memorandum by Mr Kox, rapporteur
In June 2009, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Resolution 1680 (2009)
the establishment of a partner for democracy status with the Parliamentary
it resolved “to establish a new status for institutional co-operation
with parliaments of non-member states in neighbouring regions wishing
to benefit from the Assembly’s experience in democracy-building
and to participate in the political debate on common challenges
which transcend European boundaries” and decided that the new status
would be called partner for democracy. It indicated that the national
parliaments of all southern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries
participating in the Union for the Mediterranean – Barcelona Process
(including the Palestinian Legislative Council), and of central
Asian countries participating in the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), would be eligible to request partner
for democracy status with the Assembly.
2 In this resolution, the Assembly reaffirms its strong commitment
to developing co-operation with neighbouring regions as a means
of consolidating democratic transformations and promoting stability,
good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law, as
expressed, inter alia, in
several recommendations and resolutions.
Following the adoption of Resolution 1680 (2009)
a new Rule 60, setting out the conditions and modalities for granting
the partner for democracy status, was inserted in the Assembly's
Rules of Procedure. In particular, Rule 60.2 contains formal political
commitments that the parliament concerned must undertake when requesting
to be granted partner for democracy status. Moreover, Rule 60.1
foresees a possibility for the Assembly, if appropriate, to lay
down specific conditions to be met by the parliament concerned before
or after the status has been granted.
In July 2009, Resolution
was transmitted to the Palestinian Legislative
Council (PLC) by the President of the Assembly.
In September 2009, the President of the Palestinian National
Council (PNC) wrote to the President of the Assembly welcoming Resolution 1680 (2009)
He confirmed officially to the Parliamentary Assembly “the desire
and readiness [of the PNC] to be part of this ambitious partner
for democracy project in order to continue working to achieve its
commitments as outlined in the above-mentioned [Assembly] resolution”.
6 In May 2010, the Secretary General of the PLC wrote to the
President of the Assembly indicating that the Committee of Parliamentary
Blocs, which represents the different political groups in the PLC,
“strongly supported the request made by the PNC to be granted the
status of Partner for Democracy in the Council of Europe Parliamentary
7 He further indicated that the PNC was the parliamentary institution
which represented all Palestinians, the parliamentary body of the
Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the sole legitimate representative
of the Palestinian people, universally recognised in the United
Nations and in other institutions, such as the Inter-Parliamentary
Union (IPU), the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA)
and the Arab, Islamic and non-aligned Inter-parliamentary institutions.
He also stated that the PLC was a chamber in the PNC and that all
members of the PLC were automatically members of the PNC.
8 In June 2010, the Bureau of the Assembly considered that,
subject to receipt of an official request for partner for democracy
status by the PNC, such request should be considered admissible.
This decision was based, inter alia,
on the fact that the PNC was represented in, or had relations with,
the IPU, the EMPA, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean
(PAM) and the Arab Inter-parliamentary Union (AIPU).
9 On 4 October 2010, the Assembly ratified this decision by
approving the progress report and on 7 October both the President
of the PNC and the Secretary General of the PLC were informed of
this decision and that the PNC was thus entitled to submit a formal
request based on the terms of Rule 60 of the Rules of Procedure
of the Assembly.
10 By letter of 3 November 2010 to the President of the Assembly,
the Speaker of the Palestinian National Council conveyed the formal
request of the PNC to be granted the status of partner for democracy
with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (see appendix).
This was the second such request, after that of the Moroccan Parliament
earlier in the year.
11 At its meeting on 14 December 2010, the Bureau decided to
refer the request to the Political Affairs Committee for report
as well as to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and
to the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men for opinion.
12 On 26 January 2011, the Political Affairs Committee appointed
me as rapporteur.
In his report on the request for partner for democracy status
with the Parliamentary Assembly submitted by the Parliament of Morocco,
Mr Luca Volontè, rapporteur, defined the purpose of his mission
- to verify whether
the official request by the Parliament of Morocco contains the formal
commitments foreseen in Rule 60.2;
- to consider whether these commitments correspond to reality
and, as a result, whether the status may be granted;
- to assess whether any specific conditions, to be met by
the Parliament of Morocco before the status is granted, should be
- to determine the areas where further reforms are most
needed, and which should be in the focus of the review and follow-up
process in the future.
14 I agree with his definition and have tried to do the same
for the request by the PNC.
visit (21-26 March 2011)
15 I carried
out a fact-finding visit to the Palestinian Territories from 21
to 26 March 2011.
16 In Ramallah, I met the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education and
Higher Education, the Minister of Women’s Affairs and the Minister
of Prisoners and Detainees. I also had talks with the Speaker of
the PNC, with representatives of the political parties within the PLC
and its members who take part in the meetings of the Political Affairs
Committee and with the Head of the Department of International Relations
of the Executive Committee of the PLO and the General Secretary
of the Executive Committee.
