Open letter to the Palestinian leaders

Open letter to Palestinian leaders
Ruth Tenne writes:

The report by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), entitled ”Israel’s aggression against occupied Palestine”, says that between 13 September 2015 and 1 March 2016 a total of 186 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces – 160 in the West Bank and 26 In Gaza).

It goes on to say: “Incitement from the Israeli government, and its clear policies to annihilate any political horizon by destroying the two-state solution, have continued as official policies from Israel, the occupying power”.

And it adds: “Lack of action from the international community, in order to both protect the Palestinian people and hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations against Palestinian national and human rights, is the very message that continue to be sent to the Palestinian street.”

Lack of Israeli accountability

Yet, the Palestinian leadership, under the umbrella of PLO and the chairmanship of Mahmoud Abbas, seems to be taking very little action to make Israel accountable under international and human rights law.

This is in spite of signing 15 international conventions in April 2014, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

On 31 December 2014 President Abbas further signed the Rome Statue, on which the International Criminal Court (ICC) is founded. However, no further action has been taken by President Abbas and the PLO to request the ICC to investigate Israel’s war crimes.

Consequently, In November 2015 Palestinian non-governmental organisations made a submission to the ICC regarding Israeli war crimes.

The submission by Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Aldameer and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights was made pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute.

It contains information on crimes jointly documented during Israel’s 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip.

Issam Younis, Al-Mezan Director, Gaza Strip, said that “Israel’s occupation, as well as the suffocating closure on the Gaza Strip, has continued for far too long and we do not believe that any people, especially the Palestinian victims, must choose between peace and justice”.

This submission is a testimony to the will and determination of human rights

bodies from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, demonstrated in their pursuit of social justice and sovereignty for the Palestinian people.

Lack of Palestinian leadership

The successful collaboration between the two divided parts of the Palestinian state inevitably raises the question: where is the expected lead from the Palestinian leadership for which the people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been yearning for decades?

Why could not Fatah and Hamas reconcile their differences, hold fair elections (the last one took place in 2006) and establish a unity government based on a progressive constitution enshrining the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with international law and the conventions and treaties signed by President Abbas? (See the article “Palestine: a global rethink.)

The need for asserting Palestine’s name globally is especially vital nowadays when the geopolitical map of the Middle East is constantly changing and the West has drawn clear lines between “enemies” and “allies” – proscribing a part of  Hamas as a terrorist.

If the Palestinian leadership commits itself to the above-stated steps, the West and the UN member states, who in November 2012 overwhelmingly endorsed Palestine as a UN observer state, would be bound to reaffirm the status of Palestine under international law.

That would offer the Palestinian state a firm basis for appealing against Israel’s continued violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and humanitarian international law through bodies such as the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice, the European Human Rights Court and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD),

In December 2015 the WGAD ruled in favour of Julian Assange on the grounds that his detention was in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This stated that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”.

It further ruled that Assange’s detention was an infringement of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.

It also reaffirmed the individual right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal.

Leveraging international legality

Although the WGAD ruling is not legally binding, it carries a significant moral and political weight which is bound to impact on Palestinian submissions to international and human rights courts.

Indeed, the WGAD ruling has a special significance in the case of the arbitrary detention of Palestinian children and minors. These are often held in Israeli prisons where they have no access to legal representation and are prevented from having family visits and support while being subjected to unlawful means of interrogation and alleged torture.

As a human rights activist and a member of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, I call upon the Palestinian leaders to listen to the voice of the Palestinian youth who in desperation are resorting to violent resistance to the brutal Israeli occupation forces, often with fatal results.

Please take a step forward by offering inspiring leadership based on reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and on a progressive, power-sharing government, to form a sound basis for accessing international courts and achieving justice for the Palestinian people.

We must not fail Palestine.

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