Electing Coordinators for the Palestinian Human Rights Defenders Network


West Bank & Gaza

Human Rights Defenders / West Bank / Gaza

The first elections bringing together the West Bank and Gaza were held to elect coordinators from the PHRDs Network; eight general coordinators and another eight for the Public Relations and Media committee, who will be leading the Network in the West Bank and Gaza. These elections represent a first-of-its-kind initiative by Civil Society Organizations and civil institutions in Palestine, and they came as a part of a general meeting held by MUSAWA for the PHRDs Network at the Caesar Hotel-Ramallah and Adam Hotel-Gaza (via video conference). Participants in the meetings included the Chairman of the Palestinian Bar Association, representatives of the Independent Commission for Human Rights and Palestinian NGOs Network, over 135 male and female members of the PHRDs Network (66 females and 69 males).


The meeting began with an opening session in which Chairman of the Palestinian Bar Association/ Mr. Hussein Shabaneh gave a speech referring to the importance of empowering the PHRDs Network and defending human rights and the rule of law. He also called for the need to end the division, promote national unity, and raising the flag of justice and equality in order to spread the legal culture in the Palestinian society. Adding more, he emphasized the role of the Bar Association and its commitment to enforce the law.


In his turn, the representative of the Independent Commission for Human Rights/ Mr. Islam Tamimi stressed the importance of human rights laws, starting from the Declaration of Independence, and what is stated in the Basic Law to protect those rights. He called for joining universal laws and conventions (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example) and pointed out the importance of taking universal measures through laws and regulations in order to access self-determination and get rid of the occupation. Furthermore, he emphasized the vitality of the right to life, work, and freedom of movement to achieve that end, in addition to the importance of monitoring violations and complaints and taking the necessary measures to follow-up these complaints with the competent authorities.


In the same context, Dr. Abdul-Kareem Shbeir, a member of MUSAWA’s General Assembly, gave a speech on behalf of MUSAWA in which he spoke about the importance of the drafts that MUSAWA presented regarding protecting basic rights and freedoms in Palestine’s next Constitution and the PHRDs Declaration of Rights. He also demanded the unification of efforts to put pressure on decision-makers to approve it as binding principles.


Furthermore, Dr. Shbeir emphasized the importance of the PHRDs Network and the role it plays in monitoring and documenting right violations; providing legal protection for defenders in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Gaza; raising legal awareness among Palestinians through workshops that target marginalized groups and areas.


In its first session, the meeting included a presentation of the most prominent achievements of Empowering Palestinian Human Rights Defenders project, in addition to presenting drafts of the Network’s regulations (rules of procedure draft, legal clinic draft regulation, draft of the PHRDs Declaration of Rights, and monitoring group regulation draft).


In the second session, the committee responsible for preparing for the elections supervised the election process. Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce himself/herself and his/her electoral platform. This was followed by voting, in which all West Bank and Gaza members participated. The committee then counted the votes and announced the final results. In the closing session, there was a presentation of the most important activities to be done in the upcoming period and the working mechanisms that will be implemented.


MUSAWA gave the members a five-day chance to run for the mentioned positions, starting from May 17 until May 23, 2016. After the five days, the candidates were given a withdrawal period that ended on May 25, followed by a period of two days where candidates could present their campaigns through the Network’s social media channels. During these two days, a real electoral atmosphere prevailed where candidates spread their electoral platforms, and the voting process was preceded by a one-day election silence.


As a result of this democratic atmosphere manifested in the participation of the Network’s members, who are equal to more than 240 members both in West Bank and Gaza, participants demanded that elections be held as soon as possible so that citizens would have the chance to practice their right and constitutional duty in terms of choosing their representatives through free and fair general elections, held periodically.


This meeting comes as a part of the Empowering Palestinian Human Rights Defenders project, implemented by MUSAWA in the West Bank and Gaza, and supported by the European Union.


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