|This update aims to highlight the most significant developments on the local council elections that is part of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ (PCHR) work in the field of election monitoring. This publication will be successively issued by PCHR to follow up the electoral process and evaluate each phase of it in due process. PCHR’s work relies on the credibility of the field documentation and communications with the concerned authorities done by a qualified observers team.|
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights is concerned over the violations against activists and candidates of local council elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip scheduled on 08 October. PCHR calls upon the competent authorities to stop these violations to ensure smooth-running elections. PCHR documented a number of breaches that would affect the electoral process in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including threatening some candidates either of arresting, beating or shooting; severely beating political activists, arrests and summonses on grounds of elections and other violations.
In the Gaza Strip:
PCHR documented a number of violations related to the electoral process against Fatah movement activists. Some of these violations were committed by armed groups while others were committed by security services, including threats, arrests and beating. The most prominent were as follows:
- Unofficial authorities threaten candidates:
- On 29 August, a number of Fatah activists received threats of beating and defamation on their cell phones from private numbers in case they did not withdraw from the electoral lists or continued their campaign activities. Among those was Jom’ah al-Najjar (40), Director of the Fatah electoral campaign in Bani Sheila, who said in his testimony to PCHR that the caller threatened him saying, “I will break your legs and hands to paralyze you….” He also said that he received a threat message from a private number saying, “Don’t waste your time sending reports that we are dissidents…”
- On 30 August 2016, journalist Yousif Ahmed Abu Mugheiseb (36), Coordinator of the Fatah list’s media campaign in al-Salqa Valley village, east of Deir al-Balah, received a call on his electoral activity. Abu Mugheiseb added that on the aforementioned day afternoon, when he was preparing to deliver a speech in a meeting organized by Fatah movement with the residents in Abu Muhareb family divan to declare the end of preparations for the local council elections, he received a call from a private number, threatening him of continuing his electoral activity. Abu Mugheiseb also said that the caller told him, “you are very active on Facebook, so calm down or you would lose your legs and your tongue will be cut.”
- Each of Mazen Abu Zaid and Hussein Abu Ghali, Fatah leaders, received threat letters passed from under the house door in Khan Younis. On Thursday, 01 September, Hussein Ahmed Mousa Abu Ghali, Member of Western Khan Younis District in Fatah movement and Member of Local Council Election Supervisory Committee affiliated with Fatah in Khan Younis, found an envelope in his name in his house signed with the name of “Legitimacy Protectors”. The envelope included a threat letter inside it titled as “You, Betrayer of legitimacy” and accusations of working for the interest of Mohammed Dahlan against the legitimacy during the elections.
Meanwhile, on 01 September, Mazen Mohammed ‘Abdel Rahman Abu Zaid (53), Head of Refugee Camps in the Refugees’ Affairs Department from al-Hawouz area in Khan Younis, said that he found a similar envelope signed with “Fatah, the Revolution” and included threats and accusations of writing reports for the interest of President ‘Abbas resulting in suspension of salaries and prevention of persons from joining Fatah lists or electoral committees.
- On 02 September, Mohammed Khalil Salama Abu Fayadh (42), from al-Qarara in Khan Yunis, member of the media central committee of Fateh movement in the Gaza Strip and member of the media committee in Khan Yunis, received a threat under the title “Fateh, the Revolution” that included accusations of writing reports and suspension of salaries. He was threatened that hid hands would be broken.
- Arrest of Activists and Questioning them:
- On 30 August, security officers arrested Mohammed Shaker al-Buheisi (51) from Deir al-Balah refugee camp and Member of Fatah Advisory Council and assigned member of the Elections Supervisory Committee affiliated with Fatah in Deir al-Balah, from his concrete factory in al-Berkah area in Deir al-Balah and took him to the Internal Security office in Ansar in Gaza City. Al-Buhaisi said to PCHR that security officers took him blindfolded to the Internal Security office in Gaza and then to a room after replacing the fold on his eyes with black glasses to obscure vision. He added that one of the officers questioned him about the electoral issues for an hour and a half. After that, he was questioned by another office, accusing him along with other police officers affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA) of establishing movements simulating the police service. He answered that he only carried out social activities. At approximately 18:15, he was released.
- Beating Activists:
- On 29 August, a number of gunmen kidnapped Dr. Ramadan ‘Azazi Barakah (44), Coordinator of Fatah electoral campaign for the local council elections in Bani Sheila in Khan Younis, and put him in car after severely beating and throwing him in Asdaa’ Area, west of Khan Younis. Ramadan Barakah said to PCHR that on 29 August 2016, when he was in Fatah Elections Committee office in Bani Sheilah, he received a call from a person he knows, telling him that he is affiliated with an armed group in Bani Sheila. The caller also threatened him of breaking his legs. Barakah added that gunmen kidnapped him on the same day as they tightened his hands and took him in a car to Asdaa’ Area, west of Khan Younis. They severely beat him, especially on his legs before leaving him. Barakah also said that he then headed to the hospital as he suffered a hairline fracture in his right leg and bruises throughout his body.
