Today the ICJ condemned the actions by the Israeli authorities to forcibly close the offices of seven leading Palestinian human rights organizations, effectively obliterating much of the critical human rights protective work carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
On 17 August 2022, the Military Commander of the Israeli Defence Forces in the West Bank issued military orders to shut down the six Palestinian human rights organizations previously designated by the Israeli authorities as “terrorist organizations” in Israel and “unlawful organizations” in the OPT. On that night, the military conducted raids on their offices, as well as the office of another NGO, confiscated property and sealed the doors.
“Through these military orders and raids, the Israeli authorities are furthering their relentless campaign to unlawfully repress and muzzle those civil society actors pursuing accountability for Israel’s human rights violations and crimes under international law in the OPT,” said Said Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Director. “These actions constitute another egregious assault on civic space and amount to persecution.”
Under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, Israel, as the Occupying Power, has an obligation to respect and ensure the human rights of all inhabitants of the OPT, including their rights to freedom of expression and association.
As the ICJ has pointed out, the Israeli authorities’ abusive application of counter-terrorism laws against Palestinian civil society actors violates this obligation. In particular, the designation of the six organizations as “unlawful” constitutes an impermissible interference under international human rights law, as the classification is based on vague, overbroad and ill-defined grounds. The “evidence” upon which the classification is based remains secret, and the appeal process as well as the guarantees for those involved does not respect fair trial standards.
Nine Member States of the European Union have issued a statement that no substantial information was received from Israel that would justify laying any constraints against the six Palestinian NGOs. Yet, the Israeli authorities have failed to provide further evidence and instead have now directly implemented and enforced the military orders in the OPT.
The ICJ calls on the Israeli authorities to rescind these designations and military orders, to stop the harassment of these organizations, and to allow civil society to function freely, without undue hindrance and restrictions, as required under international law and standards.
The ICJ further calls on other States and international actors to counter Israel’s continued attacks on Palestinian civil society, particularly by refusing to give effect to or otherwise recognize these cynical designations and facilitating the capacity of the concerned organizations to carry out their critical work.
Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme; t: +41 22 979 3817, e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
Tamara Aburamadan, Legal Researcher, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme; t: +216 56 682 776, e: tamara.aburamadan(a)icj.orgNewsPress releases