JTA — A former US attorney is moving to the West Bank to help the Palestinian Authority strengthen its justice system in anticipation of statehood.
John McKay, a federal prosecutor for the Western District of Washington State from 2001 to 2007, will work for the US State Department supervising a staff of 30 Palestinian lawyers, law enforcement professionals and others, the Seattle Times reported.
McKay, 56, left for Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian government, on Sunday, Seattle University said on Facebook. He teaches courses on constitutional law, terrorism and national security at the university.
His team is tasked with establishing initiatives aimed at strengthening the courts, prosecutors and police.
A report earlier this year by The American Task Force on Palestine, a pro-Palestinian advocacy group in Washington, DC, detailed problems with the justice system in the West Bank.
The report noted a widespread sense that rulings by PA courts and their enforcement depend on favoritism, and that PA security forces sometimes ignore unfavorable legal decisions, eroding the justice system’s credibility.
According to a study cited in the report, only 50 percent of Palestinians said they trust the court system.
McKay told the Seattle Times he will work to “reverse engineer” the Palestinian justice system, which includes remnants of the legal systems of Britain and Israel, as well as elements of Islamic Sharia law.
“It’s a daunting task, no question,” McKay told the newspaper of what will be a two-year assignment based in Ramallah.
McKay was fired during a controversial purge of federal prosecutors by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Following his firing McKay, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.