Thursday, August 25, 2011

Palestinian state could leave millions of refugees with no voice at UN

Representation solely in West Bank and Gaza could disenfranchise Palestinians living elsewhere, says legal expert

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Friday 26 August 2011

"....If the bid succeeds, UN representation of the Palestinian people would shift from the global Palestinian Liberation Organisation – currently recognised as the "sole and legitimate representative" of all Palestinians around the world – to the envoy of a state based in the West Bank and Gaza. Millions of Palestinian refugees who live in the diaspora could be "accidentally disenfranchised", according to a seven-page legal opinion by Guy Goodwin-Gill.

Goodwin-Gill, a professor of international law at Oxford, concludes "the interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of prejudice and fragmentation". Palestinians in the diaspora risk losing "their entitlement to equal representation ... their ability to vocalise their views, to participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and political identity of the state, and to exercise the right of return.".....

Goodwin-Gill says that his opinion is intended to "identify problems potentially affecting the right of Palestinian people to self-determination... [and] to flag matters requiring attention." His opinion was commissioned by Karma Nabulsi, a former PLO representative and now an Oxford professor. The document has been submitted to Palestinian officials leading the UN bid, who have acknowledged receipt but made no public comment.

Nabulsi said the opinion clarifies "red lines" in relation to the bid for statehood. "In losing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative at the UN, our people immediately lose our claim as refugees to be part of our official representation, recognised by the world.

"This is an urgent and critical issue for our whole people. We must ensure our representatives advance our rights in international forum, not weaken or endanger them."

She called for clarity from the PLO in its response to the legal opinion and for reassurances to Palestinian refugees in the diaspora that their "core rights" of representation and the right of return would remain untouched....."

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