17 Furthermore, I met representatives of the Palestinian trade
unions, the women’s union, civil society, human rights and prisoners'
organisations and of the Palestinian media. I also visited the Palestinian
Central Elections Commission, the Central Bureau of Statistics,
the Audit and Control Bureau, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the
Broadcasting Commission and the Chief of the High Judicial Council.
18 I also met the Union of municipalities, several mayors, including
those of Ramallah, Tulkarem and Doha, and the Governor of Ramallah
and Al-Biereh. I visited the Roman Catholic Patriarchate at Deir
Al, where I held an exchange of views with Father Dr Faisal Hajjazin.
I also spoke with representatives of Palestinian universities at
a meeting at Birzeit University. In Jerusalem, I met a representative
of the European Union’s mission.
19 At the end of the working visit, I met President Mahmoud Abbas
and invited him to come to Strasbourg to inform the Assembly on
his new proposals with regard to reconciliation with Hamas and the
possibility of parliamentary and presidential elections later this
year. President Abbas said that he was very interested in coming
to Strasbourg and addressing the Assembly.
20 The visit had been very well organised by Mr Kreisheh, Secretary
General of the PLC, and his team and, in general, interlocutors
were well briefed about the Council of Europe and the partner for
democracy status. All of them supported the request by the PNC.
Many of my interlocutors, in particular representatives of human rights
organisations, considered the partner for democracy status an important
incentive to develop further democracy, the rule of law and protection
of human rights in the Palestinian territories.
3 Brief historical
21 The region is strategically situated between Syria,
Egypt and Saudi Arabia and is the birthplace of the Abrahamic religions.
It has a long and turbulent history as a crossroads for culture,
religion, politics and commerce. Human history in the region goes
back 500 000 years or more, with civilisation reaching the region shortly
after the first city-states in Mesopotamia. Since that time, the
region has been controlled by numerous different peoples, including
Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians,
Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphate, the
Shia Fatimid Caliphate, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, Ottomans,
the British and modern Israelis and Palestinians.
22 The Hussein-McMahon correspondence, which undertook to form
an Arab state, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which favoured “the
establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people
while respecting the rights of existing non-Jewish communities”,
and the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916 formed the basis
for the decision to partition the region into British and French
League of Nations mandates at the subsequent 1919 Paris Peace Conference
and Treaty of Versailles.
23 In 1936, the British Peel Commission advised that Palestine
be divided between the Arabs and the Jews.
24 Soon after the Second World War, the United Nations put forward
the 1947 Partition Plan, which divided the British Mandate of Palestine
between the Arab and Jewish populations. On November 1947, the Jewish Agency,
including the Palestinian Jews, accepted the plan, while the Arab
states rejected it.
25 On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gourion declared the independence
of the State of Israel. A war, called the “War of Independence”
( Milhemet Ha'atzmaut) by
the Israelis and the “Catastrophe” ( Nakba)
by the Palestinians, started. The armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan,
Lebanon and Syria declared war on the newly formed state of Israel.
During the fighting, a significant population exchange took place
in the area, as an estimated 700 000 Arab Palestinians fled or were
expelled from the Israeli controlled areas, and a comparable number of
Jews were displaced from the Arab countries.
26 Israeli forces went beyond the borders of the United Nations
Partition Plan to control an extra 18% of the territory of Mandatory
Palestine. What remained of the territories allotted to the prospective
Arab state by the Partition Plan was annexed by Jordan (the West
Bank) or placed under Egyptian military rule (the Gaza Strip).
27 In June 1967, Israeli forces went into action against Egypt,
Syria and Jordan, in what has come to be known as the Six-Day War.
As a result of that war, the Israeli army conquered the West Bank,
the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, bringing
them under Israeli military rule.
28 Israel also pushed Arab forces back from East Jerusalem, which
had been closed to Jews during the prior Jordanian rule. East Jerusalem
was annexed by Israel as part of its capital, though this action
has not been recognised internationally.
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242
promoting the "land for peace" formula, which called for Israeli
withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, in return for
the end of all states of belligerency by the aforementioned Arab
30 The 1973 Yom Kippur War did not change the situation. Israel
only returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt as part of the 1978 Camp
David Peace Accords.
31 The First Palestinian Intifada against Israeli occupation
took place from 1987 to 1993. New attempts at the peace process
in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were made at the Madrid Conference
In a November 1988 meeting in Algiers, the PNC adopted the
Palestinian Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the State
of Palestine on the basis of United Nations Resolution 181
. The declaration
was accompanied by a call for negotiations on the basis of United
Nations Security Council Resolution
33 Following the historic 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians
and Israel (the Oslo Accords), which gave the Palestinian Arabs
limited self-rule in some parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
through the Palestinian Authority, and other detailed negotiations,
proposals for a Palestinian state gained momentum. They were followed
in 1994 by the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace.
