GENEVA (24 August 2022) – UN experts* today condemned Israel’s escalating attacks against Palestinian civil society in the occupied West Bank, after the Israeli army broke into the offices of seven Palestinian human rights and humanitarian groups operating in Ramallah and shut them down last week.
“These actions amount to severe suppression of human rights defenders and are illegal and unacceptable,” the experts said, encouraging UN member states to take effective measures afforded by international law to put an end to these abuses.
In a dawn raid on 18 August, Israeli forces caused extensive damage to property and issued military orders imposing the closure of the seven Palestinian human rights groups’ offices**. These actions follow Israel’s earlier designations and declarations of these organisations as “terrorist” and “unlawful”.
“These designations and declarations are illegitimate and unjustifiable and no concrete and credible evidence substantiating Israel’s allegations has ever been provided,” said the experts, who made the same observations in April 2022.
On 18 and 21 August, the Israeli security service Shin Bet interrogated the directors of three of the seven organisations, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Al-Haq and Defence for Children-Palestine. The experts noted with particular concern the alleged threats made by Shin Bet against them, including as reported in a public statement regarding Al-Haq’s director Shawan Jabarin.
“The Israeli government has taken multiple measures to undermine civil society organisations, restricting and repressing the legitimate activities of human rights defenders, which also has a disproportionate impact on women human rights defenders,” the experts said.
“The result is serious infringements of the rights to freedom of association, opinion and expression and the right to participate in public and cultural affairs, which Israel is fully obliged to fulfill, respect and protect,” the experts said. “Civil society is what is left to the Palestinians for their minimum protection. Shrinking this vital space and resource is illegal and immoral.”
The UN experts said information presented by Israel to justify its decision to blacklist human rights groups as terror organisations had failed to convince donor governments and international organisations. The experts noted that a review of Al Haq by the Anti-Fraud Office of the European Union (EU) confirmed that “no suspicions of irregularities and/or fraud affecting EU funds” had been found.
The experts called on the EU, all five permanent members of the Security Council, and all member states to take concrete measures to protect the Palestinian organizations and staff whose offices were raided and closed.
“Such protection depends on Israel revoking once and for all its designations and declarations of these organisations as “terrorist” and “unlawful”, the experts said. “The EU and its member states in particular must urgently use their leverage to stop these aggressive attacks on civil society, in line with their commitments and obligations to protect human rights defenders and civic space.”
“Once again, it is clear that statements condemning and regretting Israel’s unlawful measures are not sufficient – it is time that words are followed by swift and determined action by the international community to put diplomatic pressure on Israel to restore the rule of law, justice and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the experts said.
*The experts: Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Melissa Upreti (Chair), Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Vice-Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Sorcha MacLeod (Chair-Rapporteur), Jelena Aparac, Ravindran Daniel, Chris Kwaja, Carlos Salazar,Working Group on the use of mercenaries; Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Balakrishnan Rajagopal,Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; and Michael Fakhri,Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page: Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel
** The organizations affected are: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Al Haq; Bisan Center for Research and Development; Defense for Children International – Palestine; Health Work Committees (HWC); Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC); the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC).
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