Israel’s designation of six Palestinian human rights NGOs as “terrorist organizations” is a cynical assault on independent civil society and on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.
Israeli authorities must immediately withdraw these designations.
“ Through these designations, Israeli authorities are, once again, joining a long list of repressive States that use measures purportedly designed to counter terrorism as a pretext to crack down on legitimate human rights work,” said Said Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Director.
“Their cynical and outrageous attempts to muzzle and intimidate independent civil society in the OPT must immediately end.”
In the last few months, the Israeli authorities have stepped up their efforts to silence critical human rights work in the OPT, including through the use of so-called counter-terrorism measures.
On 7 July 2021, Israeli military forces arrested Shath Odeh, the Director of the Palestinian NGO Health Work Committees. The military prosecution later charged her with a number of “offences,” including offenses purportedly related to terrorism, arising from her human rights work.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, has denounced the arbitrary detention of Ms Odeh and many other Palestinian human rights defenders, calling for their immediate release.
For decades, Palestinian human rights groups have documented and challenged the devastating impact of Israel’s prolonged occupation, oppression, system of apartheid, impunity for serious crimes under international law, and abusive use of counter-terrorism laws against Palestinians.
For decades, States have turned a blind eye to Israel’s abuses, thus encouraging the authorities to ramp up their attacks and increase their crackdown on civil society and human rights organizations.
“ The International community must hold the Israel authorities to account and ensure that civil society and human rights organizations are able to do their work with intimidation, harassment or persecution”, Benarbia added
Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
Asser Khattab, Research and Communications’ Officer, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: asser.khattab(a)icj.org