34 After a few years of on-and-off negotiations, a second intifada
erupted against Israeli occupation in September 2000 as a consequence
of the collapse of the Camp David talks in the previous month. This
was known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The events were highlighted by
Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel which killed many civilians,
and by Israeli Security Forces fully fledged invasions into civilian
areas along with some targeted killings of Palestinian militant
leaders and organisers. In 2002, Israel began building a complex security
barrier as a measure of preventing suicide bombers from crossing
into Israel. A major part of the wall was built inside the territory
of the occupied West Bank, which in July 2004, the International
Court of Justice (ICJ) found “illegitimate”.
35 Also in 2002, the road map for peace calling for the resolution
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was proposed by a "quartet":
the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
36 Following its unilateral disengagement plan of 2004, Israel
withdrew all settlers and most of the military presence from the
Gaza Strip, but maintained control of the air space, coastal waters
and border crossings, thus isolating the Gaza Strip. Israel also
dismantled four settlements in the northern West Bank in September 2005.
In January 2006, Hamas won a majority in the PLC. I had the
opportunity to observe those elections, which, as the Assembly stated
in Resolution 1493 (2006)
the situation in the Middle East, “were on the whole conducted in
a well organised and democratic fashion and can be considered as
fair and free”. Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader, was appointed Prime
38 Rivalries between Hamas and Fatah exploded, on 9 June 2007,
into open conflict on the streets of Gaza. The battle was over in
five days, with Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip. Since then, there
has been a split between the West Bank, under the leadership of
President Abbas, and the Gaza Strip, under Prime Minister Haniya.
This led to the de facto freezing
of the PNC and the PLC. The Palestinian Authority, however, continued
to fulfil its obligations towards the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,
for whom it allocates more than 50% of its budget.
39 At the end of 2008, the Government of Israel took military
action in the Gaza Strip, involving aerial bombardments, use of
armoured vehicles and a massive deployment of ground troops, with
the objective of dismantling the Hamas positions from which, according
to the Israeli authorities, some 10 000 rockets and missiles had
been launched in the space of ten years. A United Nations report
published in September 2009 denounced Israel for “using disproportionate
Since 1967, Israel has pursued an active policy of building
settlements in the Palestinian territories. In its Resolution 1700 (2010)
the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly noted that such policy
had “become an increasingly acute aspect of the conflict and that
the United States Administration and the international community
has asked the Israeli Government to stop the settlements.” In November
2009, the Israeli Government agreed on a 10-month suspension of
new settlements and building in the West Bank. In 2010, President
Obama sponsored a new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,
which were interrupted when Israel decided not to renew the suspension
of new settlements.
41 During my fact-finding mission, President Abbas explained
to me his new initiative to promote reconciliation between Palestinians
and to prepare presidential and parliamentary elections as soon
as possible. Subsequently, on 4 May 2011, speaking in Cairo, President
Abbas announced a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas
and plans for the formation of a national unity government and for holding
elections within one year. At that time, I said publicly that “I
very much welcome[d] the unity deal of the various Palestinian groups,
signed today in Cairo,” and that “Palestinian unity was of utmost
importance with regard to the Palestinian request for closer co-operation
with the Assembly.”
42 In August 2011, the reconciliation talks continued in Cairo.
An accord was announced with regard to political prisoners in Gaza
and the West Bank. Furthermore, it was agreed that a committee would
be set up to ensure the opening of closed institutions in both the
West Bank and Gaza. Local elections were scheduled by President
Abbas to take place by 22 October but were postponed after a request
from Hamas, until appropriate circumstances existed, in order to
create a more positive atmosphere for reconciliation.
4 Palestinian institutions
43 The first Arab Summit, held in Cairo in January 1964,
resolved to enable the Palestinian people "to play a role in the
liberation of their country" and empowered the Palestine delegate
to the League of Arab States, Ahmad Shuqayri, to hold consultations
on the implementation of this decision.
44 The Palestinian National Congress met in East Jerusalem in
May 1964 to ratify its constitution and other documents that formally
established the PLO and its institutions. The 397 invited delegates
represented a broad spectrum of the Palestinian people. Among the
proposed institutions approved was a National Assembly, which, in
the 1970s, was renamed the Palestine National Council. The PLO Fundamental
statutes organise the work of the PLO and its institutions, including
the PNC which has its own standing orders.
