Candidates to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) must set up mechanisms to establish the rule of law in the Gaza Strip and in the areas of the West Bank under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) where intra-Palestinian violence has reached unprecedented levels, said Amnesty International.
In an open letter sent on the eve of the Palestinian legislative elections due on 25 January, Amnesty International urged candidates to put human rights at the top of their agenda. The organization urged candidates to make concrete proposals for ending inter-factional violence and impunity, and to commit to enacting laws to deliver justice to the Palestinian people.
"Candidates should pledge to hold accountable both the PA executive and the armed groups, who bear responsibility for the increasing lawlessness and human rights abuses," said Amnesty International.
Violence has continued to spiral in the past year amid a total absence of the rule of law, as armed groups and powerful families, clans and factions settle scores and vie for political and economic influence.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and injured in attacks and armed clashes between rival groups, and as a result of increasingly frequent and reckless use of firearms and explosives in densely populated residential areas. Armed groups " most of them linked to the ruling Fatah party" have also abducted dozens of Palestinians and several foreign journalists and aid workers, demanding jobs, changes in PA institutions, and the release of detainees.
"Victims have no means of obtaining justice, as the Palestinian judicial and security institutions are unable or unwilling to bring to justice the members of armed political groups and influential families and clans responsible for such attacks. This situation is unacceptable and very dangerous," said Amnesty International.
Decades of Israeli military occupation, frequent Israeli attacks on PA security installations and military blockades around Palestinian towns and villages have hindered the functioning of PA institutions, crippled the Palestinian economy, and contributed to the deterioration in the internal
Palestinian security situation:
"This, however, does not lessen the responsibility of the PA and of the political factions and armed groups for the increasing violence and lawlessness. The PA and its institutions, notably the PLC, must address these very serious challenges as a matter of urgency," said Amnesty International.
"Urgent steps must be taken to end the culture of impunity which has become increasingly entrenched in recent years, as the Palestinian authorities have systematically failed to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for killings of civilians, abductions and other grave human rights violations."
Perpetrators and instigators of such crimes, including members of the PA’s own security forces and of armed groups linked to the ruling Fatah party, must not be allowed to feel that they are above the law. To this end steps must be taken to strengthen the justice system, establish the independence of the judiciary, and reinforce the powers of the courts.
"Parliamentary candidates must commit to ensuring that killings, abductions, torture and other abuses are investigated and that those responsible for such crimes are brought to justice," said Amnesty International.
Changes must also be made to the Palestinian laws which grant Palestinian women fewer rights and less protection than their male counterparts. "In addition to the suffering they have endured as a result of decades of Israeli occupation and conflict, Palestinian women have also been killed or
subjected to violence and abuse at the hands of their male relatives on grounds of ‘family honor’, and are negatively affected by laws and practices which institutionalize inequality and discrimination against women, and deny women their fundamental rights," said Amnesty International.
The organization called on the parliamentary candidates to condemn the murder and other abuses of women in the name of "honor", and urged them to work to amend laws which discriminate against women.