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'Honour killing' is finally treated as murder in landmark ruling for Palestine Open in fullscreen

Randa Siniora

'Honour killing' is finally treated as murder in landmark ruling for Palestine

The judgement in Suha's case has signalled a new era, writes Siniora [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 June, 2017

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Comment: Suha's case should set a precedent, and be used to help train judges on all issues relating to gender-based violence, writes Randa Siniora.

A landmark judgement was recently handed down in the case of Suha Al-Deek, a 35-year-old woman who was murdered three years ago. Suha was stabbed to death in June 2014 in the kitchen of her home in Kofr Al Deek near Salfit on the West Bank. Her killer was her husband.

The Ramallah appeals court sentenced 46-year-old Abdul Moeti Fayeq, a former Arabic teacher, to 10 years in prison. Albeit more lenient than it might have been, this is the first time in such a case that the court has treated a so-called "honour killing" as murder.

We hope that this precedent-setting judgment will send ripples through Palestinian society, where men who have killed their wives or other female family members have been given shorter sentences.

Following Abdul's trial in May 2016, he was initially given only two years for his wife's murder. In previous sittings, the defence lawyer called Suha "impure" and a "betrayer of her husband".

There is no evidence that any affair ever took place. Abdul left the trial a free man since he had already been in custody for in excess of his short sentence. Before the recent appeals judgement, he had re-married and moved on with his life. 

The problem lies in some of Palestine's outdated and discriminatory penal code. West Bank Palestinians have inherited much of our legal text from Jordan - including Article 99, which allows for judges to use their discretion in "extenuating circumstances", meaning when a woman is killed by a family member.

The problem lies in some of Palestine's outdated and discriminatory penal code

While Jordan has recently fixed some harmful provisions in its own penal code, Palestine has yet to follow suit. This means that justice for women such as Suha is at the mercy of (mostly male) judges who in practice have been lenient on perpetrators and insensitive to the rights of victims.

In a statement, Suha's heartbroken father said: "Suha was murdered by her husband in cold blood in front of her children and in the company of his brothers. My daughter, her children and we, her parents, are all victims of a penal code inherited from the time of Napoleon.

"It is totally discriminatory. What has happened is that the law and those who are responsible for protecting us have become partners in continuing these crimes."

Read more: Legal misogyny in Palestine must end

We stand with him in his battle for justice for Suha.

The Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), the organisation I run in the West Bank has supported cases like this one since it was founded in 1991. We want to make sure that every single Palestinian woman and girl is protected against this horrific form of violence and injustice. 

A Palestinian society where women and girls are treated equally and can access justice for crimes committed against them is within sight

The important precedent in Suha's case should be used to help train judges on all issues relating to femicide and other forms of gender-based violence. We hope that the growing momentum will help in our push for urgent changes to our outdated Penal Code, which has enabled murderers to get reduced sentences for far too long. 

A Palestinian society where women and girls are treated equally and can access justice for crimes committed against them is within sight, but we are not just there just yet.

The judgement in Suha's case has signalled a new era, but we need to keep working hard to make sure we don't lose the gains we've made, and that any new cases of femicide are responded to with appropriate urgency and sensitivity. The future of Palestine depends on it.

 

Randa Siniora is General Director of Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), the Jerusalem-based partner of international women's group, Donor Direct Action.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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