45 The PLO is a political organisation. It is recognised as the
"sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," by over
100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, as well as
the Arab League, the Islamic Conference Organisation, the Non-Aligned
Movement and the African Union, and has enjoyed observer status
at the United Nations since 1974. In 1993, the PLO recognised Israel's
right to exist in peace, accepted United Nations Security Council
Resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected "violence and terrorism";
in response, Israel officially recognised the PLO as the representative
of the Palestinian people.
46 The thrust of political power and most important political
decisions are entrusted to the PLO Executive Committee, made up
of 18 people elected by the PNC. The PLO incorporates a range of
generally secular ideologies of different Palestinian movements
committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence and liberation,
hence the name of the organisation.
47 Yasser Arafat was elected by the PNC as Chairperson of the
PLO Executive Committee in 1969 and was re-elected until his death
in 2004. He was elected President of the State of Palestine in 1989
and President of the Palestinian National Authority in 1996. He
was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen), who was
elected Chairperson of the PLO Executive Committee in 2004, President
of the Palestinian National Authority in 2005 and President of the
State of Palestine in 2008.
48 The PLO has no central decision-making powers or mechanism
that enables it to control its factions directly, but they are supposed
to follow the PLO Charter and Executive Committee decisions. Not
all PLO activists are members of one of the factions – for example,
many PNC delegates are elected as independents or as representatives
of unions and mass organisations.
49 Factions which are currently members of the PLO include Fatah,
the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Palestinian People's
Party (PPP), the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), the Arab Liberation
Front (ALF), As-Sa'iqa, the Palestine Democratic Union (FIDA) and
the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF). Hamas, however, is
not represented as a faction, although its members elected to the
PLC are members of the PNC, which is the legislative body of the
50 The Palestinian National Authority (also referred to as the
Palestinian Authority) was established in October 1993 to manage,
according to the Israeli–Palestinian Interim Agreements (the Oslo
Agreements), the affairs of Palestinians living in the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip.
51 According to recent assessments of the World Bank (September
2009, September 2010 and April 2011), “the Palestinian authority
continues to strengthen its institutions, delivering public services
and promoting reforms that many existing states struggle with. Significant
reforms still lie ahead for the Palestinian National Authority –
but no more than those facing other middle income countries.” The
World Bank assesses that “if the Palestinian authority maintains
its current performance in institution building and delivery of
public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of
a state at any point in the near future”. When meeting in Brussels on
13 December 2010, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council explicitly
welcomed the World Bank’s assessment with regard to the institution
building and delivery of public services by the Palestinian Authority.
52 The PLC, the legislative body of the Palestinian National
Authority, is a unicameral body with 132 members elected from 16
electoral districts in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,
and in Gaza. Article 47.1 of the Amended Basic Law states: “The
Palestinian Legislative Council is the elected legislative authority”.
53 The PLC passed a new law in June 2005 increasing the number
of seats in the PLC from 88 to 132 and introducing a mixed proportional–majority
election system. Half of the seats in the PLC are elected through
a proportional system on the basis of party lists in a single nationwide
constituency, with a 2% threshold. The other 50% of the seats are
elected through a majority system in 16 electoral districts, 11
in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and five in the Gaza
Strip. Each district is allocated a number of seats according to population
size. By presidential decree, six seats in four districts were designated
for Christian candidates.
While the PLC is the legislative body for the Palestinian
territories, the PNC is the supreme authority for formulating the
policies and programmes of the PLO and its institutions, and all
those who operate under the PLO umbrella are accountable to its
decisions. It concerns all Palestinians and not only those in the
West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It does not sit in permanent
session and, by force of circumstance, has no permanent location.
It must convene a regular session once a year and whenever requested
by the PLO Executive Committee (the executive branch of the PLO)
or PNC members. In some past years the PNC has not convened due
to conflict (for example, during the 1975-1976 Lebanese civil war).
The PNC has eight permanent committees, Note
work is irregular as their members live in different places, inside
and outside the Palestinian Territories. There are temporary offices
for the leadership of the PNC in Amman, Ramallah and Gaza. Although
the PNC has not convened regularly for some time, its leadership
has continued to function by actively participating in many regional
and international parliamentary organisations, such as the Interparliamentary
Union, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean
and the Arab Parliamentary Union.
55 Candidates to the PNC must be nominated by a committee, consisting
of the PLO Executive Committee, the PNC Chairperson and Secretaries
of the factions, and then elected by a majority of the entire membership at
its next session. It was agreed in 2011 that independents should
be added to this committee. The PLO's constituent organisations,
unions and labour syndicates are each assigned a quota of seats,
decided through negotiation in accordance with each group's respective
size and importance. Members are then elected by their factions
and unions. Representative quotas for Palestinian exile communities,
other non-formally organised Palestinians, and delegates resident
in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are directly
selected by the PNC nominating committee. The PNC elects its own
presidential office, which consists of a chairperson, two vice-chairpersons,
and a secretary. The attendance of two-thirds of its delegates is
required for a quorum, and its initial practice of "collective decision-making"
was in 1981 defined as majority voting. The PNC met in closed session
until 1981, when Palestinian and foreign observers were first invited.
