When judges pound their gavel against their wooden block inside Palestinian Judicial House Courts, it is not an action necessarily used to punctuate their ruling or call for order in the courtroom. Many times it is a call to postpone their ruling on a certain case. This postponing process can take many years before bringing closure, leaving suspects (guilty or not) thrown in jail until their savior comes to their rescue; cases’ witnesses.
It’s a problem that has long haunted Palestinian courts; witnesses fail to arrive to court hearings to give their statements therefore, delaying cases’ progression and adding more case files on a shelf all ready stacked. Many innocent suspects were placed in jail for more than four years before finally hearing the bells of freedom when called-for witnesses finally arrive.
Ahamd Al-Sayad a lawyer based in Ramallah who has deep roots working in Palestinian courts said; “the presence of witnesses is one of the main factors that help accelerate or block the progression of litigation in courts. There are many obstacles resulting from bailiffs not delivering the report [to the witness] or from the witness himself [not attending], especially those who live outside Palestinian authority districts.”
According to Al-Sayad, many players in the courtroom shoulder the responsibility of setting the wheels in motion when it comes to case progression.
The court today is trying to focus on lawyers to bring witnesses to the stand, along with placing fees on unattended witnesses, in hopes that this will help limit case delays, according to Al-Sayad.