[JURIST] Chief Justice of the High Court of Justice in Gaza [JURIST news archive] Abdul Ra'ouf al-Halabi Sunday announced an order requiring female lawyers to wear traditional religious robes and headscarves or hijab [JURIST news archive] for any court appearances. The order, originally issued July 9, also establishes new guidelines for male lawyers. The decision has been criticized for establishing different courtroom garb rules for Palestinian areas in Gaza and the West Bank. In a statement Sunday the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [advocacy website] said [press release] the decision also "violates the constitution and the law and undermines women's rights and personal freedoms ensured by the constitution," adding that the the Higher Justice Council in Hamas-controlled Gaza is unconstitutional because "its mandate derogates from the authorities of the Higher Judicial Council, which had already been established in accordance with the constitution." The decision will take effect on September 1 and coincides [Haaretz report] with a series of other Muslim religious laws that have been approved recently in Gaza.
Two parallel governments have been established in the territory of the Palestinian National Authority as a result of infighting between Hamas [JURIST news archive; CFR backgrounder] the secular Fatah Movement [BBC backgrounder], which currently holds the West Bank. Hamas began to replace [JURIST report] the Gaza courts in 2007 when the judiciary in the strip stopped cooperating with the Hamas government on orders from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas, which was elected as the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority in 2006, has refused to distance itself from terrorism or recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation-state, resulting in increased ostracism by the United States, the European Union, and Israel.