With a few exceptions, it publishes its resolutions and other documents,
and the media may observe and record most of its proceedings.
56 The size of the PNC has varied over time. The first PNC was
composed of 422 representatives from Palestinian communities in
Jordan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq,
Egypt, Qatar, Libya and Algeria. In 1968, its membership was reduced
from 466 to 100 and limited to representatives of guerrilla factions
(68) and independents (32). Representatives of PLO Unions were admitted
in 1971, and membership was expanded to 150. In 1977, the PNC again
included representatives of Palestinian exile communities and additional
diaspora groups (for example deportees), increasing its membership
to 293. There is a national agreement among all Palestinian factions,
including Hamas, to reform and reactivate the PLO and all its institutions,
including the PNC. It was agreed that all members of the PNC would
be elected according to the proportional system wherever this is
possible. It was also agreed that such elections would take place
one year after the signature of the reconciliation agreement (May
57 As of 1996, the PNC has been chaired by Salim Al-Za’noon and
today it has 730 members. 132 members are from the PLC, 98 represent
the Palestinian population living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 166
are independents and 334 represent the factions and unions. Of the
730, 235 represent the Palestinian diaspora.
58 At the beginning of each session of the PNC, the PLO Executive
Committee must submit a report on its activities and the status
of the PLO. A new Executive Committee, whose size and membership
is determined by the PNC, is elected at the end of each session.
The new Executive Committee's policy guidelines and other instructions,
and PLO proclamations, are set forth in resolutions adopted by the
59 In 1970, the PNC also established the PLO Central Committee
(known since 1973 as the Central Council) as an intermediate body
between itself and the Executive Committee. It has 124 members.
It possesses legislative and executive powers and meets at least
once every three months to review the work of the Executive Committee,
approve its decisions, clarify PNC guidelines where necessary, and
issue supplementary resolutions wherever relevant. Because it was
designed to improve co-ordination between various represented and
non-represented guerrilla factions, the Central Council is neither
elected by the PNC nor entirely composed of PNC members. In its
current form, it comprises the Executive Committee, the PNC chairman,
the Palestine Liberation Army Commander-in-Chief, representatives
of PLO constituent organisations and institutions, and PNC members
selected by the Executive Committee. It elects a general secretariat
from among its own members.
60 The PNC also hears the reports of the Palestine National Fund
(the PLO treasury), approves its budget, (re-)elects its Board of
Directors (which elects its own officers), and considers reports
and structures of other PLO institutions. It does not, however,
have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the movements
that operate under the PLO umbrella.
61 Both the PNC and the PLC have not been able to function properly
since 2007 due to the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
the imprisonment in Israel of some of their members, and the postponing of
elections. In August 2009, the PNC convened in its latest session,
in which it elected the new members of the Executive Committee,
and the Central Council of the PLO held its latest session in July
The right of self-determination of the Palestinian people
has been recognised for a long time by the General Assembly of the
United Nations. On 9 July 2004, the ICJ confirmed this Palestinian
right of self-determination. Some 122 states (the exact number is
disputed) have recognised the State of Palestine. These include
most African and Latin American states, many Asian states, amongst
which China, India and Pakistan, and 17 member states of the Council
of Europe. Note
other member states of the Council of Europe Note
not yet recognise Palestine but conduct official relations with
the PLO/Palestinian National Authority. Recently, France, Ireland,
Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom upgraded the diplomatic status
of the Palestinian representation in their countries. Six other
member states Note
do not (yet) have official
relations with the PLO/Palestinian National Authority.
63 In March 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the European
Union stated in their Berlin Declaration that “the European Union
is convinced that the creation of a democratic viable and peaceful sovereign
Palestinian State on the basis of existing agreements and through
negotiations would be the best guarantee of Israel’s security and
Israel’s acceptance as an equal partner in the region”. On 13 December 2010,
the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council recalled the Berlin
Declaration and reiterated “its readiness, when appropriate, to
recognise a Palestinian state”. On 18 February 2011 France, Germany
and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement in which they explicitly
committed themselves to these conclusions of the European Union
Foreign Affairs Council.
64 The Palestinian Authority has formally announced that the
PLO, in its capacity as representative of the State of Palestine,
will apply for full membership of the United Nations in September
2011, which would imply the recognition by the United Nations of
a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders. While it is probable
that it will secure the required a two-thirds majority in the General
Assembly, it is most unlikely to win unanimity at the Security Council.
