Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society organisations as “terrorist organisations” is an attack on human rights defenders, freedom of association, and the right to public participation, and should be immediately revoked, the UN human rights chief said Tuesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said the organisations are some of the “most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the occupied Palestinian territory” that have worked closely with the UN for decades, Anadolu News Agency reports.
“Claiming rights before a UN or other international body is not an act of terrorism, advocating for the rights of women in the occupied Palestinian territory is not terrorism and providing legal aid to detained Palestinians is not terrorism,” Bachelet said in a statement.
She asserted that the designation decisions under the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016 are vague or unsubstantiated.
They included peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, such as providing legal aid to Palestinians in detention, organising activities for women in the West Bank, and “promoting steps against Israel in the international arena.”
Limiting human rights work
The rights chief reiterated that counter-terrorism legislation must not be applied to legitimate human rights and humanitarian work.
The banning of organisations must not be used to suppress or deny the right to freedom of association, quash political dissent, silence unpopular views or limit the peaceful activities of civil society.
The national authorities responsible for proscribing organisations must comply fully with international human rights obligations, said the rights office.
These include respecting the principles of legal certainty, proportionality, equality and non-discrimination.
“Restricting the space for legitimate activities under international law is not only wrong but counter-productive, as it risks limiting the space for peaceful dialogue,” said Bachelet.
She noted that the organisations include some of the critical partners of the UN Human Rights Office and they face far-reaching consequences due to “this arbitrary decision”, as do those who fund and work with them.
Bachelet said: “And the crucial work they perform for thousands of Palestinians risks being halted or severely restricted.”
The published designation decisions by the Israeli Minister of Defence state that the organisations have become the “arm” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
It says that they obtained financial resources, which in practice reached the “(PFLP) terror activity” or supported their activities.
The rights office said there is no evidence presented to support these accusations, no information on the type of alleged “PFLP terror activity”, nor has any public process been conducted to establish the allegations.
The designations against the six organisations on 19 October are the latest in a long-running series of actions to undermine and restrict human rights defenders and civil society organisations working for the human rights of Palestinians.
These include using military regulations to declare groups unlawful, said the rights office.
The organisations are Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Al Haq; Defence for Children International —Palestine; Union of Agricultural Work Committees; Bisan Centre for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.