Balancing the Scales of Justice for Survivors of Violence in the West Bank



West Bank, Palestine 

Members of the Palestinian Public Prosecution work to ensure protection and legal justice for women survivors of violence in the West Bank, in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) through the HAYA Joint Programme.

Public Prosecutor and Family Protection Prosecution from Violence Designee Abdel Latif Natour (left) consults with a survivor of violence seeking legal services. Photo © Abdel Latif Natour.

Public prosecution services play a crucial role in holding perpetrators of violence accountable and ensuring justice for survivors. In conflict-affected areas like the West Bank, and especially now in Gaza, survivors often experience profound trauma, both physical and psychological, and services are overwhelmed, under-resourced, and disrupted, access to services including justice services is essential in beginning their journey towards healing and recovery.

“I advise every girl and every woman, when she is subjected to violence of any kind, to seek help, without any hesitation or fear.” Twenty-five-year-old Sara*

Twenty-five-year-old Sara* shares how she was subjected to emotional and physical violence by her husband who was pressuring her to initiate divorce proceedings and forgo her monetary rights. He then abandoned her and their daughter. “I was depressed and afraid, and I was not socializing,” she says. “I felt so lonely and sad and was crying constantly.”

For Sara, everything changed when the Palestinian police referred her to a social worker at the Ministry of Social Development following the abuse by her husband, as per the National Referral System, which outlines the protocols and best practices for survivors of violence. Sara says the social worker was a continual source of support at the time and, in parallel with protection services provided to her, referred her to the Prosecution for Family Protection from Violence in the Public Prosecution office which in part specializes in investigating and prosecuting crimes committed against women within their families. Here, the prosecutor listened to her statement and brought charges against her husband, and in partnership with other units providing support to survivors helped Sara attain her dower rights from her husband through the Sharia courts. In coordination with the Ministry of Health, prosecutors also helped to provide psychological support for Sara.

“At first, I was very afraid and psychologically exhausted, but from my first meeting with the Public Prosecution, I started becoming a stronger person,” explains Sara.

Today, she is in a much better place. “My life has changed for the better, and I have become a person who is aware and able to solve any problems I face,” says Sara.

“I have become stronger and more independent legally, psychologically, and socially and can socialize within the community without any obstacles and can be a great mother to the sweetest girl in my life.”
“All women should be aware of these services,” states Sara.

In Palestine, three in five women who have ever been married have been subjected to violence by their husbands and two in five single women by family members. Over half of these women choose to remain silent, either due to fear of repercussions or not being believed or attempting to protect others.

Ensuring support services for victims and survivors of violence is vital. In Palestine, these include health care, justice and policing, and social services. The FPU in the Palestinian Public Prosecution is a key element in this larger package of services. Its public prosecutors investigate the legal cases of survivors through its litigation procedural stages, including appeal and cessation, until a final decision is issued by the court. While liaising with other service providers, they work to criminally prosecute perpetrators of crime, while working to safeguard confidentiality, legal rights, protection, and hopefully justice for women subjected to violence.

In partnership with the Palestinian Ministry of Justice and through the HAYA Joint Programme, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has trained many of these public prosecutors in the West Bank to respond more effectively to cases of sexual and gender-based violence*, from forensic medicine to proper documentation and evidence handling. This training focused on prosecutorial obligations for survivors, the effective use of evidence, conducting comprehensive investigations, and supporting those traumatized by violence.

Thirty-nine-year-old Public Prosecutor and Family Protection Prosecution from Violence Designee Abdel Latif Natour was one of those trained. “Through the training, I gained skills and learned about several important topics,” says Abdel Latif, “such as forensic medicine, working in alignment with the National Referral System, and how to listen to statements and investigate gender-based violence cases.” He says applying this newly found knowledge has helped him and prosecutors like him better respond to cases of violence against women.

HAYA Joint Programme Manager Hazam Tahbub stresses the importance of intensifying efforts to improve access to justice for women survivors of violence. “The HAYA Joint Programme, through the UNODC, is part of a wide range of intense efforts in Palestine, including the efforts of other UN agencies and the UN Joint Programme Sawasya that works to advance the rule of law, gender justice, and human rights in Palestine.”

UNODC plans to continue partnering with the Attorney General Office in further capacitating public prosecutors to improve the quality of services provided to survivors of violence despite the challenges that lie ahead, the most important of which are the small number of protection centers for survivors. This is compounded by the absence of a law protecting families from violence and regulating measures against their perpetrators.

Abdel Latif says some first steps to counter these obstacles would be to establish private areas in courtrooms to ensure the confidentiality of violence cases, such as the specialized court in Nablus established by Sawasya as well to endorse the Family Protection from Violence Bill and to appoint specialized judges for cases of gender-based violence.

Abdel Latif and his colleagues have dedicated themselves to seeking justice for survivors of violence. Abdel Latif says his main motivation is to see a Palestine free of violence “I hope Palestinian families will be free of violence, living in peace and dignity, and that Palestinian women will be able to access to justice.”


Survivors of violence in the West Bank can contact justice services by dialing 100 for the Palestinian police through the direct FPU helpline 106, operational twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, or by heading to the FPU headquarters or closest police building, or local women’s organizations available to help. For the full directory of available services in Palestine, please click here.

*Gender-based violence is violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

*Sara is an alias used to maintain the survivor’s privacy.

Funded by the Government of Canada
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