65 Regardless of international recognition, it could be considered
that Palestine is an “emerging state”. However, the Palestinians
do not enjoy sovereignty on their territories. This situation, which
is not the fault of the Palestinians, should not mean that partner
for democracy status is denied, if the conditions set forth in Rule 60
When the Assembly mentioned explicitly, in its Resolution 1680 (2009)
that the Palestinian Legislative Council was eligible to request
partner for democracy status, it was implicitly declaring that such
status was independent from the “statehood” issue.
67 During my fact-finding visit to the region, all my interlocutors
referred to the fact that whilst the PLC represents only the Palestinians
in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the PNC represents the
entire Palestinian nation. This, they argued, was the reason why
the partner for democracy status should be granted to the PNC and
not to the PLC.
68 In response to the argument that many members of the PNC are
not elected, I propose to call on the Palestinians to reform the
structure of the PNC so that it becomes, to the largest possible
extent, a democratically elected body, and to invite the PNC to
appoint its partner for democracy delegation from among its democratically
elected members. In this context, we might also recall that some
members of parliament of our own member states are also not elected.
5 Participation of
Palestinian representatives in Council of Europe activities
69 The Assembly has been following closely the situation
in the Middle East through its Political Affairs Committee since
1956. It has adopted more than 25 resolutions on the subject.
70 On 14 April 1994, Mr Yasser Arafat, Chairperson of the Executive
Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, addressed
the Parliamentary Assembly. Mr Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Minister
for Local Government and one of the chief negotiators in the Oslo
peace agreements, addressed the Assembly in January 2002. In January
2010 Mr Mohammed Shtayyeh, Palestinian Minister of Public Works
and Housing, took part in the Assembly debate on the situation in
the Middle East.
71 In July 1996, an Assembly Ad Hoc Sub-Committee on the building
of democratic institutions in the Palestinian Authority territories
visited the region, where it met President Arafat.
In its Resolution
on the Middle East conflict, the Assembly
resolved “to invite representatives of the Palestinian Legislative
Council to participate in the Parliamentary Assembly and its committee
meetings whenever the Middle East issue appear[ed] on the agenda”.
In its Resolution 1493
, it decided “to associate more closely members
of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the work of the Parliamentary
Assembly and its committees beyond the framework of Resolution 1245
and invite them systematically to plenary sessions of the Assembly”.
73 Since then, a delegation from the PLC has been invited to
all meetings of the Political Affairs Committee and has attended
most of them. For its part, an ad hoc committee of the Bureau carried
out a fact-finding mission in the region in 2002.
74 Other Assembly committees have also dealt with the issue.
The then Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography presented
a report on the Palestine refugee situation in the context of the
Middle East Peace Process in 1998 and another, on the situation
of Palestinian refugees, in 2003. The Committee on Equal opportunities
for Women and Men held an exchange of views with Ms Rabiha Diab,
Minister for Women’s Affairs of the Palestinian National Authority,
in April 2011.
75 The Parliamentary Assembly observed elections in the Palestinian
territories in January 2005 (for the President of the Palestinian
Authority) and in January 2006 (for the Palestinian Legislative
76 The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities observed the
local elections in December 2005.
6 Statutory requirements
for partner for democracy status: state of play
77 As mentioned above, the aim of this report is to
assess whether the PNC fulfils the criteria for the status of partner
I recall that, in accordance with Rule 60.2, any formal request
for partner for democracy status shall contain the following political
- an explicit reference
to the aspiration of the parliament to embrace the values of the
Council of Europe, which are pluralist and gender parity-based democracy,
the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- a commitment to act to abolish the death penalty and to
encourage the competent authorities to introduce a moratorium on
- a statement on the intention of the parliament to make
use of the Assembly’s experience, as well as the expertise of the
European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission),
in its institutional and legislative work;
- a commitment to organise free and fair elections in compliance
with relevant international standards;
- a commitment to encourage balanced participation of women
and men in public and political life;
- a commitment to encourage the competent authorities to
become party to the relevant Council of Europe conventions and partial
agreements which are open for signature and ratification by non-member
states, in particular those dealing with human rights, rule of law
and democracy issues;
- an obligation to inform the Assembly regularly on the
state of progress in implementing Council of Europe principles.
79 In his letter of 3 November 2010 (see Appendix), the Speaker
of the PNC clearly undertook these political commitments as required
by Rule 60.2.
In particular, with regard to fundamental values, he stated
“The PNC is committed
to the same values as those of the Council of Europe, namely pluralist
and gender parity-based democracy, the rule of law and respect for
human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
81 During my visit to the Palestinian territories, this statement
was repeatedly and convincingly confirmed by the speaker, as well
as by all members of the parliament whom I met.
With regard to death penalty, the letter states:
“We shall continue our efforts
to raise the awareness of the public authorities and the main players
in politics and civil society of the need to make progress in the
discussion of issues relating to the abolition of the death penalty
and to encourage the authorities concerned to maintain the de facto moratorium that has been
established on executions since 2005.”
