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Lawyers Discuss Incorporation of Human Dignity Concepts in Legal Applications and Pleas


On Thursday, 20 November 2008, the Palestinian Bar Association and Initiative on Judicial Independence and Human Dignity (KARAMAH) at the Institute of Law (IoL), Birzeit University held a joint legal encounter at the Ambassador Hotel in the city of Jerusalem. The encounter brought together a number of Jerusalemite lawyers with longstanding legal expertise as well as representatives of the IoL. Discussants elaborated on the significance and ways to enshrine concepts of human dignity into the justice system and the practice of Palestinian institutions. Participants also highlighted the role lawyers can play in this area.

Dr. Mustafa Mar'i made a presentation on the concept of human dignity, examples on applications in several regions, as well as the relevant role of judges, lawyers and civil society organisations. Dr. Mar'i emphasised that judges are most competent of endowing real strength and meaning to human dignity. They can transfer this concept from textual provisions and mere discretions into application, thereby positively impacting and enhancing the status of public rights and freedoms. To properly perform this mission, lawyers are best assistants to judges. Lawyers can develop arguments grounded on preservation of human dignity. They can also draw examples from judicial systems of other countries so as to corroborate their applications and pleas. As such, an appropriate background will be in place for interpreting legal provisions in a manner that best safeguards maximum protection to citizens' rights and freedoms.

Lawyer Fahed Shuweiki made a briefing on the dignity of litigants and judges in Palestine. Mr. Shuweiki stressed that citizens' dignity cannot be attained unless judges' due dignity and respect are safeguarded. Judges must be immune from any interventions. As the society's dignity derives from that of judges, the latter should enjoy a decent standard of living. According to Mr. Shuweiki, a culture that highlights respect of judges and dignity of litigants should be disseminated. Judges may not be subject to any intrusions whatsoever.

In the ensuing discussion, lawyers presented examples on potential interference in the judicial office and elaborated on activities that can carry out in order to achieve aspired progress. Jerusalemite lawyers also requested that detailed discussions take place in future encounters. In addition, they stressed that contact between them and the Palestinian Bar Association should be promoted and sustained. In fact, such an encounter serves to consolidate both the legal profession and the justice sector in Palestine.

It should be stated that this is the second of a series of encounters held jointly by the Palestinian Bar Association and IoL. Targeting members of the Bar Association, these encounters aim to elaborate on the concept and applications of human dignity in the Palestinian context through the legal profession's mission.

It is also worth noting that the Initiative on Judicial Independence and Human Dignity (KARAMAH) at the Institute of Law, Birzeit University is a project that is implemented in partnership with the Faculty of Law at Windsor University in Canada. KARAMAH benefits from financial support provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).