Date: 28 October 2009
PCHR Participates in a Regional Workshop in Beirut on Democratic Reform
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) participated in a regional workshop titled “Evaluation of Progress Towards Democratic Reform in the Arab Region.” The workshop took place in Beirut between 23 and 25 October 2009. Samih Muhsen, PCHR Coordinator in the West Bank, represented PCHR in the workshop that aimed at reviewing democratic reform programs in the Arab region during the past five years and the extent of these programs’ progress or retreat.
During the workshop, working papers, including testimonies and experiences, were presented to evaluate the track of the democratic reform at the national level in ten Arab countries: Palestine; Lebanon; Jordan; Saudi Arabia; Bahrain; Yemen; Egypt; Tunisia; Algeria; and Morocco.
In the working paper presented by PCHR, Muhsen pointed out that the democratic experience in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) controlled territories during the past five years passed through two stages as follows:
1. The first stage; between the death of late President Yasser ‘Arafat on 11 November 2004 and Hamas resolution, by force, of the conflict with Fatah movement on 14 June 2007.
2. The second stage; between 15 June 2007 and the date of the preparation of PCHR’s working paper presented in this workshop in October 2009.
Muhsen stated that the first stage witnessed positive developments at the level of democratic reform. He added that during this stage, honest and transparent presidential elections, PLC elections and municipal council elections took place. He also said that it also witnessed peaceful transition of authority to Hamas after winning the majority in the PLC elections on 25 January 2006. However, the second stage witnessed significant setbacks as regards the Palestinian democratic experience.
Muhsen said that in the wake of Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian democratic experience entered a new stage of deterioration. He reviewed all the measures taken by the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, explaining that these measures have obstructed the democratic process in the PNA-controlled areas and have extensively violated international human rights standards.
Muhsen talked about the impacts of the ongoing conflict on civilian life in the PNA-controlled areas at different levels including: disrupting legislative work; violating the principles of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary; the impact of the political fragmentation on the freedom of opinion and expression; and the role played by the civil society organizations during the different stages of the conflict. He noted that civil society organizations were amongst the victims of the ongoing political fragmentation. While presenting the working paper, Muhsen explained PCHR’s position towards all violations perpetrated by the two parties of the conflict in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In the conclusion, Muhsen submitted a number of demands as follows:
At the internal level: peacefully resolving the conflict; acceptance by all the parties of the democratic rule including political pluralism; peaceful rotation of authority; organizations of periodic elections; enhancement of democracy and human rights values in the community; engagement in building a Palestinian civil society capable of building a viable Palestinian State; release of all the political prisoners detained by the two parties of the conflict, re-opening all NGOs that have been closed; organization of presidential and PLC elections on due time in coordination between the two parties of the conflict; and rehabilitation of the constitutional legislation.
At the external level: putting an end to the application of double-standard strategy in relation to democracy and human rights issues in the PNA-controlled areas; putting an end to the provision of aid and financial grants to PNA based on its political positions; compel the government of Israel to refrain from intervening into the process of democratic reform in Palestine; encouraging democratic reform and the acceptance of the results of any elections organized under impartial and transparent conditions.