83 The death penalty is foreseen in Article 37 of the (British)
Penal Law (74) of 1936 applicable in the Gaza Strip and in Article
14 of the Jordanian Penal Law (16) of 1960 applicable in the West
Bank. In addition to these two laws, the Palestinian National Authority
referred, in applying the death penalty, to the Revolutionary Penal Law
of the PLO of 1979, which legalises the application of the death
penalty, but which has not been approved by the PLC.
84 Based on the aforementioned laws and legislations, the Palestinian
National Authority issued 74 death sentences from 1994 to the end
of 2005 against persons convicted of various crimes.
85 In 2001 the Palestinian National Authority promulgated the
Penal Procedures Law (3) of 2001, which prescribes the procedures
to be followed to implement death sentences. In 2002, two death
sentences were implemented. In 2005, in Gaza, the Palestinian National
Authority carried out five death sentences issued in previous years.
The implementation of these sentences contradicted a decision taken
by President Abbas on 22 June 2005 stipulating the retrial in civil
courts of all those convicted in state security courts.
86 President Abbas has since declared that he would not approve
any further executions. However, five people were sentenced to death
in the Gaza Strip in 2011, three in a military court and two in
a civilian court. The Hamas government carried out five executions
in 2010 and three more in 2011, which were illegal since they lacked
the consent of the president.
87 The new penal code, which has been drafted but not yet approved,
no longer mentions the death penalty as a possible penalty.
88 The issue is still under debate, however. In my meeting with
representatives of different Palestinian political parties only
one of the representatives of Hamas declared himself in favour of
the death penalty. I also find it very worrying that Ramallah-based
Thuraya Judi Alwazir, one of the few female judges sitting on the Palestinian
Authority’s Judicial Authority, recently declared that "actually
we are discussing the return of the death penalty to the civil courts.
This is consistent with our Islamic beliefs and this is also supported
by a number of religious leaders. It is not the place of the international
community to impose its value system on us". In this respect, I
should like to recall that Palestinian human rights organisations
expect the partner for democracy status to be an important incentive
for the protection of human rights and therefore for the abolition of
the death penalty.
With regard to the use of the Council of Europe experience,
the request contains the following statement:
“We intend to make full use, in our institutional and
legislative work, of the experience of the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe, as well as the expertise of the European
Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), bearing
in mind that the Palestinian National Authority has an observer
status with the Venice Commission.”
90 This intention is important in the light of the comprehensive
legislative reforms under way. The PNC should be fully encouraged
to use the potential of the accumulated experience of the Venice
Commission, which, with its internationally recognised legal expertise,
could provide a valuable contribution to finalising the bills under
preparation, for instance, in the framework of the reform of the
judiciary. During my visit, the Minister of Justice told me that
he very much valued this expertise and that he had himself already
attended 10 meetings in Venice in the framework of the special co-operation
status enjoyed by the Palestinian National Authority.
91 Drafting laws and signing international conventions is only
the first step, and effective implementation is of key importance.
The PNC (and the PLC) should play a more active role by ensuring
that legal acts are actually implemented. A periodical review of
the implementation of reforms in our Assembly could become an essential
tool in carrying out the programme of reforms.
As regards elections, the PNC has committed itself to:
“continue [its] efforts to create
favourable conditions for holding of free, fair and transparent
elections, in compliance with relevant international standards.”
93 In this context, I would like to stress that I took part in
the Parliamentary Assembly election observation mission to the Palestinian
territories in January 2006, which considered the elections as free,
fair and transparent. In this regard some Council of Europe member
states should perhaps seek inspiration in the way in which the Palestinians
organised those elections. Since then, the split between Fatah and
Hamas has prevented the holding of elections. During my visit, I
was assured that the Assembly would again be invited to observe
the elections in the Palestinian territories.
With regard to gender equality in politics, the PNC has committed
“continu[ing] to encourage
equal participation of women and men in public and political life.”
95 The prime minister assured me that “women’s rights had been
taken into account in the re-drafting of legislation. During my
visit, I met women ministers (there are five), members of parliament,
governors, mayors and representatives of women’s and human rights
organisations. All my interlocutors confirmed that the situation
of women was better than in many neighbouring Arab countries and
was still improving. In the whole Arab world only in Tunisia was
legislation considered to be more favourable to women.
With regard to Council of Europe conventions, the PNC has
made a commitment to:
the competent authorities of the Palestinian National Authority
to accede to relevant Council of Europe conventions and partial
agreements that are open for signature and ratification by non-member
states, in particular those dealing with human rights, the rule
of law and democracy issues.”
