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Position Paper by Palestinian Civil Society Organisations and the Independent Commission for Human Rights on the Decision by the Supreme Constitutional Court to Dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council and to Call for Legislative Elections

Thursday, 27 December 2018 19:58
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Position Paper by Palestinian Civil Society Organisations and the Independent Commission for Human Rights on the Decision by the Supreme Constitutional Court to Dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council and to Call for Legislative ElectionsAs Palestinians continue to face some of the most dangerous times, in light of Israel’s systematic violations and crimes against the protected civilian population and their property under international law, including through prolonged settlement construction and expansion, the fragmentation of the Palestinian territory, the prolonged and unlawful closure of the Gaza Strip, and the isolation of the city of Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), internal Palestinian divisions also continue as a result of the failure of reconciliation efforts, threatening catastrophic consequences for the occupied Palestinian people in their struggle to achieve their legitimate rights. Accordingly, we must strive to unite the Palestinian political system and the Palestinian territory by searching for and strengthening common ground while eliminating differences. As such, it remains imperative to enable the Government to exercise its functions in the Gaza Strip, while presidential and legislative elections remain necessary and vital components of the reconciliation process. Further essential is the renewal of the political system through the consensus of all parties, while ensuring citizens are granted their right to participate in the management of public affairs and in the election of their representatives, in addition to strengthening oversight and accountability tools to empower Palestinian society. Critically, the State of Palestine must respect, protect, and fulfil the international treaties to which it has acceded. Above all, the serious fragmentation of the Palestinian territory and the political system must be brought to an end.

In light of the above, the Palestinian Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC or the 'Court') issued an explanatory decision No. 10/2018 on 12 December 2018 (the 'Decision'), calling for the dissolution of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC or the 'Council'), effective as of the date of the Decision, while also calling on the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to declare the holding of legislative elections within six months starting from the date the decision is published in the Official Gazette. The Decision was issued based on a request by the Chair of the High Judicial Council (HJC).

Palestinian civil society organisations and the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) stress that the SCC Decision has no basis in the Palestinian Basic Law, which does not allow for the dissolution of the PLC under any circumstances, not even under a state of emergency (Article 113). The Decision further violates constitutional principles and values, notably the principle of the rule of law, the principle of the separation of powers, and of the independence of the judiciary as the foundations of good governance. The Decision is political and unconstitutional in nature and sets a dangerous precedent for the dissolution of any legislative council, which may be elected in future.

In this context, the SCC constitutes a serious threat to the Palestinian political system as a whole, in light of its repeated violations of the Basic Law and its supremacy, its disregard for fundamental rights and freedoms, and the Court's lack of compliance with the objective conditions governing explanatory decisions. The SCC has already granted the Palestinian President the right to lift parliamentary immunity granted by the Constitution to any member of the Council, while the Court has also given the military judiciary broad powers over civilians and made general reservations to international treaties to which the State of Palestine has acceded without reservations, in violation of the Basic Law and international conventions and standards. Furthermore, the SCC was established in violation of the Basic Law and the SCC Law, while it has directly contributed to deepening the political division, to the extent that the Administrative Court in Gaza has issued a decision to cancel the formation of the SCC, with its resulting implications. Palestinian civil society organisations and the ICHR have repeatedly called for the annulment of the decision to form the SCC and called for the Court's dissolution.

The SCC Decision comes in light of an increasing fragmentation in the Palestinian political system, the monopoly of the executive authority over other authorities, and the general deterioration of the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while it also comes in the context of ongoing deterioration in the Palestinian judiciary and justice system, especially since the accession by the State of Palestine to international treaties. The current situation is also characterized by an absence of accountability for violations and the lack of effective remedies, in addition to the decline in transparency and participation in the decision-making process. As a result, Palestinian citizens have not felt the impact of Palestine's accession to the international treaties, while these treaties are yet to be implemented on the ground.

The insistence on the dissolution of the PLC in this unconstitutional manner, after the Council's disruption due to partisan differences, perpetuates the notion of political corruption and constitutes an attack against the pillars of national integrity, while it undermines efforts to combat corruption, particularly accountability measures, by challenging the most important tool for accountability and oversight in the face of the executive branch, which is the legislative authority.

The call for free, fair, and simultaneous general elections between the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, whether presidential or legislative, and the creation of a viable electoral environment, through national consensus and the exercise of public rights and freedoms, is a right and a national and constitutional requirement, the fulfilment of which we have been and will continue to seek. Alongside this process, Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections must be held to restore national unity and to ensure the right of Palestinians, wherever they may be, to freely choose their representatives. The call for general elections is also a step towards empowering Palestinian youth, who make up the largest segment of Palestinian society, by ensuring their right to participate in political life and in decision-making as part of the democratic transition after years of rights deprivations. Our efforts will continue to aim towards achieving an end to the prolonged colonial occupation of the Palestinian territory and the realisation of our inalienable rights, represented in the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and property and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

Against this backdrop, Palestinian civil society organisations and the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR):

  1. Call on President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw the decision to form the Supreme Constitutional Court, which violates the Basic Law and the SCC Law, and due to its repeated violations of constitutional principles and values, and fundamental rights and freedoms, and its assault on the political system as a whole.
  2. Call on President Mahmoud Abbas to announce a date to hold simultaneous general elections, on the basis of an electoral law and a court to govern election affairs, through national consensus, in addition to enabling the electoral environment and democratization through free and fair elections, the results of which must be accepted, as well as arranging Palestinian National Council elections as soon as possible and wherever they need to take place.
  3. Call on both parties of the political divide to immediately terminate the division and to organise simultaneous general elections, to respect the Basic Law and the treaties to which the State of Palestine has acceded without reservations and to enforce them on the ground, while respecting the democratic process and party competition and upholding rights and freedoms and the principles of justice and equity.

The undersigned organisations and coalitions:

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations' Council (PHROC)

The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO)

The Civil Coalition for Control of the Legislative Process

Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN)

Al-Haq

Social and Economic Policies Monitor (Al-Marsad)

Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)

Filastiniyat

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (MUSAWA)

ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

The Civil Commission for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law (ISTIQLAL)

Defense for Children International – Palestine

Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH)

Human Rights and Democracy Media Center (SHAMS)

Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights – Hurryyat

Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights

Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC)

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

QADER for Community Development

Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)

Stars of Hope Society

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)

Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)

Women's Affairs Technical Committee (WATC)

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