“I’m proud of how we supported our Palestinian counterparts to help them manage the Covid-19 pandemic”

Peter Stafverfeldt, a Swedish judge, has spent over two years at EUPOL COPPS, first as the Deputy Head of the Rule of Law section from March 2017 – August 2018, and more recently as an Adviser to the Palestinian Ministry of Justice since February 2020. He will soon move to Ukraine, to take up a post as the Head of the Rule of Law at the EU’s policing and rule of law Mission there (EUAM Ukraine).

“I will miss my Palestinian colleagues,” says Stafverfeldt. “I like meeting with the counterparts – they have a special mindset. They have so many difficulties, but have kept a positive mindset, because what else can you do? Many are well educated and they want to achieve something”.

He describes being a judge as one of the “most nationally oriented occupations you can have, because it’s based on your knowledge of national laws”. So, he was very happy for the chance to get to know another culture better, “I got to go to another country with a different culture, climate and language and do different work, advising and project management, instead of adjudicating cases – I’m happy this opportunity existed”.

One of the areas Stafverfeldt has been advising on is strategic planning. He is open about the challenges that the Palestinian Ministry of Justice faces. “I’m afraid that the planning units have too much to do,” he says. “There is a belief that the planning units should take care of all the planning, but that is not effective. Every head of unit and department should plan for their own business. And the planning unit should have more of a supporting and monitoring role – helping the other heads of units and departments to set objectives and indicators as well as using software and statistics to be able to describe progress or lack thereof to the Minister”.

The Swedish judge has tried to support a more collaborative approach to planning in the Ministry of Justice and judicial system more widely, with managers meeting to jointly agree on objectives that can be monitored by planning units. To this end he helped organise a two-day workshop for mid-level and senior managers in February 2020, where they could openly discuss the strategy for the Palestinian justice sector.

He also believes that the collaborative approach should extend to integrating the views of Palestinian civil society and international donors, and that this would lead to better strategies being developed. He helped organise such a workshop in March 2020, where the strategy for the Palestinian justice sector was discussed, and hopes similar events will be a regular occurrence when future strategies are being developed.

On the subject of the Covid-19 pandemic, he says “It’s been very weird, because I had only two months working as an adviser, before the emergency measures turned everything upside down”. Many of the projects he was working on were suspended, but he is proud of how quickly the money for these projects was reassigned to support the Palestinian justice sector deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stafverfeldt played an important role in responding to the Ministry of Justice’s request for support to improve the IT infrastructure.

“We managed to take care of almost everything that was requested by the Ministry of Justice – IT equipment and IT security. We provided IT equipment to senior officials to aid teleworking. Protection against cyberthreats is important also, because the Ministry of Justice deals with sensitive information and personal data and the kind of information you do not want to be leaked. Therefore, we provided them with an IT security solution. We also provided them with backup software, a support contract and a complete fire security system for their server hall – previously everything they had on their computers could be lost, if for example there was a cyberattack or a fire”.

Stafverfeldt worked for a long period as the head of the Swedish Judicial Training Academy Unit, and is therefore passionate about training. He believes that more can be done to support newly appointed Palestinian judges and prosecutors at the beginning of their career. To help give his Palestinian counterparts some inspiration on how this can be done, he arranged a study trip to Sweden in 2018. He notes that there is a diploma programme for people wanting to become judges, but also states, “How can you expect someone to take three years to become a judge studying, with no guarantee of a job? There are too many lawyers and too few positions as a judge or prosecutor, and this is why many lawyers need to find other jobs. You can see them working as taxi drivers, hairdressers, waiters etc. On the job training would be better and I think this insight is dawning here”.

He also hopes that the Palestinian justice system will be able to take a more coordinated approach to training, in order to make sure that there is a record of which trainings people have completed and there isn’t overlap or repeated trainings. Building a comprehensive training methodology would greatly improve the impact of training, he believes.

The emergency measures related to the coronavirus pandemic might make it hard for Stafverfeldt to say goodbye to each of his Palestinian counterparts in person. He underlines however that they won’t be forgotten, and that he will look back on his time in Ramallah with a lot of fondness.