97 The particular situation of the Palestinians, split between
the West Bank and Gaza and with most of their territory occupied
by Israel, has to be taken into account in the follow-up to this
Finally, as concerns accountability, the PNC has made the
“inform the Assembly
regularly on the state of progress in the implementation of the
principles of the Council of Europe”.
99 In conclusion, I am convinced that the Palestinian National
Council meets the formal criteria for being granted partner of democracy
status with our Assembly.
7 Need for change
100 This conclusion does not however mean, as my colleague
Luca Volontè stated last June about Morocco, that the Palestinians
have achieved perfection in building democracy and the rule of law.
On the contrary, much remains to be done.
In its many resolutions on the situation in the Middle East,
the Assembly has regularly indicated the areas where it felt that
change was needed. The following specific issues are of key importance
for strengthening democracy, the rule of law and the respect of
human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Palestinian territories:
- the rapid conclusion of the
negotiations for the formation of a new government and the fixing
of universally acceptable dates for the presidential, parliamentary
and local elections;
- the holding of such elections in accordance with relevant
international standards in the whole of the Palestinian territories;
- the taking of definite and significant steps in the direction
of the three pleas made by the Quartet: to refrain from violence,
to recognise the right of the State of Israel to exist and to abide
by all the agreements signed by the Palestinian representatives
in recent years;
- the reform of the structure of the PNC so that it becomes,
as far as possible, a democratically elected body;
- active promotion of equal opportunities for women and
men in political and public life; the fight against all forms of
discrimination (in law and in practice) based on gender; ensuring
effective equality between women and men, including as regards inter-religious
marriages and inheritance law and, where necessary, initiating a
process of legislative revision and the fight against all forms
of gender-based violence;
- abolition of the death penalty set out in the Penal Code,
going beyond the de facto moratorium
on executions which has been established, at least in the West Bank,
- rejection of the use of terrorism and the need to combat
- freeing the soldier Gilad Shalit;
- eradication of all illegal smuggling of weapons into the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank;
- adherence to and effective implementation of relevant
international instruments in the field of human rights, including
full co-operation with United Nations special mechanisms and implementation
of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review recommendations;
- guaranteeing freedom and pluralism of the media;
- eradication and prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading
treatment of persons deprived of their liberty and fighting impunity
for crimes of torture and ill-treatment;
- improvement of conditions of detention, in line with the
United Nations prison-related norms and standards; the conditions
under which the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been detained since
2006 are particularly unacceptable;
- fighting racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination;
- fighting corruption;
- strengthening local and regional democracy;
- ensuring full respect for freedom of conscience, of religion
and of belief, including the right to change one’s religion;
- the guarantee and promotion of freedom of association
and of peaceful assembly.
102 We expect the Palestinian Authority to accede in due course
to relevant Council of Europe conventions and partial agreements,
in particular those dealing with human rights, rule of law and democracy
issues, in accordance with the commitment contained in the letter
of 3 November 2010 from the Speaker of the PNC. This is of course
inextricably linked to recognition of the statehood of Palestine
and may not therefore be achievable in the immediate future.
103 We should call on the PNC to enhance its contribution to resolving
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in accordance with the relevant
resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and as stressed
in the relevant Assembly resolutions.
104 Finally, we expect the Palestinians to seek the settlement
of international disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with
the United Nations Charter.
105 On 3 November 2010, the PNC made an official request
for partner for democracy status with the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe.
106 Having examined the request, inter
alia, on the basis of a fact-finding mission, I conclude
that the request of the PNC meets both in form and substance the
requirements set out in Rule 60.2 of the Rules of Procedure of the
Assembly. I therefore propose to grant partner for democracy status
to the PNC. On the basis of a population estimated at around 11
million (5.5 in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel and 5.5 in the diaspora),
I propose that the PNC be invited to appoint a delegation of three
representatives and three substitutes. I also propose that such
delegation is chosen from among the democratically elected members
of the PNC.
107 The development of democracy, the rule of law and protection
of human rights in the Palestinian territories is ongoing, is very
complex and is much hindered by the fact that the larger part of
the Palestinian territories is still under Israeli military occupation.
Any progress in finding a peaceful solution for the Israeli–Palestinian
conflict, on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the United
Nations Security Council, would open many new opportunities to develop
the Palestinian territories along the line of the core values of
the Council of Europe.
108 Meanwhile, the Palestinian National Council and the Palestinian
Legislative Council (the latter being an integral part of the former)
should intensify their efforts to consolidate and develop democratic
institutions, the independence of the judiciary and the fight against
all forms of corruption. The report singles out the most important
benchmarks in this respect. One of them is holding, no later than
2012, free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, the
latter regarding both the PNC and the PLC.
109 I also propose that the Assembly should review in two years
time the state of progress made in implementing the political commitments
undertaken by the PNC.