada and UNDP for making this project possible. “For many years the Hebron judiciary was facing a challenge of providing an appropriate environment for litigation until the construction of the Hebron courthouse was completed. The space now takes into consideration judicial and gender requirements and respects the provision of the law image,” he added.
The new courthouse, built to be a model for future court designs in the West Bank, houses the First Instance, Magistrate and Appeal courts, Public Prosecution Service, and the Judicial Police Services over a gross floor area of approximately 16,050 square meters. Its construction has generated approximately 66,339 workdays (530,718 working hours) for people in the Hebron and southern area of the West Bank.
Lynn Hastings, United Nations Resident Coordinator, underlined that "Justice is a prerequisite for people’s trust in institutions – not only from within societies but from the view of partners around the world. Without that trust, peace and security and even economic development will not flourish."
The Hebron courthouse is considered the second largest court in terms of caseloads, after Ramallah’s main courthouse. The project will allow the Hebron courts to handle more cases, hence increasing the efficiency of the justice system, and reducing the existing backlog. The courthouse has dealt with approximately 51,705 cases during 2021.
In her remarks, the Representative of Canada in Ramallah, Ms Robin Wettlaufer, noted that this flagship initiative will increase access to justice services for Palestinians. “Inclusive and safe access to justice services for all citizens is a building block for a just society. Therefore, considerations for vulnerable groups, including women, girls and juveniles, were taken into account. This includes privacy and protection features to ensure that sensitive cases, including those related to gender-based violence, are managed appropriately.”
Equipped to meet international architectural standards, the courthouse utilizes photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and rainwater harvesting, as well as building automation and digitalization to minimize energy consumption and maximize the efficiency and quality of services provided.
The court floor plans were organised around the central courtrooms, allowing the public, judges, jury, and persons in custody to enter from separate areas, ensuring safety and security for all court users. Gender was also a fundamental consideration during the design and construction phases of the project. The new Hebron Courthouse ensures that the privacy needs of women and girls, as well as men and boys, have been appropriately taken into consideration. This has put the needs of the courthouse users at the heart of project.
UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator, Yvonne Helle, thanked the Government of Canada for their partnership and highlighted that the building has an assertive civic quality and an important location. “The courthouse is a place where life changing decisions are handed down. So to have a place that is accessible, modern and user-friendly is really important,” she added.
The ceremony, which took place at the new premises of the Hebron Courthouse on 25 March 2022, was attended by H.E. Chief Justice Issa Abu Sharar; Attorney General Akram Al Khatib, H.E. Minister of Justice Dr Mohammed al-Shalaldeh, Deputy Special Coordinator, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms Lynn Hastings, the Representative of Canada in Ramallah, Ms Robin Wettlaufer, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator Ms Yvonne Helle, as well as members of the bar association, the judiciary, Palestinian police, and local and international community.