As Palestinian civil society organisations concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), we are deeply concerned with the deteriorating human rights situation on the ground. In light of the EU’s upcoming negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) relating to the adoption of a new Action Plan, we would like to highlight some of these concerns.
Two of the main factors that have contributed to the deterioration of the human rights situation are (1) the political fragmentation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and (2) the ongoing Israeli occupation. Most human rights violations committed by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are a direct result of political tensions between the Hamas defacto-government in Gaza and the Fatah-led PA in the West Bank. The vast majority of human rights violations perpetrated by the PA are directed against Palestinians in alleged affiliation with Hamas; in the Gaza Strip individuals affiliated with Fatah are the primary targets of violations. As this paper attempts to illustrate, the PA has adopted of a pattern of oppressive policies to stifle political dissent and to generate a sense of intimidation within Palestinian society, turning the latter into what resembles a “police state“ void of democratic values and the rule of law.
The EU’s refusal to engage in any dialogue with the Hamas de facto government in the Gaza Strip is perpetuating the political split between the West Bank and Gaza, which has serious and potentially long term implications for both the human rights situation on the ground as well as the realisation of a sovereign and independent Palestinian State.
While the EU-PA Association Agreement does not cover violations committed by Israel, the Occupying Power, it is crucial to take into account the considerable restrictions under which the Palestinian Authority operates by virtue of the occupation. The current EU-Israel Action Plan rightly acknowledges that Israel’s “continuing occupation, including settlement activity, restrictions to movement as a result of the closure policy and the separation barrier” affect “the scope of actions that can be feasibly undertaken”. As Israel remains in effective control of the OPT, constituent of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the main responsibilities under international law remain with the Israeli Occupying Power.