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Palestinian election: Free, fair, democratic and credible vote must include East Jerusalem – UN experts

GENEVA (26 July 2021) -  UN human rights experts* today called upon the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the occupying power, to take all steps necessary within their respective powers to re-schedule the elections for the Palestinian presidency, the legislature and municipalities within a reasonably short timeframe and to ensure that these elections are free, fair, democratic, peaceful and credible.

The parliamentary and presidential elections had been scheduled for May and July respectively, but were postponed indefinitely on 29 April by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas due to concerns about Palestinians’ ability to vote in East Jerusalem.

“We are deeply concerned by the postponement of the scheduled elections in Palestine,” the experts said.

“The Palestinian elections present a monumental opportunity to renew the democratic process, to address the long-standing internal political divisions, to strengthen accountable institutions and to take an important step towards achieving the fundamental national and individual rights of the Palestinian people.

“We call upon Israel to clearly state that it will allow the full democratic participation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem in the planned elections. As the occupying power in East Jerusalem, it must interfere as little as possible with the rights and daily lives of the Palestinians.

“Given the advances in technology and in remote and electronic voting, a variety of means to enable full democratic participation are available,” the experts stated.

The human rights experts noted that the Oslo Agreements provide for the right of Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate in Palestinian elections. In previous Palestinian elections in 1996, 2005 and 2006, Palestinians in East Jerusalem were able to participate, although not without considerable difficulties.

“The international community has repeatedly stated, through the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, that all Israeli alterations to East Jerusalem’s demography and to its political and legal status are null and void,” they said. “Here is a golden opportunity for the world to affirm these commitments in the name of democracy and international law.”

The UN human rights experts called upon the Palestinian Authority to reschedule the elections for new dates in the very near future. When these elections are held, the democratic rights of voters, candidates, political parties and participants are to be fully respected by all, including the occupying power. 

“The freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly, movement and association are core human rights, and they are particularly important in the democratic process,” they said. “As such, intimidation, arrests and detentions and the disruption of political meetings and campaigning by any governing authority are utterly incompatible with international human rights protections.”

Finally, the human rights experts called upon the Palestinian authorities who have established the rules for the upcoming elections to remove any legal barriers that inhibit the full and free participation of Palestinians in the democratic process.

 “We are disturbed by some aspects of the eligibility rules for individuals and political lists who would wish to become active in the Palestinian elections. In particular, the requirement that each political list pay a $20,000 (US) registration fee and that candidates working in the broad public sector, for international organizations and in civil society must resign from their current jobs in order to run appear to create unjustified obstacles to ensuring a democratic process,” the experts said.

“We call upon all parties to respect the independence and impartiality of the Central Election Commission. We also call for the creation of a specialized court which will decide challenges to the election process, as called for in the Cairo agreement.”

Half of the eligible voters in the occupied Palestinian territory are between the ages of 18 and 33 years old. Given that the last Palestinian elections were in January 2006, they have never voted in national Palestinian elections.

“We do not underestimate the challenges of holding free and fair democratic elections while under an entrenched and harsh occupation,” said the experts. “We welcome the assistance offered by the international community, particularly the European Union and the United Nations, to facilitate these elections. But the elections will only achieve credibility and open the door to political renewal, particularly among younger Palestinians, if all sides respect the values of democracy and human rights. 

“As well, we call upon the international community and Israel to respect the outcome of the Palestinian elections when they are held, and to call upon all parties to act in accordance with international law.” 

ENDS

*The experts: Mr. Michael Lynk,  Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.Ms. Irene KhanSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression. Mr.Clément Nyaletsossi VouleSpecial Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel  

For more information and media requests, please contact Abigail Eshel at aeshel@ohchr.org.

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)