Last month saw an escalation of attacks by the Israeli occupying forces on human rights defenders in Palestine. After outlawing seven leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, on 18 August 2022, Israeli occupying forces led militarized raids against their offices in Ramallah, damaging property, confiscating files, and attempting to seal their doors shut permanently. Over the following weekend, Israel further summoned for interrogation the directors of several of the targeted organizations and threatened them with arbitrary detention should they continue their human rights work. These attacks pose an existential threat to Palestinian civil society and put the directors and staff at risk.
The targeted organizations include GNQP member Al-Haq, as well as Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Defense for Children International–Palestine, Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC). The organizations were arbitrarily designated as “terror organizations” by the Israeli defense minister in October 2021. In November 2021, the Israeli military commander further declared these as “unlawful associations.” Earlier in January 2020, the Israeli occupying authorities had similarly designated the Health Work Committees, also raided on Thursday, as unlawful. Subsequently, the Israeli occupying forces detained the director of the Health Work Committees, Shatha Odeh, who spent nearly a year in Israeli detention until her release in June 2022.
These attacks form part of a widespread and systematic targeting of Palestinian human rights defenders and organizations, including through smear campaigns, delegitimization, raids, travel bans, and arrests. To date, the designations and raids of Palestinian civil society have been widely condemned as attacks on the Palestinian human rights movement and efforts to pursue international justice and accountability for Israeli crimes. The UN, EU, US, and others have insisted that the designations are unsubstantiated and expressed concern with respect to the latest Israeli attacks. Yet to date no effective measures have been taken by third states, thus allowing Israeli impunity to continue. Considering the escalation of attacks against Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian human rights movement at large, we join the targeted organizations in urging the international community to take concrete action, calling on:
· Israel, the occupying power, to urgently and immediately rescind the arbitrary designations against the Palestinian civil society organizations as violating a bundle of human rights and freedom, amounting to inhuman acts of apartheid within the meaning of Article 2(f) of the 1973 Apartheid Convention;
· States of the international community to:
o Adopt effective measures to pressure Israel to immediately reverse the military orders designating the organizations as unlawful and commanding the closure of the organizations, criminalizing their work;
o Adopt concrete measures, including sanctions, trade restrictions, and arms embargoes, to hold Israel accountable for its persecution of Palestinian human rights defenders;
· The Assembly of States Parties and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to intervene to protect and ensure the viability of Palestinian organizations working to submit evidence of suspected international crimes to the Court; and
· Responsible states and other able parties to continue and increase funding support to the organizations, engaging with financial institutions to ensure the unimpeded transfer of funds to them. We note with appreciation that several states and other donors have maintained or even increased their contributions and express the hope that this trend will continue.