Mr Bahjat Al-Helo, the Independent Human Rights Commission’s Outreach and Training Coordinator, confirmed that the Palestinian Elections Decree issued earlier this year raised vigilance and hope in Palestinian society for the establishment of the Legislative Council, which is the most important institution of oversight and accountability.
This was during a radio episode entitled “Legal Implications of Electoral Cancellation” during the “Electoral Issues” broadcast programme through Zaman Radio. It is worth noting that this programme came as a part of the project “Empowering Civil Society Role to Achieve Palestinian Election”. This project aims to empower the role of civil society, activate the role of youth and enhance their political and community participation in support of Palestinian elections. This project is carried out by the Pal-Think for Strategic Studies and is funded by the Government of Canada.
Al-Helo said that most of their problems over the past 15 years have been caused by the lack of accountability and oversight. All human rights violations, such as denial of movement, travel, hate speech, violations of general human rights in peaceful marches and so forth.
He also added that the elections brought an end to this suffering. As human rights institutions, we have been advising electoral lists to make human rights an important consideration in shaping their lists. The Electoral Commission worked very professionally, a court for electoral issues was established, and civil society organizations’ programmes and plans were created to train and monitor the participation of women and youth in electoral blocs, despite our opposition to the law on the age of standing for youth and the representation of women. However, this was the result of national consensus and was the first time after many years of fragmentation and internal conflict.
The jurist, Mr Al-Helo, pointed out that any healthy society that respects human rights must respect oversight mechanisms within society. The most important oversight tool in our society is the formal judiciary.
He also noted that the situation of loss and despair that had accompanied the issuance of the presidential decree had been postponed. Besides, the Political, partisan and security considerations in the Palestinian landscape prevailed over considerations of law and human rights.
Mr Bahjat also stated that it was the work of the elected Legislative Council to consolidate all decisions by law. But as a Palestinian society, we were told not to lose hope. This broadcast is part of maintaining its momentum, and all projects that are still required to censor empowerment and discrimination come within the framework of maintaining the momentum of the elections.
What did we lose by postponing the election? Al-Helo answered that First, they have lost the right to political participation, the preservation of citizens’ dignity and equality, the transition from vulnerability to power, the transition from chaos to planning, from tampering to grandparents, from love to hatred, and the role of the participation of women and youth with disabilities.
Then he added that they have lost efforts to end the split. Besides, they lost national unity and thus the political system continues to be fragmented. He also pointed out that once the postponement decree had been issued, hate speech had escalated.
Al-Helo emphasized the right of the people to know the control mechanisms of the Legislative Council. The absence of this becomes an entry point for corruption because of the absence of the oversight mechanism of the Legislative Council, which has three functions: enactment of laws, monitoring and accountability of government performance, and approval of the public budget. In practice, the Council now does not enact laws or approve the budget. So we have two problems, one corruption and the other we have a police system. The absence of the Legislative Council has thus led to the absence of our economic and social security and our right to accountability.
The jurist noted that 60% of the Palestinian people were under the age of 30. They are a young society and have for 15 years been deprived of their right to legislative and presidential elections, municipalities and student councils.
Al-Helo also said that one of the most significant disappointments they have with the postponement of the elections is the processing of some outstanding files, such as the families of the 2014 martyrs, as well as the 2005 personnel file, which was supposed to be resolved, and the issue of passport violations, not to mention the disruption of the Gaza Strip Road Accident Compensation Fund since the beginning of the split.
The jurist stressed that the suffering of the Palestinian people was caused by the occupation and political considerations that had arisen after the split.
He finally stated that the situation now required a national plan after the elections had been postponed. They must press the Palestinian leadership to issue a new date for the elections and withdraw the decree freezing the union elections issued prior to the election decree; Young people are now active members of associations. Amendments to the work of associations and the promotion of elections at the university and municipal levels.
He concluded by saying that he prays that hope remains in young people.
The designations employed and the representation of material in these meetings do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Government of Canada.”