International Day of Democracy: the Ongoing Human Rights Violations Against Palestinians

This year, the International Day of Democracy comes in light of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, constituting a challenge for the world. However, Palestinians encounter other challenges besides COVID-19, such as repressive practices and violations of their collective and individual rights.

Written by: Rana Khalil

The UN General Assembly decided on the 8th of November, 2007 to make September 15th the annual date to observe the International Day of Democracy. The Assembly invited people and organizations, both government and non-government, to commemorate the International Day of Democracy. It also called for all governments to strengthen their national programs devoted to promoting and consolidating democracy. The Assembly encouraged regional and other intergovernmental organizations to share their experiences in promoting democracy.

This year, the International Day of Democracy comes in light of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, constituting a challenge for the world. However, Palestinians encounter other challenges besides COVID-19, such as repressive practices and violations of their collective and individual rights. International laws and legislation along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee Palestinians the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to participate in public affairs, the right to equal protection of the law without discrimination, and the right to life, liberty and personal security.

This year’s course for Palestinians was marked by numerous issues which caused the situation to become more complicated, at both the international and local levels, including: the decline in the status of the Palestinian issue on the list of world priorities, the so-called “deal of the century” and the loss of allies from the Arab world. The local issues included: the continuation of the division due to the failure of national reconciliation, the Palestinian political rivalry, which was manifested by the suppression of peaceful assemblies, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the closure of websites, which is a flagrant violation of the freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law, the increase of murders against vulnerable groups, especially women, political arrests, the decline of spaces for civic participation for youth and the continued disruption of political participation.

The democratic process has been stalled after the 2006 elections, and the Palestinian Legislative Council has been suspended after the political division in 2007.  Therefore, this led to the decline of many social values, the loss of Palestinian human rights and the occurrence of numerous violations and violence, especially violence against women.

Moreover, youth remain excluded from political participation, especially in leadership positions of Palestinian factions and organizations.  There is also a clear marginalization of young men and young women in political parties, which contributed to the reluctance of young people to participate in public affairs.

As for the Israeli occupation, it practices various types of violations against Palestinian citizens and violates all international covenants and treaties, which guarantee the right to life and freedom. Palestinians are also deprived of exercising his/her right to choose representatives and from holding elections in occupied Jerusalem.

What is required now, more than ever, is to restore the people’s will to choose their representatives through fair legislative and presidential elections, with the participation of all Palestinians, according to the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law. It is also necessary to consolidate democracy within parties in order to enable youth to reach representative and decision-making levels and formulate public policies.

Moreover, the United Nations stressed the need for this year’s International Day of Democracy to be a reminder that democracy is linked to people, for it is built on inclusiveness, equal treatment and participation. Therefore, it is a fundamental building block for peace, sustainable development and human rights. The International Day of Democracy does not have to be a celebratory occasion, but rather it must be the start towards democratic transformation and the preservation of human rights for the marginalized and distressed.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.

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