In the West Bank
PCHR documented a number of violations relative to the electoral process against members and candidates of Hamas movement and other movements. The violations ranged between threats from unknown persons and security service officers, arrests and shooting by unknown persons. The most prominent of which were as follows:
- Threats against candidates by official and unofficial parties
- Saladin Hmaida (44), Beitounia local council’s candidate, said to PCHR’s fieldworker that he along with other candidates in his electoral list received a direct threat from an officer of the Palestinian Intelligence Security Service in Ramallah on 25 August. Hmaida added that the officer accused the list of being affiliated to Hamas movement. Another officer threatened three other candidates of arrest. Hmaida stressed that such threats were made before one of the Central Elections Commission (CEC) officers. Hmaida added that on 28 August, while they were meeting in the house of Mostafa Qurt, head of the list, one of them received a threat from an Israeli phone number to withdraw from the elections. During the same meeting, Mr. Jamil Shalash, another candidate in the list, received a similar threat from the same phone number.
- A candidate in Tulkarm list namely Riyadh Abdul Latif Budair (58) received threats more than once from unknown persons on grounds of his nomination. The first threat was on 17 August, when an unknown person called him from an Israeli phone number threatening, “Any step towards the nomination jeopardizes your family’s life.” The second threat was on 29 August, when someone called from the same phone number making the same threat. Budair added that two candidates from his list: Dr. Mo’tasem Be’ba’ and Mr. Emad Soufi had withdrawn from the list after receiving threat from unknown persons.
- Abdullah Yassin Fuqaha (52), from Kufor al-Labad village, east of Tulkarm, said that he received a phone call at 17:50 on Wednesday, 17 August, from an unknown person threatening him that in case he was nominated for the local council elections in his village, his family would be at risk. Fuqaha added that he was concerned and did not run for elections fearing for his family. He explained that the current situation does not allow any jeopardy. It should be noted that Fuqaha’s village (Kufor al-Labad) has one list only.
- Attacks on houses of candidates
- On 24 July, the house and car belonging to Engineer Mohammed “Jamil Jehad” Dweikat (37) were exposed to heavy gunfire by unknown persons, who were in a car that approached Dweikat’s place of residence in Askar village, south of Nablus. According to Dweikat’s statement, the house sustained damage due to gunfire. It should be noted that Dr. Dweikat, who is a lecturer, decalred that he would run for the elections as an independent candidate in Nablus.
- On 23 August, unknown armed persons opened fire towards the house of Nour al-Deen Abdul Aziz Khalaf (54), in Burqin village in Jenin, who is the head of Burqin list. He explained that he filed a complaint to the police on the attack, but he was informed of the investigation results yet.
- On 04 September, unknown persons threw a Molotov cocktail on the house of Rabe’a Mohammed Sofan (46) in Hawarah village, southeast of Nablus, who is a candidate in Fateh list in the village, and left a statement ordering her to withdraw. Soufan said that fire was set to the house yard because of the Molotov cocktail.
- Arrests against activists and candidates
- On 09 August, Palestinian Intelligence Security officers arrested Yusef Abdul Aziz Qazaz (44), from Dura village in Hebron, from his house and took him to the Intelligence Service prison in Hebron. Qazaz said to PCHR’s fieldworker that he was arrested on grounds of his intent to run for the local council elections. He said he was arrested until the next day evening to not make him run for the elections. He said also that he was questioned on the elections.
- On 25 August, the National Security Service raided the CEC’s yard and arrested Nader Ismail Ayayda (28), the Democratic Coalition list’s deputy candidate in al-Shyoukh village, under the pretext that he was wanted to the security services on grounds of a certain case.
Sa’di Farouq Haimoni, the democratic front deputy at CEC in Hebron, said to PCHR’s fieldworker that security officers handcuffed and arrested Nader Ayayda from the CEC office. He added that although CEC gave reassurances that Nader would be released before 00:00, Nader was not released. Therefore, the list was obliged to change the deputy to allow the list be registered on time. Al-Haimoni explained that the Coalition list in al-Shyoukh village was exposed to pressure from the security services and tribes to withdraw under the pretext there was another list in the village that would result in troubles.
PCHR calls upon the competent authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to end these violations against activists and candidates of local council elections, abide by law during all stages of electoral process and create a positive environment for the smooth-running elections.