Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Gaza’s new Justice Minister hits the ground running

Gaza City

13 February 2013

Building new prisons is a leading priority of Dt Attallah Abu Elsebah, newly-appointed Minister for Justice in Gaza.

In an interview last week, Dr Abu Elsebah highlighted the problems facing his Ministry, including a lack of buildings, a lack of judges, lack of capacity to cope with more prisoners, and the obstacles to addressing these difficulties presented by the ongoing siege of Gaza.

“Unfortunately because of Israeli attacks on correctional facilities, such as last November on the Saraya complex which held a lot of prisoners, we have little capacity for additional prisoners, and we cannot build because of the crippling siege, and because there are few funds for this type of project, so we are facing a huge problem,” he said.

Later in the week, he was tragically proved correct. Mahrous Fathi Nassar, 37, who was being held in a Gaza police detention centre, died of meningitis on 08 February after being transferred to Al Shifa hospital.

Overcrowded living conditions is a factor that puts people at higher risk of developing meningococcal disease, as it is spread by coughing and sneezing and requires close and continued contact. Such are the conditions Gaza prisoners increasingly find themselves in – and it is not the fault of the government.

Ongoing Israeli offensives targeting Gaza security facilities, and the Israeli siege which prevents the entry of building materials to reconstruct damaged and destroyed correctional facilities in Gaza, contribute directly to creating the conditions responsible for deaths such as that of Mahrous Fathi Nassar.

The Gaza government is not sitting on its hands.

“With all of the support and prayers from Arab countries and from Islamic communities around the world, for sure Gaza will rise again – we will undertake an extensive building programme which will include these projects, under the supervision of the justice and police departments,” the new Minister of Justice concluded.

Some facts about meningitis
• Up to 15 percent of people carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in their nose and throat without being sick. It is not yet fully understood why in some people these bacteria go on to cause disease.
• Sufferers often exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, joint pain, drowsiness or confusion. Additional symptoms that are suggestive of meningococcal infection are light sensitivity or a dislike of bright lights, stiff neck, vomiting, and the appearance of a rash.
• People infected with the bacteria can deteriorate very rapidly. For example, a 12-year-old girl died in New Zealand last September only two hours after breaking out in a rash. In 2011 13 people in NZ died from meningococcal disease.

Watch the interview here:

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