AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - REF: 1.2005E 4 January 2005
As the Palestinian presidential elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) take place just days away on 9 January 2005, Al-Haq calls upon the international community to demand that Israel prove with its actions recent assurances that it will allow free and fair elections to take place. Al-Haq observes with concern that despite promises by various Israeli officials to ease restrictions on the Palestinian civilian population during the electoral process, both Palestinian voters and the candidates themselves are still being denied their fundamental right to freedom of movement within and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Since the beginning of the campaign period, two candidates from the Gaza Strip have been prevented by Israeli military authorities from entering the West Bank, while one other candidate from the West Bank has been disallowed from campaigning in the Gaza Strip. More seriously, it has been reported that several other candidates in the West Bank have been arrested and even beaten by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints. Access to East Jerusalem, occupied in 1967 and later unlawfully annexed by Israel, has been denied to many of the candidates. In addition, many East Jerusalem residents, required to vote outside of the city boundaries, are intimidated by the continued presence of checkpoints, and the threat of having their IDs confiscated by members of the Israeli authorities if they decide to exercise their voting rights.
Despite Israeli promises to the contrary, the continued violation of Palestinians right to freedom of movement by Israeli occupying forces could possibly also prevent them from reaching their polling stations. In addition, Israels repeated incursions into the north of the Gaza Strip, and into cities in the West Bank to arrest or kill wanted individuals, severely undermine the conditions of stability necessary for Palestinians to participate effectively in Palestinian public life. It also denies them the right to choose their representatives through an electoral process of great significance for the realization of their political and social rights.
Al-Haq urges the international community of states that has endorsed the electoral process and has sent its observers to monitor the process to demand that Israel, the Occupying Power, adheres to its legal obligations of allowing the Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, to participate in the presidential elections unencumbered by measures of collective punishment and intimidation, and that Israel put action behind its words and behave in compliance with international law.