UN human rights experts called on Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority and Israeli occupation to take all steps necessary within their respective powers to re-schedule the elections for the Palestinian presidency, the legislature and municipalities within a reasonably short timeframe and to ensure that these elections are free, fair, democratic, peaceful and credible.
The parliamentary and presidential elections were supposed to take place in May and July, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas postponed them indefinitely on April 29 due to worries regarding Palestinians' capacity to vote in East Jerusalem.
“We are deeply concerned by the postponement of the scheduled elections in Palestine,” the experts stated .
“The Palestinian elections offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to renew the democratic process, address long-standing internal political divisions, strengthen accountable institutions, and take a significant step toward realizing the Palestinian people's fundamental national and individual rights.
“We demand that Israel state unequivocally that Palestinians in East Jerusalem will be allowed to vote democratically in the upcoming elections. Its role as the occupying power in East Jerusalem is to interfere as little as possible with Palestinians' rights and daily lives.
“Given the advances in technology and in remote and electronic voting, a variety of means to enable full democratic participation are available,” the experts announced.
Human rights experts pointed out that the Oslo Accords provide Palestinians in East Jerusalem the right to vote in Palestinian elections. Palestinians in East Jerusalem were permitted to vote in previous Palestinian elections in 1996, 2005, and 2006, though not without difficulty.
“The international community has consistently stated, through the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, that all Israeli changes to East Jerusalem's demography, political and legal status are null and void,” they added. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the international community to reaffirm these pledges in the name of democracy and international law.”
The UN human rights experts called the Palestinian Authority to reschedule the elections for new dates in the very near future. When these elections are held, the democratic rights of voters, candidates, political parties and participants are to be fully respected by all, including the occupying power.
“Freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly, mobility, and association are fundamental human rights, and they are especially crucial in the democratic process,” they wrote. “As a result, any governing authority's intimidation, arrests, and detentions, as well as the interruption of political meetings and campaigning, are entirely incompatible with international human rights protections.”
In the occupied Palestinian territories, half of the eligible voters are between the ages of 18 and 33. They have never participated in national Palestinian elections, as the most recent ones were held in January 2006.
The experts stated, "We do not underestimate the challenges of holding free and fair democratic elections while under an entrenched and severe occupation." “We appreciate the international community's help, particularly the European Union and the United Nations, in facilitating these elections. The elections, on the other hand, will only establish legitimacy and pave the way for political regeneration.
“We also urge on the international world and Israel to recognize the outcome of Palestinian elections when they take place, as well as all parties to act in accordance with international law.”