Ashrawi to launch PLO watchdog

'IT IS not a counter-force,' says Hanan Ashrawi. 'It is an instrument of civil society to ensure democracy prevails and respect for freedoms and human rights.'

Mrs Ashrawi, formerly spokeswoman for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), has announced that she is to set up a human rights commission, headed by leading Palestinian intellectuals, to be based in Jerusalem.

Mrs Ashrawi, who has recently criticised a lack of PLO democracy, denies the commission is intended to act as a check on the personal authority of Yasser Arafat, the organisation's chairman. It was a decree from Mr Arafat himself that allowed for such a commission to be created, raising doubts that it can be truly independent.

Mrs Ashrawi, however, clearly intends that under her stewardship the body should be independent, and should aim to ensure that Mr Arafat is accountable to the Palestinian people. The commission would also act as a motor of democratic reform within the PLO, she believes. 'People are afraid of leaders coming from outside. They want a system of accountability. There are no guarantees the new system is going to be democratic.'

The figures she has proposed to join the commission's board have been strongly critical of Mr Arafat and elements of the peace accord. They include Edward Said, the foremost Palestinian intellectual; Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian 'national' poet; and Rajah Shehadeh, a leading human rights campaigner and lawyer. If these figures were brought together the commission would be a weighty voice in the new Palestinian debate.

Since the signing of the peace agreement in September, Mr Arafat has faced growing criticism for running a 'one-man show' and using political patronage. Until now, although local leaders such as Mrs Ashrawi have risen to international prominence, the unique nature of Palestinian 'inside-outside' politics has obliged the insiders, living under occupation, to dance to the tune of the outside leadership in Tunis.

As Mrs Ashrawi's initiative demonstrates, however, there are signs that this balance of power may be changing. The imminent arrival of the outside leadership to run the new self-rule authority has focused minds on what kind of regime the PLO will run. Palestinian intellectuals and professionals in the occupied territories, as well as outsiders close to the Tunis entourage, have been unsettled by Mr Arafat's hints that he may not hold elections. And, with security the main priority during the transition to self-rule, there are strong fears about how Mr Arafat might deploy the Palestinian police force.

'A lot of fears are being articulated about the elections and about the police and what will happen to respect for human rights. People are afraid of the unknown. This is a transitional phase and it is going to be difficult,' says Mrs Ashrawi.

Some local Palestinian intellectuals believe that when he arrives to run the new transitional authority Mr Arafat may be surprised by the strong support on the ground for real democracy. Palestinians in the occupied territories have been influenced by Israeli democracy. Acute consciousness of human rights has developed as a result of living under occupation.

'People are extremely politicised here and will not put up with anything that is not a democracy. Palestinians all over the world are aware of the importance of human rights,' says Mrs Ashrawi.

'Mr Arafat knows this. He has been told. He is politically astute and can read the mood of the people. But the leadership outside has had different experiences to the people inside. Now they have to live in a civil society, on their own land, among their own people. The direct proximity to their own people will bring a new need for direct accountability.'

She added: 'Of course the PLO needs internal reform. We have talked a lot with the chairman about putting the right person in the right place, and not using political patronage. It may be our fears are exaggerated. We must start building the institutions to make human rights a reality.'

Mrs Ashrawi blames Israel for making security the number one priority for the incoming Palestinian authority. This has focused too much attention on the strength of the Palestinian police force and its ability to curb the gunmen.

'Security does not come from a strong police force and military. It will come from real democratic participation and reconstruction of a healthy system of government, rather than by force.'

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence